Bringing People Of Faith Together
Wednesday - April 02, 2008
Silver anniversaries are big: Twenty-five years in a consistent relationship is no small accomplishment in a “sound bite” society.
On Thursday, April 3, thousands will gather at the Hawaii Convention Center for a three-day conference to celebrate Hawaiian Island Ministries’ big “silver” and its long relationship with Hawaii’s churches and community at large.
“Hallelujah!” will be shouted. Hands will be raised.
“It began with 400, and now between 5,000 and 7,000 show up,” says Dan Chun, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu - “First Prez” - who with wife Pam co-founded HIM back in 1983. “We have the largest ongoing youth conference in the state as more than 1,100 youths attend their own learning tracks.”
Also a huge draw for the teens is award-winning Christian rocker Chris Tomlin.
Actually, the whole three-day conference feels like a rock concert - for all ages. The music, the crowds, the celebrity speakers, the mosh pit ... just kidding.
Don’t let the rowdy enthusiasm fool you. The HIM conference is a school - though a school in fun clothing - that’s not just for training pastors or pastor wannabes, but also folks in the business and education fields, non-profit staffs, government leaders and families.
Each year, the Chuns reach far and wide to bring a mixed plate of cultures and diverse denominations together to educate, but also to build bridges to overcome perceived differences and sometimes territorial attitudes. At last year’s conference, the leader of the Christian Church in China spoke, and the list of presenters is a who’s who of Christian educators and motivators worldwide from Africa to China to the Mainland U.S.
“Bringing diverse people together to build up the fabric of Hawaii is an amazing experience,” says Dan, a man of big visions. “We knew that unless Hawaii gets to hear the best communicators in the world, we would grow provincial and insular.”
So why did Pam and Dan Chun create HIM back in 1983? At first, it was the need for outside resources to encourage pastors and church leaders in the difficult work they routinely perform.
“A huge percentage of Hawaii goes to church, and they do so much good,” says Dan, who holds a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and has been a pastor for nearly 30 years.
“Thirty-four percent of day care centers are in churches. Eighty percent of the Foodbank is supplied by churches. They offer free counseling, youth work, senior citizen groups and constant teaching of morals and ethics. Their pastors and leaders are there when you’re sick at 1 a.m., there for your births, baptisms, weddings and funerals,” says Dan. “But who pastors the pastors? Who makes sure they and their volunteer leaders don’t burn out?”
As HIM’s reputation grew for its quality training and integrity, non-profit organizations and military leaders (now including the soldiers coming back from war) sought its guidance. In fact, right after Sept. 11, 2001, then-Mayor Jeremy Harris asked HIM to organize a memorial service. Only Adm. Dennis Blair, then commander, U.S. Pacific Command, and Dan Chun were asked to speak - no politicians, no celebrities.
“I was a little nervous knowing that, other than Adm. Blair speaking, I was the only one to give a major address that would need to give people hope and encouragement at a time our country was attacked. But I felt impassioned to give it my all to declare to the people of Hawaii, whom I loved, that we should never give up ... that we should not despair. With each other and God, we would prevail and press on.”
Dan and Pam Chun (the “her” in HIM), though married almost three decades with three children, don’t look much more than 30 themselves. Based on accomplishments they’re a power couple, but without “attitude.” Their power comes from a higher source, they say.
Dan, a third-generation Chinese in Hawaii whose grandfather was a houseboy to Queen Liliuokalani during the overthrow, and the former Pam Lum, fourth generation whose paternal great-grandfather supposedly helped Chun Apana, the Chinese detective who was the model for Charlie Chan, are both Punahou grads, as are all their siblings and their two children, now in college; their youngest is still there in seventh grade. They were introduced by a First Prez member shortly after Dan became associate pastor in 1980 when Pam was home after her Stanford graduation.
Dan takes his roles as pastor at First Prez, HIM president and Fuller Seminary trustee seriously. He just doesn’t take himself seriously. His sermons often begin with a self-deprecating saga of one of his infamous travel mishaps, such as when the hotel refused him a room because instead of Dan Chun, the reservation read Chun Dan. His account of the frustrating exchange brings roars of laughter.
In 1983, the Chuns, knowing the expense of sending one person to a Mainland conference (more than $1,000 with the airplane flight, hotel, registration, rental car), dreamed of a conference in Hawaii. While traveling in the Holy Land “with a rag-tag group of pastors, priests and nuns,” Dan asked a priest friend, “What if the world’s best Christian communicators and teachers could come to speak regularly at a conference in Hawaii? What if all the Christian leaders could hear and be trained by them? What if local Christian churches from across denominations were impacted and renewal was sparked?” The priest friend said, “Not ‘what if,‘but ‘when?’” HIM was born.
In 25 years, HIM has trained more than 30,000 church leaders both here and at its yearly conference in San Francisco. In four years, HIM has trained 2,600 leaders from more than 100 nonprofits under a federal grant awarded to HIM and only 15 other non-profits across the U.S. More than 7,500 church business and community leaders participate in HIM programs annually.
“The joke is that we’re like the bumblebee that aerodynamically shouldn’t be flying. We’ve lasted longer than Arthur Andersen and Enron,” jokes Dan. “We’re amazed that we can still attract the top speakers in theology, business and music. We’re humbled that God can use us in this way. We’re in awe that we are still around and kicking.”
It may be a silver anniversary, but HIM is definitely worth its weight in gold
If you would like to contribute to HIM, or need information about the 2008 conference, go to www.himonline.org.
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