This entry has been a long time coming. Honestly, it’s been hard to write at times but I think that’s why this post is so important. Life here has been challenging and it’s certainly helped us gain a much better perspective on what we’re dealing with here in “paradise.”
A lot of people see our photos and think we’re on vacation. I will be the first to admit, we have a great time. We do live in a beautiful place full of wonders just waiting to be explored. Just in the past few weeks we’ve discovered new swimming holes and waterfalls and tortoise farms and caves we didn’t know existed and it’s been incredible. I hope you all can see it someday. But there is a darkness here that the sunshine just cannot make up for that you don’t see in pictures, and sometimes it’s hurtful hearing comments about what we do here when everyone assumes things are perfect in paradise. There is a big difference between going somewhere for a vacation and going somewhere as a mission field.
So I’d like to introduce you to the other side of Kauai…
Religion here is very big. If you can imagine a religious belief someone probably follows it here or they’re making it up as you read this. People are very into the spiritual realm and sometimes that masks itself as a form of “Christianity” because they will use God, Jesus, and even Scripture to back portions of what they believe. But that’s never the whole story. There are Hindu and Buddhist temples around the island (it’s interesting seeing the monks walk around in their robes on a hot day). Often when we are hiking there are shrines to various gods set up on the mountains or by the beaches. People here tend combine their belief systems but they experience no real peace because none of those beliefs offer what Jesus has to offer, even if they try to include Him too.
What does that look like? Well I know people that attend a Catholic church and certain prescribed masses because if they attend so many in a row a wish will be granted. Those same people believe, as many Hawaiians do, in beings that are called Night Walkers. These are spirits that come down from the mountains every night along certain paths and if your house is built in the way they wreak havoc in your home (including turning your furniture upside down even when your doors and windows are locked). There are spirits that enter your dreams causing you to be awake all night in the dream realm and lose your energy during your waking hours because you’ve been “active” all night. There are beings that haunt homes maybe because they’ve lost loved ones and you remind them of someone and shaman are called upon to bless the home or the building to remove the spirits. Plus, they follow Asian holidays and calendars and believe in the luck that comes from eating certain soups at certain times of the year. In the midst of all of this the people who believe all of these things also really enjoy the Christian worship at the church they sometimes attend when they feel like it. And if it’s not those people it’s the earth worshipers, the crystal people, or the star gazers. Believe me when I say people here are incredibly religious.
Needless to say, being surrounded by that kind of culture and confusion does not make life here a vacation. We are in a serious spiritual battle and that manifests itself in many ways.
One way is through discrimination. We are white so we are the minority here. While we have tried to adapt many of the island ways of life, we will never truly fit in because we were not born here and I personally experience a lot of prejudice on a regular basis. People avoid me at my job, not just because I’m new but because I’m white and couldn’t possibly be trusted to understand or help them. We get dirty looks all the time and people expect us to be less intelligent or knowledgeable than they are because we are probably just a tourist. Despite the fact that we’ve seen more of the island than most people who have lived here for forty years, when we don’t know something we are looked down on rather than given the benefit of the doubt.
Now that’s not to say that people are horrible here or anything like that. In general people are nice and the atmosphere of the island is very laid back so it’s not necessarily confrontational, but we are definitely not in Kansas any more as Dorothy would say and it takes courage to face people every day with the love of Jesus no matter how you get treated.
As many of you know, another difficulty we’ve had that we believe is part of this battle is being robbed. Someone entered our house while Simon took me back to work on my lunch break and took a computer and his phone. They attempted to take my camera, but thankfully did not understand how the tripod locked and couldn’t remove it. This leads us to think they were on foot because they could have taken the tripod and all but that would look kind of funny walking down the road. Our neighborhood is not known for crime, we actually live in a very nice place, and it was most likely an isolated incident but we don’t believe in coincidence either.
God is at work here, but so is the enemy. Life in paradise is not as beautiful as it seems and we need your prayers and encouragement and support in order to be the most effective light possible in a dark place. Pray for the people here to see that Jesus is the ONLY way to eternal life and pray for us to be protected as we witness and share the truth with a place that is so full of lies. It’s kind of like when Paul was in Athens. They worshiped everything, just in case, and we need to find ways of introducing them to that “unknown god” that they’re missing to guide them to real peace and meaning. The thing is, it is hard to fight the good fight all the time and not feel like anyone cares that we’re fighting it. Thankfully, we know that God is on our side and with Him nothing is impossible, but knowing that there are others standing with us would be a tremendous blessing. Thank you all for your prayers.