LIHUE — Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. is not, as the flier promoting a church conference states, a “born again Christian.”
But he doesn’t hesitate to say he is a Christian.
“I always have been,” he said.
Carvalho recalls attending St. Catherine Catholic Church in Kapaa with his grandmother when he was a boy, maybe 5 years old. Since then, faith has been a guiding force in his life.
“I was always thankful for that spiritual guidance,” the mayor said.
As Kauai’s highest elected official, he’s not afraid to share what he believes — and is open to visiting, learning from and talking to those of other faiths.
“I try to be balanced. But if you asked me, yeah, I’m Christian,” he said during an interview with The Garden Island on Tuesday.
The mayor will be a keynote speaker Saturday morning at the first “Imua Kauai Men’s Conference”at Aloha Church.
Imua means “moving forward,” and that’s what Aloha Church Pastor Vill Galiza said the men who attend the gathering will be doing. The goal of this conference is to have men unite in fellowship and most of all, be encouraged and directed in the word of God, Galiza said.
The conference, sponsored by Kauai Island Ministries, is scheduled 7 to 9 p.m. Friday and 9 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday. It is free, but donations will be accepted.
Fred Felton III, founder of Impact Ministries International in Tampa, Florida, will also be a keynote speaker.
Galiza said the idea for the conference came about when he “began to hear the heart of the mayor.”
“He’s really wanting to reach out to families on Kauai,” Galiza said.
That process needs to start with men, he said.
Galiza hopes men are “restored” and “revived” during the Imua conference and let the warrior inside them come to the surface.
“We can also roar again and be the leader, the right way,” he said.
The mayor said he’ll tell his story and speak from the heart Saturday, not recite Bible verses. His message to men will be about being leaders in their family. He’ll talk about his childhood, too, and the role his father played as their provider.
“You can be the foundation, the rock,” Carvalho said.
Being the mayor means that along with the good times and celebrations, there are trying times, too. That’s where his Christian faith sees him through and helps him stay positive.
He and his wife Gina still attend St. Catherine church, where he sings in the choir.
“I always try to keep connected spiritually,” he said.
He readily agrees his faith is important to him.
“It always was, from day one,” he said.
“Everybody has a place they gotta go to reconnect. I go there. It helps me to stay focused, humble, treat people with respect.”
The mayor is proud to be part of the annual Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon, which usually sells out. He has spoken at Easter services and is working with faith-based groups on developing teams to find solutions to homelessness on Kauai.
Each year, he speaks to prison inmates, with a desire to give them hope for their future. He also attends a state prayer breakfast in Honolulu each year. He occasionally meets with pastors in his office and will be hearing from Kauai’s Interfaith Council next week.
With all the challenges out there today, “we need prayer for government,” he said.
Carvalho enjoys meeting and talking story with people of all faiths — whether Buddhism, Hinduism or Judaism.
“Everybody has a spiritual side, right?” he said.
Info: alohachurchkauai.org Galiza, 645-0909