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Kahu Kalani Wong’s ʻohana from left to right, front row: Kobe, Kazzy and Aubree Teshima. Second row: Reed and Kayla Teshima, Avis Teshima-Wong, Kahu Kalani Wong, Ryan and Stacey Teshima and Zoe.

KS Maui’s inaugural Kahu, Kalani Wong, retires after 21 years of service

A gathering of well-wishers bid farewell and congratulations during his Service of Release

Aug. 14, 2023

For two decades, Kahu Kalani Wong KSK’74 has bestowed blessings upon faculty, staff, students, and their loved ones. His Christian faith has provided solace to the distressed, optimism to the weary, and jubilation to those who've triumphed. As the inaugural Kahu at Kamehameha Schools Maui, numerous people came from far and near to attend his formal Service of Release into retirement.  Dressed in ceremonial robes and adorned with fragrant lei, Kahu Wong was celebrated with cherished recollections and abundant aloha.

Among those deeply impacted by Kahu Wong was the first Keiki Kahu of KS Maui, Awapuhi Dancil KSM '06. She reflected on not only Kahu Wong's faith in Christ but also his unwavering faith in her and others. Dancil shared how his unshakable belief allowed her to join the worship team with her electric guitar, albeit briefly. “Whenever I doubted myself, whether it was my worth, my ability, or my purpose, Kahu was always there with his unwavering and constant faith. It’s deceptively simple, but we know that faith moves mountains,” Dancil said.

Nā Kahu from KS Kapālama and KS Hawaiʻi conveyed their heartfelt messages for their esteemed colleague, accompanied by a graceful hula performance set to the mele "He's the Only Reason," beautifully executed by Hālau Kekuaokalāʻauʻiliahi.

After a graceful hoʻokupu hula performance set to the mele "He's the Only Reason," beautifully executed by Hālau Kekuaokalāʻauʻiliahi, haumāna gift lei to Kahu Kalani Wong.

Behavioral Health Manager Anuhea Getgen KSK’04 recounted Kahu Wong's intimate familiarity with the campus's rich history and his role as a historical cornerstone of KS Maui. She highlighted his role in fostering a secure environment for all, rooted in acceptance and affirmation. Getgen recalled their joint efforts in community outreach, distributing numerous food boxes, and Kahu Wong's exceptional talent for coordination and surprisingly – Excel spreadsheet management.

“We’ve done many home visits together, sat with families on their living room floors, as they’ve experienced significant loss, the loss of parents, siblings, of their home. What do you say to children who have experienced such unfathomable loss? And it’s in the most vulnerable moments that Kahu was there to provide hope, guidance and prayer with these haumāna and ʻohana when they needed it the most. It’s these moments, the quiet moments, the vulnerable and intimate moments that are etched in my heart and the hearts of all who are held by Kahu’s aloha,” Getgen shared.

Kahu Wong's journey from being a keiki sitting in the pews of the First Chinese Church of Christ in Honolulu to becoming a beloved Kahu was anything but direct. It is, however, a testament to his unwavering commitment. In his early years, Wong wrestled with the idea of leaving youth work and his home church. At a crossroads, he sought guidance from his godmother, and he found inspiration in 1 Peter 4:10-11, a passage that became his favorite, serving as his north star throughout the years.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

His involvement in his family church from a young age provided the foundation for his service to Pua a Pauahi over two decades. Having managed Christian education programs from the tender age of 13. Teaching and crafting Bible lesson plans came naturally to him. Later, his role as the leader of Maui County's PALS program, a summer enrichment initiative benefiting thousands of Maui ʻōpio annually, further cemented his passion for nurturing young minds. Many of Kamehameha Maui's current leaders cut their teeth at PALS under Wong's guidance, including prominent figures like Poʻo Kula Scott Parker, Poʻo ʻo Māhele Luna Lance Cagasan, and Kamehameha Schools Trustee Robert Nobriga KSK’91. In fact, Wong says Nobriga chides him and always tells people: ‘He used to be my boss.’

Kahu Wong's close association with the nascent Maui campus, while not an official employee at the time, extended to blessing all campus buildings. His eventual appointment as Kahu, overseen by Poʻo Kula D. Rod Chamberlain, brought not only spiritual leadership but also an invaluable bridge between faith and culture alongside the school’s Cultural Protocol Facilitators – first, Luana Kawaʻa and later, Ekela Kaniaupiʻo-Crozier. This dual perspective served as a vital foundation for essential campus dialogues.

Former VP of Strategy & Transformation, Lauren Nahme, acknowledged Kahu Wong's role in fostering unity across the institution. Beyond his responsibilities as KS Maui's Kahu, he worked diligently to create a unified Kamehameha through faith. Notably, his collaboration with former Kahu Wendell Davis KSK’71 and Kordell Kekoa KSK’80 of Kamehameha Schools Kapālama in formalizing KS’ Moʻokuʻauhau of Christianity and its Aliʻi was pivotal. This recognition by the United Church of Christ in 2004 solidified the school's identity as a Christian institution. In 2019, Kahu Wong was instrumental in crafting the school's Christian Commitment Statement, reaffirming the school's inclusive values, and emphasizing the love of Christ for all and that we are all God’s children.

With his wife at his side, ʻohana, four moʻopuna, and a long list of home improvement projects, Wong says he’ll have plenty to keep him busy and fulfilled in retirement. He also has his sights set on exciting travel adventures. Grateful for his enduring service, Kahu Wong's personal mission mirrors his favorite verse:

"I aimed to nurture greater faith among the students at Kamehameha Schools Maui. Numerically and in-depth, my aspiration was for individuals to become more faithful and to gain a profound understanding of their purpose as called by God."

Kahu Kalani, mahalo for your 21 years in service of Ke Aliʻi Pauahi’s mission and for instilling unwavering Christian values in our haumāna.

To watch Kahu Kalani Wong’s Service of Release, click here.


Editor’s note:

The above story was written prior to the Maui fires. We reached out to Kahu Kalani Wong who is safe with his ʻohana for his manaʻo in making sense of what has happened to the Maui community over the last week. Here’s what he had to say: 


No ka mea, ʻo wau ʻo Iēhova, ʻo kou Akua, ka mea i hoʻopaʻa i kou lima ʻākau,  
Ka mea ʻōlelo aku iā ʻoe, 
Mai makaʻu; ʻo wau nō kou mea nāna e kōkua. ‘Isaia 41:13
For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand,   
Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’- Isaiah 41:13 
Iā ʻoe e hele ma waena o nā wai, ʻo wau pū nō me ʻoe;  
A ma loko hoʻi o nā muliwai, ʻaʻole ʻoe e hālana ʻia iā lākou; 
Iā ʻoe e hele aʻe ma loko o ke ahi, ʻaʻole ʻoe e wela; 
ʻAʻole hoʻi e ʻai aku ka lapalapa ahi iā ʻoe.- ‘Isaia 43:2 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; 
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. 
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, 
Nor will the flame burn you.- Isaiah 43:2   
The devastation left behind by the wildfires on Maui, especially in Lahaina, has revealed the true heart of people.  A tremendous outpouring of love, donations, and well-wishes has been extended from all over.  I grew up on Oʻahu but my in-laws, and their extended family, were born and raised in Lahaina. My wife roamed the streets freely with her cousins. As each photo or video of the devastation plays on the news or social media, all those memories tug at her heart. I designed and developed the Senior Center off Lahainaluna Road so the seniors of the West Side didn't have that long trek over to Central Maui. The KS Maui students spent many hours in the Waine'e Graveyard, taking care of the final resting spot of our Aliʻi buried there.  
The folks of Lahaina are strong people, maybe a result of their plantation roots. They are a close community who are ready to kōkua one another in whatever circumstance they may face. Let us follow their example and step in alongside to support, encourage, and be the strong shoulder for them to lean on. As God upholds our right hand, let us uphold our brothers and sisters in need.   
Ke Akua pū

~ Kahu Kalani 

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