GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mona Young and the Rev. Frank Kim, associate pastor, look over a collection of Young's pictographs that will be installed at an exhibition at the New Life Church on Nuuanu Street, which will open its doors on First Friday.
A Chinatown church finds First Friday the perfect occasion to "take down its walls"
New Life Church is using the First Friday arts program in Chinatown to draw many through its doors who do not normally find solace in religion.
Drug addicts, the homeless and prostitutes have joined people from all walks of life at New Life, whose membership has doubled since the church took over the old Empress Theatre site on Nuuanu Avenue two years ago. (Calvary Chapel used to occupy the space.)
The building's lobby was perfect to convert into a display gallery in February, and it already had a stage and two-story auditorium that could be used for performing arts when services were not being held, according to the Rev. Francis Oda, senior pastor.
The church's primary focus is to "become a part of the community," and what better "way to take down the walls and connect with the community" than to join the popular evening event that has revitalized Chinatown? he said. Becoming a part of the festivities that occur the first Friday of each month during the "Gallery Walk" literally put them on the map, he said.
"It's like real estate, where location, location, location is everything," Oda said, adding that he could not say it was the primary reason people are coming to church.
Oda, also CEO of the downtown Group 70 architectural firm, said the church is trying to attract "ordinary" people who are willing to share part of their busy lives with the church.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mona Young holds a painting by watercolor artist Ding Quan Liu that will be part of New Life Church's First Friday exhibit in the lobby.
Jesus and his entourage were not members of the priesthood, but carpenters, fishermen and men who worked full time -- they were all part of the marketplace or business world, he said. New Life is trying to follow this model of ministering to one another, Oda said, adding, "We were not meant to be behind four walls of the church.
"The church is like a canoe -- everyone has a paddle, everyone works. It is not an ocean liner, where 80 percent of the people are on a cruise and 20 percent do all the work. ... I'm the navigator, simply pointing in the direction of the bright morning star: Jesus," he said.
All of the pastors have full-time jobs, and it takes a lot of teamwork to get things done, Oda said.
The church is heavily involved with the River of Life Mission for the homeless and destitute through founder Bob Marchand, who is also an associate pastor of New Life.
"It's good to give food, clothing and shelter," Oda said, but what is more important is that "we also give the seed so they can plant and harvest themselves and help others."
The church is "creating a company that would help the poor, homeless or drug addicts go to work, learn good business skills and ultimately have a company they can own," he said, citing church member Vincent Kwan, who opened Grinds, a small downtown eatery.
Kwan was a homeless drug addict 21 months ago but "came to the Lord, cleaned up and tried to get a job," Oda said. He somehow got a loan to start a takeout restaurant on Chaplain Lane. His employees are recovering drug addicts, and he has promised them that if they stay clean for two years, he will sponsor each one for his or her own lunch wagon -- "an awesome thing" the church plans to emulate, Oda said.
The church's First Friday will feature the art, music and dance of different countries to "show how God loves all people and races," he said.
China will be the focus this Friday and Oct. 1, and Korea will follow. (For more on the China theme, see the accompanying story.)
Chinese parallels to biblical stories the theme this Friday
Reproductions of ancient Chinese pictographs written 4,000 years ago that tell a story parallel to that of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden will be part of the First Friday arts event at the New Life Church on Friday.
Music, dance and other presentations related to a China theme, including the work of local Chinese artists, are scheduled for the months of September and October at the church, at Nuuanu Avenue and Beretania Street in the old Empress Theatre. The program will be held from 7 to 8 p.m., and the art gallery through First Friday, 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Mona Young, who is chairing the China presentation, said most people will find it as "amazing" as she did upon learning of China's connection to the Bible's Book of Genesis. She will give an overview of China's most ancient picture writing found on oracle bones, tortoise shells, pottery and jade.
Her audiovisual presentation is based on the book "God's Promise to the Chinese," co-authored by Ethel R. Nelson, Richard E. Broadberry and Ginger Tong Chock.
One of the stories told by the pictographs, similar to Hawaiian petroglyphs and Egyptian hieroglyphics, depicts a great flood and the survival of Nu Kua or Nu Wah, the progenitor of the human race, as was Noah in the story of Noah and the ark in Genesis, Wong said.
Art will be displayed by local artists Edward Yuk Wong Li, proprietor of the Printmaker studio in Kaimuki; Dean Young, owner of the Ceramic Hobbyist store on Kona Street; and D.Q. Liu, owner of the Classic Embroidery Art Gallery in Chinatown.
Performances will be led by Dr. Benny Fan of First Chinese Church and his 40-member Honolulu Chinese Christian Choir, with members from seven different churches; and the Rev. Godwin Lai of Canaan Community Gospel Center, who will bring dancers in full costume.
At the Oct. 6 First Friday, Greg and Fawn Andermann, local film producers, will present their documentary, "The Temple of Heaven." Co-produced with CBN network, the documentary chronicles the worship of ShangDi, "the One True God," by the ancient emperors of China for more than 4,000 years.
For more information, contact Young at 396-7415.