top of page

GOD AT THE CENTER: Hawaii Version

I answered my annoyingly ringing phone and the voice on the other end said, “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.” That got my attention, the movie, “The Godfather” making those ten words legendary. The difference being that the voice on the other end was not the Mafioso Godfather, but rather the Hawaiian Godfather of The Salvation Army at the time, Major David Hudson.

His irrefutable offer? To be his point person in one of those ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunities—vying for the opportunity to receive funding ($100,000,000 +), as one of an additional six Kroc Centers to be established in the USA Western Territory—challenging indeed, in a very competitive field, Hawaii considered a very, very, long, longshot.

Really? How can one refuse an opportunity to live and serve in Hawaii—now a second time in retirement? And with grandchildren living there, a bonus. Hanging up the phone, I turn to Doris, seeing that quizzical look on her face. “Pack your bags, dear, paradise is calling.”

Let me add quickly that it was Honolulu and NAB board member Phil Russell who put the “Godfather offer” thought into Hudson’s head. Phil and I instantly became an indefatigable team, and as the team grew, eventually moving mountains together.

Now let’s just cut to the chase. Three things occurred to bring us from the bottom of the barrel to the top. The first was to show that we could establish buy-in from the community by raising $25 million, locally, toward an operating endowment, no small task considering the comparatively small population base.

Who to head up that fundraising campaign? We began talking to the movers and shakers in Honolulu and the name that kept moving to the top of the list was Don Horner, CEO, and President of First Hawaiian Bank. Phil made the introduction, and I made the ask: “Don, would you consider becoming the chairperson to head up our fundraising campaign?”

His response: “My plate is full. To even consider this, I’d have to be convinced that God is going to be at the center of this project.” Huh? Did I hear that right? My response: “I’ve just finished the first draft of this part of the proposal. I’ll email it to you ASAP.” Two days later, I again answered that annoyingly ringing phone, and the voice on the other end said, “I’m in!” (Hallelujah Chorus sung here). At this moment our Honolulu Kroc slogan was born…


The second was to select the right architect. Again, the name that kept surfacing was Francis Oda, the CEO of G70. During our interview, we learned that Oda was not only CEO of a prestigious architectural firm but also Sr. Pastor of the New Life Church in Chinatown.

During the interview, his priorities became very clear: “First thing, serving God; second is family; third is community; and then fourth is client.” Further, we learned that with each project, Oda and the firm focuses on four areas of need in the community: “eliminating systemic poverty, eliminating systemic corruption, honoring the local culture, and blessing the community.” Bingo! Another confirmation of…


(Second rendition sung here)

The third was to determine the location of the center. The small size of the islands means that space is at a premium, one of the reasons we started at the bottom of the list. After some preliminary drawings, it was determined that we would need 10 acres.

Demographic studies told us that the shifting population growth was occurring in East Oahu where a University of Hawaii West Oahu campus was being planned. This became our location focus. With this in mind, another name that kept surfacing was Micah Kane, Commissioner, and Chairman of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands.

We had learned that they were planning to build 350 homes for Native Hawaiian families across the street from the planned campus with a community center required as part of the development. We sought him out. Again, Phil made the introductions, and I made the pitch. His response: “We must build a community center, and this could be a win/win. How much land do you need?” “10 acres,” we said. “Before you make a decision,” we quickly added, “you must understand going in that God is going to be at the center of this project.” “Not a problem. We’re in!” he said, unhesitatingly. “10 acres in a prime location are yours. And we’ll take care of all the property developmental costs.” (Third rendition sung here).

Wait! The miracles keep coming. Deeper into the architectural design, Oda calls, “Bad news,” he says. “Looks like we’re now going to need 15 acres to make it all work.” Back to Micah, we go, trembling, hat in hand. “No problem,” he says, “15 it is!” (Fourth rendition sung here).

Four miracles, quickly, all in a row, soaring us to the top of the list. All because we put…


With Don Horner

Osei Stewart, Phil Russel, Dave Hudson

With Phil Lum

With Francis Oda


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
bottom of page