Habitat/Hawaii: Building a sense of Ohana
Another word we’ve learned (and lived) in the past few days is ‘ohana’. In Hawaiian culture, there is a strong sense of ohana (family) which goes far beyond traditional blood relatives. In fact, in Hawaii elders of the community are often called “auntie” or “uncle” to communicate endearment and respect while also implying a familial connection. It’s safe to say that our group is feeling the ohana love.
On Thursday, our volunteer coordinator Auntie Pili, arranged yet another beautiful lunch for us. (Wow! Hawaiians take hospitality and gratitude to another level.) In the midst of our day, which was filled with building more patio forms, hand mixing and pouring cement slabs, we put down our tools, wiped off our hands and settled in for a peaceful break. Our spaghetti lunch was graciously provided to us by Patrick Hurney, Sr. (the father of the Executive Director).
As we sat under the sun and refueled for the afternoon ahead, we all started to slow down and truly enjoy the moment – thanks in part to Bobo. Yes, Pili had yet another treat in store for us – she had brought her ‘brother’ Bobo to our lunch. Here, Bobo serenaded us with traditional Hawaiian songs as he strummed his ukulele and we finished our meals. Ohana.
After our meal, we got to know more about Uncle Bobo and the Hawaiian culture as he shared with us the real meaning of the lei. When people think of Hawaiian leis, they often picture big, bright flowered rings draped around your neck as you walk off the plane. But Bobo showed us a the leis he has been creating for decades now. Instead of flowers, which can wilt away in a matter of days, he creates braided leis made of ti leaves, which when prepared correctly can be preserved for over a hundred years.
In this lei, the two (aho) chords he wraps together represents two people; in this case, us and those who we came to help. And the lei overall represents that we (the giver and the recipient of the lei) are bound together by the cords of unconditional love. After Bobo shared this rich history with us, he concluded our lunch time with a poetic and heartfelt Hawaiian prayer. Even though we didn’t understand every single word he said, it was undeniable that the words he spoke were declared with compassion and authenticity. Ohana.
How is it that some days we can hardly remember what we ate or what we wore the day before? But then there are days, like the one we spent with Pili and Bobo, where a mere 20 minutes will most likely stick with you the rest of your life? Perhaps it’s because we simply slowed things down. Perhaps it’s because Bobo reminded us of the many things we should consistently be grateful for – from big things like the land to small things like an afternoon with ohana. Perhaps it’s because we felt peace and contentment when we thought about the concept of unconditional love and how our God gives us that everyday – no questions asked. Ohana.
When I take home the lei from Bobo, it will be a gentle reminder to take a deep breath, know that God has us in the palm of His hands, and He will provide us with what we need, when we need it.
This week we’ve also had an opportunity to enjoy and learn more about the Hawaiian culture through not one, but TWO, luaus. Let’s just say we made up for all of the calories we burned while working. We tried different local fares, including the infamous Hawaiian staple of poi. We met hula dancers and flame throwers (and Jim has the photos to prove it!). Best of all, one of our own team members was chosen to join in on the fun up on stage. Go, Amy! Our second luau was provided by Auntie Pili and her intern Amanda. It was an authentic meal with sugary guava sodas, cabbage and pork (kind of like the inner goodness of a Runza), and delicious poke.
I’d be completely remiss if I made it sound like our team had a week of pure leisure. We’ve had plenty of special opportunities to learn more about the land, the culture, and those we are supporting. But just as importantly, we’ve worked together closely for many hours constructing concrete forms, hand mixing and pouring concrete, and completing the finishing work for three patios and two entry ways. Our trio of Linda’s added even more to our group’s resume as they painted primer for all of the fascia on two homes. Every person has played an important role and every person has had a chance to work alongside their team members.
Before our trip, our team leader Roger Anderson said that this experience was all about building relationships. As a veteran mission trip goer, he knew what he was talking about. This week we’ve done just that.
We’ve built homes.
We’ve built bonds.
We’ve built ohana.
We appreciate your prayers and continued support as we have been blessed with perfect weather and a safe worksite the entire week. We ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers as we wrap up our work this week, meet with the families that will be building their lives in these homes, and then venture back to the mainland.
Written by team member, Brie Pinnow