HANALEI — After two and a half years of searching, 100 active and associate members of Wai‘oli Hui‘ia Church, a United Church of Christ in Hanalei, finally got their prayers answered with a new kahu, Eric Lucy, joining the congregation at the end of August.
Lucy has been served in Hawai‘i, Brazil, Mexico and on the Mainland for the past three decades, and is slowly getting to learn and appreciate Kaua‘i and her people.
“I love it. It’s different. We were just talking about Manapua Man in O‘ahu,” Lucy said. “Honolulu is so much more mixed, but I love the people, the ‘aina, and it’s still new to me.”
Lucy comes to Kaua‘i as a changed man of God with a heart for serving others. However, he wasn’t always a Christian with a plan.
“My parents are Christians, but I didn’t go to church until after sixth grade,” Lucy said. “Growing up, I wasn’t the typical kid. I grew up rugged. I played sports and martial arts, so I was in fights a lot. I knew there was a God. I didn’t know God had a plan for me.”
He continued: “I have been down at the border in Mexico, I been to jail there a couple of times. I went to San Diego State, and been in jail with my friend there, the first time the year before.”
After that, he began changing some aspects of his life.
“I started hanging out with these Christian guys, and for the first time I saw Christian people as being normal, not just weirdos.”
Lucy said he became a Christian and accepted the Lord. He said even with his hyper personality, he wanted to serve God full-time and, per God’s timing, a few months later a church contacted him and asked him to start a junior-high program.
“It turns out that my wife was at that church,” Lucy said. “I never ever been to a youth group or camp, so I started something that would attract kids like me, and so we got some success with that, and then was asked if I would go to a seminary, where I learned how to train other pastors.”
One thing led to another, and Lucy found himself training pastors everywhere he went, and eventually training in Honolulu.
Haunani Pacheco has been a member of Wai ‘oli Hui‘ia Church for 70 years, was elated to have a new kahu, and has loved teaching him more about Kaua‘i’s charms.
“We are happy. It took two and a half years to find him, the needle in the haystack,” Pacheco said.
While the green Wai‘oli Hui‘ia Church is closed for renovations, the white hall on the right side of the green church has served members every Sunday for the past two weeks.
According to Pacheco, it was the original Wai‘oli Hui‘ia Church, and now serves as the mission hall, which was built in 1834. Pacheco said the second (green-shingled) church was built in 1912, and was a present from Abner Wilcox’s three sons: Sam, George and Albert.
As you talk story with Lucy, you begin to notice he has the local verbiage down.
“I lived in Honolulu for a long time,” Lucy said. “I was working with 20 different schools from Punahou to Castle to Farrington. So we had a lot of different slang, but you can’t force it. It has to pop out. Mostly Spanish comes out.”
Lucy has worked as a youth pastor, executive pastor, senior pastor, missionary, discipleship pastor, college professor and church planner.
Lucy earned his bachelor’s degree in American literature from San Diego State University, and has master’s degrees from Talbot School of Theology in youth development and theology.
Lucy is married to Gia, an author, publisher and book shepherd to Christian authors. They have a daughter, Kailea. Lucy said he has done many missions with Gia, back to Mexico, where it all started for him.
Although some might say it’s more respectful to call him “pastor,” Lucy prefers his first name, Eric.
“This church is where you stretch out,” Lucy said. “When you get out in the trenches with people, that’s where the church really is.”
Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.