In 1967, while in New York City, I visited Covenant House, a shelter providing services for homeless youth. I did this because I knew that teens experiencing issues at home would often use their parents’ credit cards to buy a one-way ticket to Hawai‘i. Why not? It’s a wonderful place to be homeless. What they didn’t know was at the airport in Honolulu would be madams and pimps who would befriend that young woman or man and within seventy-two hours they could become involved in the sex trade.
I was so busy building the youth ministry at my church that I had to put this project on the back burner. However, when I was fired so abruptly, this idea came right to the top of my list.
As I shared before, I was fired at 7 a.m. by the rector of that church, and when I called the bishop at 9 a.m., he hired me as the new diocesan camp and youth director. I went to the bishop’s office at 10:30 a.m. to discuss what he wanted me to do. Then he asked me if I had any projects I wanted to work on. I shared with him the Covenant House concept and my idea of converting a house the church owned in downtown Honolulu into a six-bed facility to house young women and help them move on with their lives. The bishop loved the idea and gave me permission to move ahead.
Next, I talked with the Junior League of Honolulu, a powerful transformative group of women, about taking on this project. Within six months Hale Kipa (Hawai‘ian for “House of Friendship”) was open with six beds and house parents who would help these young women receive the services they needed to move on with a positive plan.
In the subsequent years, Hale Kipa has brought in great leaders who have turned that tiny idea into a multimillion-dollar island-wide project that deals with at-risk children and their families working to keep these youth on a positive path to lead a successful life.
Hale Kipa always reminds me of the parable of the tiny mustard seed that with proper nurturing can become a huge plant. It started with that little six-bed shelter fifty-two years ago and has since grown to this national renowned prototype of how to keep vulnerable children out of the justice system.
Before we flew to Hawai‘i on September 1, I had called Hale Kipa to see if we could meet the staff and visit their new facility. They were most welcoming, and Annie and I spent an afternoon witnessing how big that tiny seed had grown.
What a fantastic ending to a six-day trip that was nothing but positive.
Peace Love Joy Hope