In 2020, Hawaiian Mission Academy (HMA) celebrated 100 years of Adventist Education within the Hawaiian Islands. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic and local, state, and county guidelines, the in-person celebration had to be pushed back until June of 2022. Though this in-person celebration was delayed, the Hawaiian Mission Academy Alumni Association developed a plan to get everyone connected.
Michael Naluai (‘65) came up with the idea of hosting a live event that would be streamed online, in which alumni and friends of HMA could call in, reconnect, talk story, and make donations. Over several months of planning, this event became known as “You Gotta Feel Aloha.” The planners realized that making this event happen would require funds, and no one knew where they would come from, but Uncle Michael always reminded everyone, “We have God, which means we have the Bank of God, and nothing is impossible.”
Over the course of a few months, the HMA Alumni Association, with the leadership of Dr. Russell Kim (‘82), Colin Siaw (‘77), Michelle Konn Rai (‘93), Esther Otsuka Nakashima (‘72), and many other friends of HMA, was able to raise the money to purchase the equipment needed to make the event a reality.
Trying to pull this off during a pandemic made the planning process difficult, but the logistics gradually came together. Fortunately, at times God opened doors that seemed to be firmly closed. Lisa Yrojo Leonardo (‘87) led out in the planning of programming, along with technical leads Nicholas Lambson (friend of HMA) and Matt Webster (visual arts director at HMA). Providentially, the Honolulu Central church was made available for the event. Their lighting and stage space ensured that the event could be of high quality, as well as making it possible to follow the COVID guidelines given by the State of Hawaii.
At the same time that one team was getting the production ready, the IT team was busy at work. Led by Jorge Gurrola (former HMA Taskforce worker) and Josh Landenberger (‘19), they were able to build what became the call center. Through this center, anyone around the world could call in and reconnect with HMA.
After months of meetings, planning, filming, and editing, the event went live January 31, with Uncle Michael Naluai (‘65) and Jesse Seibel (‘98) serving as MCs. The 3 ½ hour program showcased alumni from all decades of HMA’s history back as far as the 1940s, current stories of what HMA is doing in the community, music, hulas from alumni halaus, and talk story sessions. During the program, the 10 volunteers at the call center were busy handling phone calls, taking donations, and offering to pray with all those calling in. “Prayer was the highlight of the call center,” said Michele Naluai Seibel (’78), Hawaii Conference prayer ministries coordinator. “Even though, yes, the call center was to take donations, reconnecting with people and offering them prayer was not only a blessing to those calling, but a blessing to us working the call center as well.”
By the end of the event, the program had raised $40,000. “While the fundraised money was an amazing blessing, it was overwhelming to see the community of alumni reconnect with each other and HMA,” said Joe Lee, HMA principal. “The ‘hidden agenda’ in opening opportunities for ministry and spiritual encouragement/rejuvenation was the true accomplishment of the event.”
The equipment purchased for the event is now being used by HMA students in the Film Production class, where it is helping to teach technical skills, such as directing a live production. The HMA Alumni Association is currently in the planning process for their next live event, scheduled for the summer of 2021.
To watch the program, visit HMA’s YouTube page at www.youtube.com/c/HawaiianMissionAcademyOfficialChannel.
By Matt Webster