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Ascend the Mountain of Fear with Kapio’lani

This past week has been an interesting one with lots of drama and unusual events-  first, my son-in-law had neurosurgery; next, my dad, who was visiting from North Carolina, had a medical emergency that necessitated us calling an ambulance; then one of my dear friends got scammed by someone impersonating a police officer and lost $5,000, and finally, the week ended with me attending the historic Haili Church for their 200th anniversary! What's interesting about all of this is what they have in common, and that common thread is the word “FEAR.”


I know the first three are pretty obvious…. fear of surgery, fear that rises during a medical emergency, and even fear that pushes you to panic, to respond irrationally, and to be deceived.   But, what's not apparent is how fear or the lack of fear was highlighted during the church service. 


Let me explain… because this church is Hawaiian and they were celebrating a significant milestone, there were many visitors, including representatives from the Royal Courts – beautiful ladies dressed in traditional attire, signifying that they were part of the lineage to the great King Kamehameha. I couldn't help but feel privileged to witness it all…. but especially to hear their history, particularly of one very SIGNIFICANT HAWAIIAN WOMAN from the Big Island… Chiefess Kapio’lani.    The same year this church was born in 1824, Chiefess Kapio’lani did something extraordinary- she defied the Hawaiian goddess Pele and declared that there was only one true God-  Jehovah.   


So, today, I want to share her incredible story with you.


To do her justice I need to quote several eyewitnesses, give you some context and hopefully not mispronounce too many Hawaiian words!    


(Oh, while I’m thinking of it – I did find a very interesting film “The Islands” released 2019 by Tim Chey that I highly recommend you check out- it’s free on Youtube!)   


Anyway, let’s begin…


High Chiefess Kapiʻolani lived in Hawaii from 1781–1841 and was an influential woman of Hawaiian nobility, some saying even higher ranking than the king. She was one of the first Hawaiians to learn to read and write and was one of the first chiefs to convert to Christianity. Kapi’olani was influential and extremely brave, which she demonstrated on two distinctive occasions. The first was so dramatic that it is still being talked about 200 years later! Now, her conversion to Christianity wasn't enough to persuade the Hawaiian people to turn from their worship of Hawaiian gods, particularly the fire-goddess Pele, who they believed lived in the active volcano Kilauea. Kapi’olani thought that the only way her people would see the truth was to break Pele's spell over them.  


So, in December of 1824, Chiefess Kapi’olani walked over a hundred miles through the roughest lava fields on the island to boldly defy Pele. Her husband, family, friends, and attendants begged her not to go as they believed Pele would punish her.


According to the accounts from eyewitnesses- she responded-


"If I am destroyed by Pele, you may worship her. If I am not, you must turn to the only true God."


What happened when she finally arrived at the volcano can best be described from historical accounts:


Hawaiʻi’s Queen, Liliʻuokalani, wrote of her grandaunt’s defiance of Pele, saying:


“She plucked the sacred berries from the borders of the volcano, descended to the boiling lava, and there, while singing Christian hymns, threw them into the lake of fire. This was the act which broke forever the power of Pele, the fire-goddess, over the hearts of her people.”


Hiram Bingham wrote:


"Then, with the terrific bellowing and whizzing of the volcanic gases, they mingled their voices in a solemn hymn of praise to the true God and, at the instance of the chiefess, Alapai, one of Kapiolani’s attendants, led them in prayer.”

The party returned to the crater's brink and journeyed down to Hilo.

Alexander in the “History of the Hawaiian People” says, “This has justly been called one of the greatest acts of moral courage ever performed.”

Richards states that the leader of Kapiolani’s party said to him: “All the people of the district saw that she was not injured and have pronounced Pele to be powerless.”


Her act of bravery was further memorialized by the British author Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his poem titled "Kapiolani," which reads:



When from the terrors of Nature, a people have fashioned and worshiped a Spirit of Evil,

Blest he the Voice of the Teacher who calls to them

‘Set yourselves free!’



Noble the Saxon who hurled at his Idol a valorous weapon in olden England!

Great and greater, and greatest of women, island heroine, Kapiolani

Climb the mountain, and flung the berries, and dared the goddess, and freed the people

Of Hawa-i-ee!



A people believing that Peelè the Goddess would wallow in fiery riot and revel

On Kilaue-ä,

Dance in a fountain of flame with her devils, or shake with tier thunders and shatter her island,

Rolling her anger

Thro' blasted valley and flaring forest in blood-red cataracts down to the sea!



Long as the lava-light

Glares from the lava-lake

Dazing the starlight,

Long as the silvery vapour in daylight

Over the mountain

Floats, will the glory of Kapiolani be mingled with either on Hawa-i-ee.



What said her Priesthood?

'Woe to this island if ever a woman should handle or gather the berries of Peelè!

Accurséd were she!

And woe to this island if ever a woman should climb to the dwelling of Peelè the Goddess!

Accurséd were she!’



One from the Sunrise

Dawn’d on His people, and slowly before him

Vanish’d shadow-like

Gods and Goddesses,

None but the terrible Peelè remaining as Kapiolani ascended her mountain,

Baffled her priesthood,

Broke the Taboo,

Dipt to the crater,

Call’d on the Power adored by the Christian, and crying ‘I dare her, let Peelè avenge herself ’!

Into the flame-billow dash’d the berries, and drove the demon from Hawa-i-ee.


Now, if that wasn't enough, Kapi’olani later faced breast cancer and was one of the first Hawaiians to be treated by a missionary doctor and even underwent a mastectomy without any anesthesia!   


To say I am AMAZED by this woman doesn’t do it justice!    She was an influencer and leader in her community, willing to go against tradition, stand against opposition, and face not only an active volcano but her community, and later she fought against breast cancer.    Truly Truly REMARKABLE.


I believe she was able to accomplish all of this because of her faith, and she reminds me so much of Queen Ester in the Bible.


Much like Chiefess Kapio’lani, Queen Ester’s story is one of life and death.


Esther was the Queen of Persia, and one might think that being Queen carried certain protections, but Esther had a secret…. she was Jewish at a time of grave persecution.   Yet, even before Hilter, even before Hamas- the Jews were despised for their religious beliefs and faced mass extermination at the hands of an evil politician who had fooled the king into issuing an order of genocide!


Esther faced an impossible decision- remain silent and hope the king would never discover her secret or reveal the truth and beg for mercy for her people.


If this was not challenging enough, no one was allowed to enter the king's presence without an invitation- doing so meant immediate (no questions asked) death!


What to do?   Every turn for Esther carried terrifying possibilities!    


Yet, she finally decides:


"Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." - Esther 4:16


“If I perish, I perish.”


Esther valiantly goes before the king, boldly declares her heritage, and begs for the Jewish people to be spared.  And they are spared!


True heroism.


Her security did not rest in her title, possessions, or even her husband- her security rested in God.  


She accepted that she was placed in her royal position “for just such a time as this” and didn’t allow anything, even complacency, to stand in her way! 


Do you see the similarities between these two women?   Both royals and influencers, women willing to push aside their fears and inadequacies, willing to perish if needed, and still pressing in to walk in courage and faith.  


Over the years, I've experienced many challenges where fear raised its ugly head, and I didn’t always do the best with overcoming them.   Frankly, instead of being a Kapio’lani or Esther I was an Israelite.   Let me explain what I mean….


God wanted an intimate relationship with the Israelites and God invited them to ascend Mount Sinai to fellowship with Him. A personal invitation to dine with Him!  But, the Israelites were too afraid and instead they sent Moses up the mountain alone.   Moses put aside his fears, he received God's blessings, and enjoyed direct fellowship with the Lord while the Israelites missed out on it altogether.  


Fear held them back from God's best.


Fear it’s such a powerful motivator. It can make us do dumb things- things that defy logic and common sense. That’s why we’ve got to be careful because fears that go unchecked tempt us into making terrible decisions. They will keep us trapped in place we shouldn’t be while cloaked in false comfort and preservation. 


Fear will blind us and keep us from our fullest potential. Keep us from our destiny.


So how can we be like these courageous women and rid ourselves of unnecessary fear? 


It is not an easy challenge, but what I have found is we can start with a few simple steps:


1.   Recognize fear.   See it for what it is – an emotion that drives your thoughts, feelings, and even body sensations.

2.   Understand that fear is a powerful force that needs our attention. Instead of avoiding it or dismissing it altogether- we need to meet it head-on and think about its origin, validity, and impact. Where is it coming from and why?   

3.   Then we need to put fear into perspective. It is a temporal condition that does not belong in the life of a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

4.   REMEMBER who we are - just like Kapio’lani and Esther, we too are royalty, influencers, and we are placed in our positions "for such a time as this!"    


Now when we fail to do these things, we effectively allow fear’s voice to dominate, it will drown out God's voice.   Making us unable to clearly hear and receive direction from the Holy Spirit because we are listening to a voice of death instead of the voice of life.


We will miss God’s invitation. 


You see, God calls us to ascend the mountain with Him- just like Moses, just like Kapio’lani, just like Esther. God has nothing to be afraid of, and as His children, we, in turn, have nothing to be afraid of.   Do you realize that the Bible speaks on fear in 365 passages?   Just like 365 days in the year- we have daily reminders that God will always lead us into perfect peace and lasting truth and when we walk by faith and not by fear we can do anything!   


The key to overcoming fear is to take our hope and attention out of this world- a world filled with temporal things and place them into the eternal- to be willing to not only listen to the Spirit of Truth but dare to boldly ascend the mountain because of Christ's perfect love.  


Those who know Jesus the Messiah have nothing to fear because He has conquered it all and nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.


One of my favorite Bible passages is Isaiah 41:10 and it tells us this:


“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”  


So, ladies, let's ascend the mountains before us and walk boldly by faith because fear has no place in our lives.    


Remember Kapio’lani.

Remember Esther.

And remember who you are and that perfect love will cast out fear every single time!

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