FOUNDER'S DAY CELEBRATION AT ST. JOHN'S, KULA By Cindy Schumacher, Regional Reporter
[Chronicle, July 13, 2023] On Saturday, June 24, 2023, with over seventy-five attendees, St. John’s Kula members and friends served up a delicious Chinese feast in honor of their church founders, the Rev. Shim Yin Chin, Mrs. Kui Kyau Shim, and their family. The evening, celebrating St. John’s 123-year history, began with a message from St. John’s Priest-in-Charge, the Reverend George C. Wong. Master of ceremonies Brian Moto introduced the Chinese entertainment performed by Sarah Shim, Lily Shim, Gloria Lau, and Di Jiang. It was a wonderful evening of fellowship. The founders were also remembered and commemorated during the worship services on Sunday, June 25.
“Reverend Shim Yin Chin and family represent everything one would want in a founding family of a church community: faithfulness, perseverance, vision and deep compassion for their flock," said Father George (pictured here with Di Jiang and Brian Moto). "Their legacy is the good ground upon which St. John’s has thrived for 123 years and, God willing, will continue to thrive.”
The first Founder’s Day celebration was in 1982, the year that their former priest, the Rev. Heather Mueller, began her ministry at St. John’s. “The event was received with the greatest of enthusiasm,” she recalled. “I have always believed that our lives and accomplishments are all built upon the foundations of our predecessors. It is right to honor all those who have laid their footsteps across the threshold of this holy place. We are so grateful!”
St. Johns' Church Administrator, Janet Makua, added, “I feel it is important to remember and honor our founders because St. John’s, this beautiful, spiritual place loved by so many, would not exist were it not for the sacrifices they made.”
The year was 1899 when Shim Mook of Kula wrote to his people in China to ask them to send a teacher for the Chinese children of Kula. Reverend Shim had been ordained as a Lutheran minister in China and came to Hawaii at the age of thirty-one, most likely at the urging of his friend and former classmate Kong Yin Tet, Vicar of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Honolulu. He courageously left his wife and children behind, journeying far to meet his new calling.
Fr. Shim came to Kula with no land or buildings to support his work. He knew only that a large number of his fellow countrymen had settled there and were in need of Christian ministry. He established the congregation in response to the desire of Chinese farmers, the primary inhabitants of Keokea at the turn of the twentieth century, to learn more about Christianity. He was accepted into the Anglican Church by Bishop Willis. On November 11, 1900, Fr. Shim presented Bishop Willis with candidates for confirmation and baptism, making them the first members of St. John’s Mission.
Pictured from left: Janet Makua and Amy Shim; Lily Shim, Brian Moto, Amy Shim, and Lindsay Lau; Gloria Lau, Lily Shim, and Sarah Shim
The structure that still serves St. John’s congregation was started in 1906 and completed in 1907. Materials for the wood-frame building were floated off a boat at the Makena Landing in South Maui and transported by horse-drawn carts uphill to the church’s 3000-foot elevation in Keokea. The $2,000 required for the job was raised by Father Shim from friends on Maui and St. Peter’s Church in Honolulu. At that time, the building served as both a church and a Chinese language school. Sliding doors shut off the chancel, and each pew could be changed into a desk by raising a leaf attached to the back of the next pew.
Father Shim was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Restarick at The Cathedral of St. Andrew, on July 4, 1909. After addressing the Women’s Auxiliary, he was given Eucharistic vessels, a bell to call the people to worship, and a horse to enable him to visit his parishioners up and down the slopes of the Haleakala mountain.
Longtime St. John’s member Amy Shim is honored, although truly humbled, by her historical connection to St. John’s. Her grandfather, Shim Mook, came to Hawai'i with the second wave of immigrants in 1890, and settled first in South Maui, then in Kula. The Shim family documents their genealogy from Emperor Hwang Ti, China’s first emperor. In the 1860s, Shims from Kwangtung Province, across the China Sea from Hong Kong, took advantage of agricultural and business opportunities in Kula, bought tracts of land, and worked hard to improve life in Upcountry Maui.
Amy reminisced, “Eventually, when a Chinese teacher was needed in Kula in 1899, Shim Mook wrote back to the village in China asking for a Chinese teacher to come to teach the upcountry children at the site which is now St. John’s Church. After the completion of St. John’s, Reverend Shim became its first minister and continued teaching the Bible to the Chinese students."
“Shim Mook also contributed much to the Kula community. He is remembered especially for supervising the building of the Kula pipeline in 1905, which helped alleviate many hardships concerning water distribution in those days. Grandfather Mook used his ingenuity to the fullest extent. To this day, many in our family inherited that spirit of loving our St. John’s community, the āina, working hard, and helping others.”
Every year St. John’s remembers, honors, and celebrates all who helped lay the foundation for their thriving community. We give thanks for all of the many expressions of love, acts of ministry, and gifts which have been given in this church throughout the years. As we move forward, we pause to honor those who have faithfully served in the past.
Ephesians 2: 21,22
“In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”
“How can they hear without someone preaching to them? How can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”