Kahu Tom Kalili:
One Person's Reflections
by Earl Nakasato, Attorney-at-Law
Consistory Member, Berean Bible Church
When I first started to
regularly attend the worship services at the Berean Bible Church,
Thomas Kirkwood Kalili was the Kahu or Pastor. He was more than that;
he was the Pastor-Teacher. He was affectionately known as Kahu
Tom or simply Kahu.
The first five books of
the Bible contain a common thread of instruction by Moses:
"Remember the God of our Fathers." "Remember Jehovah and how He
protected us." Remember, remember. Some of us tend to
easily forget our spiritual foundations. Kahu Tom made it obvious
as to where his spiritual foundations came from, and he wanted all of
us to know that. To him, the Bible alone was supreme and the
final and only authority on matters of faith and practice. In
fact, he taught in practical terms what real faith is and that "faith
cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17.
I recall a gathering I
attended with Kahu Tom sponsored by the Christian Business Men's
Club. This meeting was attended by people from many different
churches -- Baptist, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, to name a few.
During a discussion on the "way of Salvation" that seemed to be going
in all kinds of directions, Kahu Tom boldly and confidently explained
the John 3 and 4 passages, tying them in with Genesis 1:1, 3:15 and
Romans 5. Not meaning to exhibit his Bible knowledge, his point was
that all the correct information we needed on this topic must come
directly from the Bible, so let's look at it.
Before I met Kahu Tom, I
must admit I was perhaps 25% skeptical of the Bible, believing that
substantial parts of it were true and some parts not true. Having
a rationalist view of Scripture, I felt that in many aspects, the human
mind was supreme. This all changed after I met Kahu and attended
his worship services and Bible studies. He was never wishy-washy
about the Bible. Kahu's preaching of God's Word really grabbed
hold of me and deeply touched the core of my being. I had never
heard anyone in my life make the Scriptures come alive with the Holy
Spirit illuminating the depths of them in a meaningful way.
The book of Romans was
being taught when I started attending Bible studies. What I
learned literally drove me to search for more knowledge about the God
of the Bible. Having grown up as a Buddhist in name only, and
concentrating on secular goals with no sound spiritual paradigm to
follow, and being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine that came
along, I had my mind, soul and spirit opened to totally refreshing
perspectives. I learned the truth about my nature and condition
from God's Word and that the God of the Bible provided a remedy in the
person of Jesus Christ. I truly owe my born-again life to Kahu
Tom in his work as Pastor-Teacher of the BBC.
I'm far from an intellect
or a genius, but I've had enough education and read enough books to
make comparisons and discernments. Being as honest and objective
as I can, I will say this: no scholar or teacher has made
more of a life-changing and profound impact on my life than Kahu Tom.
He had a deep biblical
love, a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love, for each and everyone who
attended the church fellowship. He expressed this on occasions
with a little sign and nod of his head by saying, "I just loved those
people," when talking about the previous church he shepherded and the
people of BBC.
When Kahu Tom conducted
funeral services, weddings, governmental functions, he never "cut
corners," as he expressed it. The Word of God was always central
as he made known the truths of Scripture. Blessing ceremonies
were never conducted with "koa bowls and ti leaves." He
made sure he showed up with his Bible and talked about the God of the
Bible. Because of this biblical stand, his invitations to the above
became less and less frequent.
One central theme of his
teaching was that BBC was a part of the universal Church of believers,
fellow saints having put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus
Christ. He was never ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.
The Businessmen and
the Ex-Stevedore. Of the many people the Lord led to worship
at BBC, I would like to point out three individuals on whose lives Kahu
Tom made an impact. The names of the first two are fictional to
protect their identities.
Kahu Tom exercised some
real patience in debating with Reynold, a former building contractor
and businessman, who is now at home with the Lord. These
discussions extended late into the night after Bible study
classes. With several failed marriages and business bankruptcy,
Reynold realized that no amount of money or friends in high positions
could bring meaning and purpose into his life. Through the BBC,
and Kahu Tom's preaching, he became a born-again believer and was
on-fire for the Lord, causing many of his friends from his former days
to avoid him like a plague.
STB, an insurance
salesman and businessman was convinced by Kahu's teaching that he
should "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all
these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33. When the truth
of this scripture gripped his heart, the initial response was,
"Wow!" Because of Kahu's straightforward teaching of the Word,
STB and his wife commented on the honesty portrayed in these
Frederick Sipe, the
ex-stevedore -- who went home to be with the Lord in 2004 at age
80 -- was a "street-smart kid" brought up in Baltimore, Maryland. He
was a union "enforcer" with a tough approach to life but was also a
Fred was invited to visit
BBC by Jacque Rapoza, who operated a flower shop in his apartment
building. He was impressed with the joy radiated by the people in
the fellowship. He was curious about this and wanted it for
himself. According to Fred, Kahu's teaching about the
transforming power of the gospel started opening up for him and he
"couldn't move fast enough to make the decision to accept the Lord and
be born again."
Fred often commented
regarding the humility of Kahu Tom when great speakers came to BBC,
such as Drs. J. Vernon McGee and Arnold Fruchtembaum. "He took a
back seat to these men of God, wanting to expose the church families to
additional sound Bible teaching," was his comment.
The 50th Pearl Harbor
Commemoration. In 1991, Kahu Tom was invited to Honolulu to
give the Christian prayer at the 50th anniversary of the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor with the President of the United States in
attendance. Kahu was to give the invocation along with persons
from the Catholic, Jewish, Islam and Buddhist faiths.
The wording for the
prayer was sent to the general of the Office of the Chaplain of the
U.S. Military. A quick response came requesting that he delete
any reference in the prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ because it will
make certain people uncomfortable. Kahu, in his clear and humble
manner, prayerfully explained to the general that he and his family in
Hawaii were blessed by the gospel message shared by G.I.s during and
following World War II. He told the general that Hawaii and the
Hawaiians were not destroyed but "saved," and like many families in
America, he and his family had received the blessings of a merciful and
gracious God, the Father of Jesus Christ. Consequently, he could
never, ever turn his back on this God. He recalled Daniel of the Old
Testament and how he set his mind to always worship the true God of the
universe, not any other God, and Joshua who declared whom he would
follow: "Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve... but
as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
With God's seemingly
unseen powers, Kahu Tom prevailed and was allowed to give his
invocation. But Kahu Tom felt that even if he were not allowed to
give that invocation, and thus excuse himself from participating, he
would have continued to give his allegiance to the God who sent His
only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
The News and Aftermath.
Even when he was very close to going home to be with the Lord, Kahu Tom
exhibited tremendous faith in the Lord. On the morning of August
13, 1992, Tommy Crabb, the Chairman of the BBC Consistory, called to
inform me that Kahu Tom wanted to meet with this group We were
all questioning the purpose of the meeting. Was a new place found
for the church to meet? Will there be a new church program?
After an opening prayer was offered, Kahu shared this message:
"Recently, during a doctor's examination, a cancerous growth was
discovered in my right side."
This was said soberly,
calmly, matter-of-factly, without shedding a tear. Needless to say, we
were all stunned. Someone asked, "How, how serious is it?"
In full control of his voice, Kahu replied, "The doctor gave me about
We all went through
typical male responses... indeed "crying inside," but trying not to
reveal this shock outwardly.
Kahu, with God's help and
in His plan, defied the doctor's prediction. He went home to be with
the Lord on June 30, 1996. During those last four years of his
life, there was no complaining or displaying anger to God or anyone
because of his health condition. Words of thanksgiving and praise
to God were offered for all things large and small, even his medical
We often gathered at his
home to read and discuss God's Word. he was preparing us to
diligently study the scriptures to be able to present ourselves
approved unto God and to accurately handle the Word of Truth, 1 Timothy
Through the proverbial
peaks and valleys, the good times and the difficult times, we have come
a long way in the past 25 years, and the Lord has kept us
together. In spite of the differences in ethnicity, culture, age,
education, economic and social standing, He has blended us, sinners all
but saved by grace, into a harmonious local church.
Kahu Tom Kalili
Kahu Tom Kalili was a
member of Moody Radio's organizing committee since 1981, when Moody
Bible Institute was first asked to build a Christian radio station in
Hilo. Motorola engineer Daniel Schwarz organized the first
meeting in the Plumeria Room of the Hilo Lagoon Hotel. In
attendance were Daniel Schwarz and Pastor Bob Vance of Grace Baptist
Church, and Kahu Tom Kalili and Miles Matsumura of Berean Bible Church.
On January 20, 1997,
after sixteen years of preparation, Moody Radio of Hilo went on
the air. Two weeks later, supporters gathered to dedicate the
facility in memory of the late Reverend Thomas K. Kalili, who went to
be with the Lord just seven months earlier. The dedication
service was carried live on MBN's "Open Line" program with host radio
pastor Donald Cole.
"Koa bowls and ti
leaves" -- native implements for blessing ceremonies, used by kahuna
(priests) of the old religion as well as many kahu of the Christian