Theda C. Pilar-Pineda
My Place and Piece of the Big Story
April 2, 1981: The original letter wishing Theda well on her journey.
I was a young convert in the INC back in 1979 and a year later, my parents and I prepared to migrate to Hawaii. As a new member, my faith was not deeply rooted and I had not fully known the ways of the Church. However, there were at least two instances that are forever etched in my memory that made me realize how true members of the Church feel and care for each other: One, when brethren heard that we were leaving, instead of being happy at the prospect of us having that supposedly better life in America, they voiced their concern that we might end up in a place where there was no INC congregation. The other thing was through a lovely note written by a member. Because I was leaving, friends and acquaintances wrote farewell notes to me. One such particular note served as a great reminder for me why I should carry on being a member of the Church and to fight for my faith, because it said that even if we depart from each other and we won’t ever see each other again in this world, someday we will see each other again in heaven if we remain in the faith.
As soon as my parents and I arrived in Hawaii, we registered in the local congregation of Honolulu. I was fascinated to learn that Honolulu was the first congregation established outside the Philippines in 1968, at the official commencement of the Church’s foreign mission. I was also delighted to get to know the brethren who were pioneer members of the congregation, the ones who were gathered by God in the West in a place called Oahu, which in Hawaiian means, “The Gathering Place.”
Here in Hawaii, I’m fortunate to know the unique stories of each family who make up the group of pioneers. Migrating 20 years after them, I was also struggling. I used to cry every night before I went to sleep because on top of homesickness there were physical threats from bullies in school picking on immigrants. Many of the pioneer members worked in the sugarcane and pineapple plantations in extreme conditions and away from their loved ones in the Philippines. My suffering paled in comparison.
Theda Pilar Pineda, center, with some local officers from Honolulu.—>
My husband who was a convert once told me of his struggles when he and his family moved to Hawaii from Chicago and when I questioned how he could feel that way when he was essentially American as compared to me, an immigrant from the Philippines, he answered, “but you have the Church of Christ.” It made me realize how fortunate I was that although I had struggles, the Church and its members, its organizations, and its activities served as my shield from the harshness of the world.
<—Memorial Day 1985: taken during Hawaii’s first Baccalaureate Special Gathering.
When I was a Kadiwa Youth Group officer, I enjoyed helping organize activities, many of which were firsts for Hawaii, like the Baccalaureate Special Gathering and Banquet on Memorial Day of 1985. On top of the sports competitions during anniversary celebrations, the congregation of Honolulu had an ongoing “sports night” every Sunday after the evening worship services. This activity kept everyone physically and socially healthy. Honolulu’s proximity to the world-famous Waikiki allowed us the privilege to welcome visiting brethren from all over the world. And back in the day, most visitors got treated with our gesture of “aloha” which means you will be taken around the island by a convoy of cars with the members of youth groups.
In the early 80’s our Resident Minister back then, Bro. Ruben Garcia emphasized that it’s our duty as Kadiwa and Binhi youth group members to take care of our young members before the world could influence them. Therefore, most of our youth group activities were geared towards our little brothers and sisters. In fact as the older ones, we were paired off with the little ones to encourage and guide them in participating in all the Church activities, including giving them rides to and from the chapel or outside locations.
All the activities in the congregation were intended to teach while having fun so that even in going hiking, the kids had to accomplish an assignment. We sponsored a yearly summer program for children and they were taught performing arts. A graduation ceremony was even held for the children at the end of the program.
<—Many Church of Christ members visiting Waikiki were welcomed with ‘Aloha’ and toured around the island by the Youth Organization members.
The children became part of our congregation’s performing arts group called “Little People Performing Arts” that was even invited to perform in a community event.
There was also an Ukelele Class for the youth that was taught by a talented brother who was a regular performer in Waikiki. —>
The importance of reading books was emphasized to both the young and not so young. Our congregation had its own Mini-Library where in I was the Librarian and had the help of mini-librarians. And because the kids were honed in the literary and musical aspects we, the Honolulu Kadiwa officers, spearheaded a couple of district-wide Literary-Musical Contests for the Kadiwa, Binhi, and CWS members.
<—Theda is joined by her mini-librarians who helped organize Honolulu’s local congregation library.
Through the years, succeeding Ministers and activities, everything was for everyone’s edification, even while many of those activities we held were missionary activities. The local congregation of Hawaii and I are so grateful for all of them.
The young members of the Children’s Worship Service join their ‘big brothers and big sisters’ of the Kadiwa and Binhi Youth Group organizations, as was often the case in the 80’s and much like today.—>
I’m currently a Deaconess, my husband is a Deacon and I’m still helping in the multimedia efforts of the Church, along with my daughters Adara and Kayla, who are also active members. Our whole family, together with every family in the congregation of Honolulu, strives to actively perform our duties, and eagerly await for the 50th anniversary of the INC in the West –we are proof of our Resident Ministers’ labors and sacrifices.
I have learned over the years that we cannot outdo our Almighty God when it comes to His love. For when you think that somehow you have honored Him with your efforts, He in turn responds by giving you so much joy that your heart can explode! Therefore, today as I write this blog entry in my favorite cafe, openly in tears and having people stare at me, I simply say, “Glory be to our Almighty Father for I have found my place and piece of the big story, His plan fulfilled in the West.”
The children became part of our congregation’s performing arts group called “Little People Performing Arts” that was even invited to perform in a community event.—>