When COVID -19 arrived, no one knew just how devastating it would be for our social interactions. The isolation from family and friends and the inability to gather socially has been hard on everyone, increasing feelings of loneliness and depression.
This is especially true for our elderly or kupuna, as they are called in Hawaii. For many of our kupuna, coming to the church building was the one time a week they could connect with others. The church gathering offered them the opportunity to see familiar faces and be part of a larger family. This was invaluable to their mental health and well-being; it was their connection to the outside world.
So, when churches were forced to go online, most of us adapted nicely, enjoying the chance to worship in our pj’s on our couches. However, many of our kupuna lack the technology or the know-how to navigate the social platforms many of us take for granted.
In the Kaneohe church, we noticed the lack of connection with many of our dear kupuna and sought to find a solution. Equipped with a generous technology grant from the president of the Hawaii conference, we were able to purchase several tablets and streaming devices for our kupuna to use to once again connect with their church families.
On October 3, a Sabbath afternoon, Josh Landenberger, Kaneohe technology ministries leader, led several of our kupuna in a training session on how to connect to our social media platforms using the tablets. Josh walked the excited and eager members through the process of how to connect to Bible studies on Zoom, how to watch livestreamed services, and even how to post thoughts and encouragement to others on Facebook.
“The reason we went with tablets is so that through preloaded Facebook, Zoom, YouTube, and the writings of Sister White, connection with their church ohana [family] would be a simple click away,” said Kaneohe Pastor Tim Nelson.
While there has been a learning curve, the kupuna have started to embrace the new technology. “It was the bane of my existence when I first tried to use it!” exclaimed Sue Costales. “However, getting to study with our ohana has been such a blessing.”
Several of the kupuna have not only embraced the tablets, they have started using them to reach out to other friends and family for Jesus. Recent tablet receiver Elsie Frisbee has already set up a week of prayer, a woman’s worship tea, and a worship talk with a mainland church—all using the new technology.
Kaneohe church is humbled yet excited to see how God is using this new ministry to connect its kupuna to each other and to the continuing mission of the church, in spite of COVID-19’s best efforts to separate us.