Hope for the Islands!

By Kyle Bartholomew.

(Editor’s note: The following guest article is taken from the new web site of our sister church on O‘ahu, the Honolulu International Christian Church.)

“My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.” Isaiah 51:5 (NIV).

Kyle and Joan Bartholomew stand with their son Brett.

In this prophecy of Isaiah, we learn that it is and has always been God’s heart to bring His righteousness, hope and salvation to the nations! God’s heart for the nations is reflected in many other passages such as Acts 1:8 – the command to take the gospel to the “ends of the earth”; Acts 2:39 – the promise that the gospel message would reach “all who are far off” (Gentiles); and perhaps most familiar, Matthew 28:19 – God’s command “to baptize… the nations”! Since I was born and raised in Hawaii, the most exciting aspect of Isaiah’s prophecy is that God’s arm will extend out even to “the Islands”!

When I was baptized as a disciple on July 29, 2001 through the efforts of the Hilo International Church of Christ (ICOC), I was blown away by the commitment, passion and love that I saw in each and every disciple. What inspired me most was the dream that each disciple shared to evangelize the Islands, the Pacific Rim and ultimately the world in their generation. In 2001, there were about 60 disciples in Hilo, 75 in Maui and around 1,000 in Oahu – every disciple believed this dream was possible, and so did I!

Sadly, in November 2002 after the ICOC leadership’s decision to return to a more mainline Church of Christ theology, as well as the advent of the “Kriete letter” in early 2003, so many beloved aspects of “my church” began to change. Gone was a fellowship where every member was a practicing disciple of Jesus. Gone was the deep love for one another through discipling relationships. And gone was the dream to evangelize the Islands and the world. By 2006, membership was declining at an alarming rate! Oahu dropped from 1,000 disciples to 200; Hilo went from almost 60 disciples to 38; and Maui was reduced from 75 disciples to 25. Oahu went from six full-time couples to two, and both Hilo and Maui went from a full-time couple leading each congregation to untrained volunteers, as vision and then contribution plummeted. Baptisms became extremely rare, restorations were almost non-existent and there had not been a single church planted from the Islands for over six long years. It was obvious to me that something needed to change!

Kyle stands between his brothers Levi and Evan.

In late 2006, I was asked by the “leadership group” of the Hilo ICOC to be the minister. They were indeed desperate as the Hilo Church had not had a baptism for over a year! Since I was untrained, I was convinced we needed additional help. Therefore, in considering which church to ask for help, I decided to attend the Portland World Missions Jubilee. I was so in awe of God so obviously working through the Portland Church, as the fastest growing church in the ICOC at that time, that I asked Kip and Elena to disciple Joan and me. Thankfully, they agreed. One month later, the McKeans came to help us rebuild the Hilo Church’s foundation to be composed of only disciples (1 Corinthians 3:10-11). After an eventful weekend of Kip and Elena’s preaching, God left us with a “Gideon-like” twelve disciples, whose dream was to once again evangelize the world in our generation! The other 26 members, many of whom were lukewarm, started a new congregation with the help of evangelists from both the LA ICOC and the Oahu Church of Christ. Not having a baptism for over a year in Hilo, yet starting with twelve sold-out disciples, God blessed us with 20 baptisms that next year! Sadly, yet to the point, the congregation that was started in opposition to Kip’s and my vision of world evangelism through God’s plan of discipling, still has not seen a baptism to this day.

Visiting that fateful weekend, during the calling out of the remnant, were Chris Teves and Joe and Mary Santos from Honolulu. Likewise, discouraged by witnessing only five baptisms a year on Oahu, they made the decision that weekend to start a new congregation of only sold-out disciples in Honolulu. Heart-breaking for me, after just one week, Chris Teves under overwhelming pressure from close relationships, decided to give the Oahu Church of Christ another try. Therefore, starting with only Joe and Mary, God has grown the group in Honolulu to 16 disciples! Most impressive is that four former full-time ministers are now solid members of the remnant group: Joe and Mary Santos, Jody Tyrell (restored in January) and Chris Teves (who recently decided to rejoin us after a failed attempt to reform the existing Oahu Church of Christ). Truly God is faithful to His promise to gather His remnant, when we repent and begin to seek Him with all our heart (Nehemiah 1:8-9).

After a long talk with Joe and Kip in the summer of 2007, Joan and I decided to move to Los Angeles to receive the training needed to lead the Honolulu Church, which will become the pillar church for the evangelization of the Islands and the Pacific Rim. We borrowed $20,000 from a home equity loan to train full-time. We have been fortunate over the last several months to lead both the Cal State Fullerton Campus Ministry and then recently, the Orange County Region. We will be forever grateful for Kip and Elena, the Comisfords, the Hardings, the Kirchners, the Underhills, the Hernandezs, Vic and Aurora Gonzalez, and many other brothers and sisters who have helped us learn how to be more effective disciples and church builders.

Jody and U‘ilani stand with their daughters Makana, Sera and Gabby.

On Sunday June 1, the Honolulu Mission Team will be sent off by the Holy Spirit from the City of Angels Church to join the remnant group in Honolulu! The Honolulu Mission Team includes four incredible young men in Albert Wagers, Lorenzo Prueitt, Josh Aguirre, David Rysdet and three awesome young women in Joy Axelson of Maui, Naveh Pilate of Honolulu, and “CL” Salamanca, and of course, Joan and me. The Inaugural Service of the Honolulu International Christian Church will be held the following Sunday, June 8, 2008 at 10 am at Maunakea Chapel, 1330 Maunakea Street! We would like to invite all of you who still believe in the dream to evangelize the Islands of Hawaii to join us! will allow you This is not a matter of salvation if you are a faithful disciple, but joining us will allow you “to win as many as possible” (1 Corinthians 9:19) through multiplying disciples as a movement of God. Our prayer is that through our efforts God will be glorified by His righteousness, hope and salvation returning to the lost Islands of Hawaii! If you are interested in joining in our efforts please give me a call @ 808-217-3904 or Joan @ 808-271-5577. Aloha!