Rockin' With God in the Pipeline
by Jon Motohiro (M.S., '99)
Pipeline Café is one of Honolulu's hottest nightclubs. On any given weekend, thousands of people come through to dance to live bands and DJs. But on Sunday mornings, Pipeline Café transforms into Mana'olana, one of the newest churches to emerge from the Hope Chapel movement. "Mana'olana" is a Hawaiian word which refers to thoughts that rise or float, like expectation and hope.
The story of how Pipeline Café found Hope starts with Ka'ala Souza, the pastor of Mana'olana. Ka'ala had been part of Hope Chapel Kaneohe's pastoral staff for a number of years and had been talking with Pastor Ralph Moore about planting a new church. David Giomi, a partner at Pipeline Café, had just started attending Hope Chapel Kaneohe when Ralph introduced Ka'ala to David. The idea of planting the new church in David's nightclub seemed strange at first and yet crazy enough that it just might work. David's partners at Pipeline also began to warm up to the unique pairing of a nightclub and a church. After all, surely Jesus would go to a church like that.
In the meantime, Ka'ala assembled his development team by holding meetings in his garage, living room, and at virtually every Starbucks on Windward O'ahu. I was one of the first to sign on and spent hours discussing how this church would act and behave.
Ka'ala was fascinated by Jack and Judy Balswick's book, Family: A Christian Perspective, and he was intrigued about how we could apply that to our model of church. I encouraged Ka'ala to draw upon his Native Hawaiian heritage to use metaphors from that culture to express the theology of Mana'olana. Ka'ala used the metaphor of the kalo, or taro plant, the root of which is used to make poi. The kalo plant appears on our logo and it represents what our congregation strives for. One kalo plant can have several generations of shoots, with the more mature generation providing protection and nurturing to encourage the others to grow.
The ministry of Mana'olana is to reach out to people who would never set foot in a church and show them what it means to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We express this through genuine gestures of aloha -- a complex word that in many ways reflects the fruits of the Spirit.
The advertising for Mana'olana is unconventional. Radio ads play on secular radio stations that are more accustomed to hearing ads for Pipeline Café. These ads have been so popular that DJs are asked to play the ads again, something unheard of in radio today. Print ads proclaiming "The Way, The Truth ... Mana'olana" and the church phone number were featured in publications for Zen meditation and relaxation. Another ad, placed in a lonely-hearts section, asked: "Looking for Love? Call Mana'olana ..."
The ads worked and this church has drawn people who would feel uncomfortable in more conventional church settings.
I can't tell you what a joy it is to serve with Christian sisters and brothers who labor so hard, at least two hours before and after every service, to transform a nightclub into a church. Our church is now 130 people strong and witnessing to people who have never engaged with Christians before. We covet your prayers and encourage you to visit our church Web site at www.manaolana.com.
Jon Motohiro (M.S., '99) is a staff counselor at the Samaritan Counseling Center of Hawaii, in Honolulu.