Previous News (2009-2011)

REPORTS FROM THE ROAD – CAMBODIA AND VIETNAM

Thank you for your love and support as we have been touring here on the mainland U.S. for the past four weeks, having left Hawaii on July 7. We are sharing some of our mission experiences in this online blog called REPORTS FROM THE ROAD and we thank you for your ongoing prayers for our ministry.  

September 16

We’re in Cambodia! Andrew and I arrived safely in Siem Reap on Thursday night at 10:30 pm. We left Honolulu on Wednesday at 10:50 am, flew nine and a half hours to Seoul, had a four hour layover, then flew five and a half hours to Siem Reap. We were very tired from our long trip, but grateful to the Lord for the opportunities we will be having in the next two weeks here in Cambodia, then in Vietnam.

We are here to show “Legacy,” Andrew’s film on the street children in Cambodia, a deplorable present condition brought about by the evil regime of Pol Pot in the 1970s who killed millions of people. The legacy that his evil deeds left on a suffering current population is the subject of Andrew’s film. After a successful showing at the Docutah Film Festival in St. George, Utah last week, Andrew has brought the film to Cambodia to show to the people here. He wants to encourage them as they watch the story of two of their young men from the streets and how they rose out of their impoverished conditions and, through hard work, are leading better lives today. He hopes that the film will inspire the people to work for a better future for themselves. I am on this trip as Andrew’s assistant, co-musical servant and co-preacher. I am blessed and honored to be ministering with my son.

Thank you for your love, support and prayers for the Hongo family ministry for many years. We are blessed to be co-servants in God’s work around the world. To God be the glory for the great things He has done and continues to do in all of our lives – may His perfect will be accomplished as He leads and guides our paths every day.

THE FLIGHT OVER

Korean Air is a clean, efficient, beautifully maintained carrier with excellent service delivered by charming and attractive flight attendants. The flight from Honolulu to Seoul was about 3/4 full so we could change seats for added comfort. Andrew moved to the row behind me so he could stretch out. The food was delicious – I ate bibimbop, a Korean dish of vegetables and meat (pushed the meat aside) over rice which was served an hour into the flight. Six hours later, we had another meal, this time pasta and vegetables. Just trying to stay healthy here so we can function well on the mission. We make sure to take occasional walks around the plane and to stay hydrated. The entertainment options are plentiful – I watch a couple of old movies to pass the time, “Fiddler On The Roof” and “Titanic.” Have seen both before but still enjoy the music and storyline of the former, and the awesome technical achievements of the latter. We both also read our Bibles, read newspapers and magazines, and take naps to endure the long flight.

At the Seoul Airport, Andrew – even after two big meals – wants to eat something light so we opt for noodles. Andrew has Korean black noodles (made of arrowroot) and I have Japanese soba; both are served cold.

The flight from Seoul to Siem Reap is more filled with people so we stay put in our assigned seats. Another pleasant flight,, another meal, another nap, this time I watch “X-Men: First Class” and find the tale of super-heroes with deformities more compelling and interesting than I expected. Before we know it, we are landing in the dark of night at the Siem Reap International Airport.

ARRIVAL IN SIEM REAP

Our friend David Narita greets us at the airport. He is a Japanese-American from New Jersey who married Lara, a Japanese-Caucasian girl from Hawaii. Both are physicians and left their practices in the U.S. to answer the call of the Lord to serve as missionaries in Siem Reap. They have three small children, are church planters in Siem Reap, and also use their medical knowledge to help the community here. David and Lara are supported in part by Kalihi Union Church. They have agreed to help Andrew arrange showings of his film. We in turn look forward to visiting some of the Naritas’ mission projects and encouraging their people. David drives us to our hotel – the Angkor Riviera – and we quickly hit the sack, exhausted from the flight and needful of rest before the first day’s labors.

FRIDAY MORNING

We stayed at the Angkor Riviera last October when we came on a mission with Stanley Togikawa and friends from Hawaii Southern Baptist churches. The hotel was comfortable, had a pool and fitness center, and served a substantial breakfast buffet with lots of vegetables. The price online was great – $30 – so we booked it for our stay. It was a good decision as the hotel will be a haven of needed rest for us this week.

We get up early and have a good breakfast, needing to meet our assistant Phearom at 8 am. Phearom is the young man who helped Andrew with his filming last summer. Phearom not only helped with camera work, he also served as translator, transportation provider (on his motorcycle) and good friend. It’s good to see Phearom again. He has graduated from university and now teaches Japanese to the locals here. Japanese tourists are on the increase in this tourist community where the temples of Angkor are one of the wonders of the ancient world. So many of the local people want to learn the language. Interesting that when Phearom and Andrew don’t understand each other using English, they will communicate in Japanese.

DRUG REHAB CENTER

Phearom rides his motorcycle while we follow along as passengers in a tuk-tuk, like an open rickshaw operated by a driver on a bicycle. We are headed for the Drug Rehabiliation Center of Siem Reap. Upon arrival there, we are greeted by some of the young men who are incarcerated there, having been arrested on drug charges and sent to the center for correction and rehabiliation. Soon Pastor Noel Dequito arrives. Noel is the Filipino missionary whom God called to Cambodia to serve the people here. He and his wife Fey have two young boys. Fey is a pre-school teacher for children of the international community. Several of you have given us donations for Pastor Noel’s work. He is thankful for your support as he reaches out to the needy here.

Our purpose this morning is to show the film to the 20 young men gathered in the center’s main classroom. Their ages range from 14 to 29 years old. After the film, we will have a question and answer time, then we will share music and testimony, ending with a time of prayer. The young men watch the movie intently – many are seeing their own lives unfold on the screen.

“Legacy” tells the stories of Sahn and Chak. Sahn, a 19-year old, was rescued on the streets a few years ago by a boxing coach Mr Sia who himself had lived on the streets. Sahn gives up drugs, trains to become a boxer, and finds a measure of success in his new sport. Chak is a 14-year old in the film who turns to the streets, fleeing a dysfunctional and impoverished home situation. At the end of the film, his future is uncertain – he is still a glue-sniffer and not sure what the next step is in his life. The backstory of Chak is that four months after Andrew completed filming, Gay and I went to Cambodia, met Chak and his family, presented an evangelistic concert in their slum neighborhood, and ten people – including Chak and his parents – came to Christ. We are hoping to meet up with Chak this week, trusting that he is doing well under Pastor Noel’s mentorship. If he feels comfortable, we will encourage him to tell the true outcome of his story to film audiences.

For the young men at the drug rehab center, Sahn and Chak’s lives do reflect their own as they tell us during the question/answer time after the showing. We then sing a few songs, Andrew dances the hula on one of them to everyone’s delight, and I preach a message on the Fatherhood of God based on the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Following my message, Pastor Noel leads the young men in a group prayer in Cambodian. Following the group prayer, everyone sits and Andrew and I go to the individual boys and ask if they have specific prayer requests. The requests are mostly for God’s deliverance from their dependence on drugs; one asks for God to give him a job as an electrician when he is released from the rehab center in four months; another asks that God take care of his son and daughter who are living with his parents.

In addition to Phearom and Pastor Noel, a young man named Emmanuel – a graduate of the rehab program – has come to assist us in translation and to offer his word of testimony. He was an addict but found Christ who delivered him from his dependence on drugs. He prays that his testimony will be encouragement to the young men at the center.

It has been a good morning and we landed in Siem Reap just about 12 hours ago. It’s time to return to the hotel for some rest and shut-eye. After all, we have two more meetings in the fternoon.

TRUPIANGSE VILLAGE

After a quick lunch (veggie sandwich for Randy, Cambodian beef for Andrew) and a short nap, we are ready to be picked up by Pastor Noel for visits to two villages. The first is about 30 minutes outside of the city. Pastor Noel meets every weekday afternoon at 4 pm with Paula, a gracious and petite Cambodian believer who opens her home to children and moms in her village so she can witness to them. Don’t let her fragile appearance deceive you: Paula is a tae-kwondo expert who teaches that sport to young people (the drug rehab young men are among her pupils) so they can learn discipline and gain confidence. One adult believer shared that she doubted Paula’s efforts: “isn’t tae-kwondo violent and aren’t we Christians supposed to be non-violent?” But when she saw the students throwing practice punches and shouting HAL – LE – LU – JAH with each punch, this believer became totally supportive of Paula’s methods.

About twenty-five children and ten mothers with assorted babies squeeze into Paula’s spotless living room, all sitting on the cool linoleum floor. A sheet hangs on one wall in preparation for the screening. Paula – a voice as sweet as Cambodian nectar – introduces Andrew and me. We greet everyone with “Aloha,” sing some praise songs and then hear the group sing a praise song in Cambodian. Andrew then introduces his film and everyone watches in rapt attention. Even the little ones. Following the film, I give a similar message as in the morning, simplifying a bit because of the younger ages of the children. I still focus on the love of a Father for his son who returns home after making wrong and selfish choices, emphasizing in particular how the father in the story runs to his son and embraces him because he is so happy that the son has come home. Emmanuel is helping with the translation and I see several mothers weeping as they are reminded of God’s love for us – none of them has become a Christian yet. Following my message, I ask Paula to pray for the children and mothers.

We don’t have a question/answer time as we did in the morning because of the age disparity, but following the screening, we speak with individuals in the group. Andrew has some meaningful discussions with some of the mothers who identify with some of the characters in the film – Chak’s occasionally drunk stepfather reminds one mother of her own abusive father, another knows boys who are drug addicts.

Paula is thankful that we have come to encourage her group. As a gesture of her thanks, she has gone to get us ice-cold bottled water, a welcome refreshment in the warm late afternoon eather. We thank Paula for her kindness, say goodbye to the group, as Pastor drives us to our final meeting of the day.

TRAMNEAK VILLAGE

We go to a small church in the village of Tramneak about 20 minutes away for a 6:30 pm showing. Because of flooding in recent weeks, the roads are all beat up so our jeep has a rough time navigating the potholes created by the rain. It’s a bumpy ride to say the least, but we praise the Lord for another opportunity to minister to the local people even as our stomachs are churning from the upheavals.

Ít’s dark by the time we get to the church. About 30 people – children and adults – are seated outside on chairs, eating noodles and waiting for our arrival. The group has decided to meet outside because of the warm weather so this will be our first outdoor showing – like a Cambodian drive-in! A sheet has been placed on the side of the church building (a one story wooden hut, actually) as the people finish their eating and set up their chairs theater style.

As we are preparing, God sends a wonderful surprise. Emmanuel rides in on his motorcycle and seated on the back of the bike is Chak himself! We were hoping to see him sometime during our trip, knew that he was working as a waiter in a town many miles away, but did not expect to see him so soon. Thank you Lord. Chak looks good. He has put on weight, which means he is living well and getting proper nourishment. He is happy to see us and gives Andrew and me long, grateful hugs. Through Emmanuel’s interpretation, he tells us how happy he is to see us and how thankful he is to God for our part in his life. We tell him how important he is in our lives.

It’s time for the program to begin. The pastor is out of town, but his assistant Richard introduces Pastor Noel, Andrew and me. We sing some praise songs, I give a testimony of how I came to Christ, Andrew and I duet to “I Love You, Lord” and it’s time for the screening to begin.

As the film is being shown, something unusual and unsettling happens. Members of the audience begin to laugh at serious moments. It becomes disconcerting to Andrew and me: why are people laughing, we think? But the film continues and I think everything is going well. Then Andrew comes to me about 15 minutes into the film and says, “I’m going to stop the film, Chak is very embarrassed that people are laughing at his story.” I ask Andrew if we should give it more time, let the film run a little longer, but Andrew is more concerned about Chak’s feelings and is trying to figure out on the spot how to handle this situation. Andrew was going to introduce Chak after the film to show God’s good result; perhaps if people had known Chak was present, they wouldn’t have laughed as they did.

Andrew does stop the film and talks to the people. In a gentle manner, he talks about how we all make mistakes in life and how God can redeem us from the wrong choices that we make. He then refers to “the boy in the film” and says he is happy that young man is with us tonight. He introduces Chak who goes forward to be recognized. Andrew asks Chak to say a few words and what follows is very moving. In a confident, flowing speech, Chak tells the people that he made many bad choices in his life but that he found God through Andrew and he is thankful for his life today. I’m condensing here – this boy from the streets that one would expect to be inarticulate talked for about four minutes, non-stop. Emmanuel translated some of what Chak was saying but assured me that “he is saying really good things.”

Following Chak’s word of testimony, Andrew talks about fathers and sons and the love he has for his own father coming to Cambodia with him, then introduces me to bring the meeting to a close. I share very briefly about God’s love, proclaiming the Gospel and encouraging all to come to Jesus so that their lives can be changed just as Chak’s was. Richard prays for the people, then Andrew and I sing a closing song.

The night has not gone as we expected, but we still know – even with the film being cut short – that God’s will was done, that the message of the film was delivered even more compellingly through the in-person and inspiring testimony of Chak.

In discussing why the people laughed, Noel felt that óne reason could be that Chak’s manner of speaking on the film was street slang, perhaps even profanities, which to the people was amusing. Although the translation was “clean,” it might have been laundered by the translator for general viewing purposes. The villagers – earthy people themselves – may have been laughing at the vocabulary and not at Chak’s life situation and bad choices as depicted in the film. We need to share that reasoning with Chak to assure him.

We learn later that Chak had to ride eight hours from where he is working to come to Siem Reap. He has other reasons for coming home related to job and family, but what made him selected this weekend for his return is because he knew Andrew and I were going to be in Siem Reap. What a blessed reunion, thank you Lord. Andrew, Chak and Phearom will meet tomorrow morning for more talk story time; Andrew will also be filming this discussion to do a follow-up film on Chak’s life story. God is so good.

As we ride back to the hotel from the Tramneak village church, I praise the Lord for His providence and perfect plans for the lives of His children. I think back to my coming to Christ as a high school junior through Youth for Christ, how Gay became a Christian at Kalihi Union, how we met at the University of Hawaii in 1966 and fell in love and married in 1971, how Andrew was born in 1978 and how we raised him in the ways of the Lord, and how he has grown up to be man who is dedicating his gifts to God, gifts that led to an interest in film-making, the creation of “Legacy” and a vital role in the life of a young Cambodian boy named Chak who was addicted to drugs but now has been set free to love and worship the living Lord Jesus Christ. How great You are, Lord Jesus – may You continue to rule and reign in all of our lives as You fulfill Your plans for the building of Your Eternal Kingdom. Hallelujah!

Love you all in Jesus,

Randy and Andrew

June 2009

NYC Media
Stand Up & Be Counted, New York
“Where Does He Count?” – 2010
(Note: Link Broken and Removed)

Andrew is enjoying his studies at the Graduate School of Broadcast Journalism at New York University in Manhattan, having returned to the city in September of last year. He thrives in the energy of New York, having lived there from 2000-2004, working first for EMI Recording, then for Teen Challenge Drug Rehabiliation Ministries. After serving as a missionary in Vietnam for two years, then living in Hawaii for three years where he worked at First Presbyterian Church, Kalihi Union Church and at Hawaii Baptist Academy where he taught high school English, Andrew felt it was time to return to school and pursue his graduate degree.

Andrew has always enjoyed writing, having received a B.A. in English at Yale University in 2000. Since that time, after life-changing experiences in overseas missions, Andrew has developed an interest in using his writing to advance the cause of Christ, particularly by telling the stories – in word and image – of people in third-world countries that need help from the outside world. He is thus studying broadcast journalism at NYU, learning how to write and produce documentaries and news broadcasts. From time to time, he will send examples of his work from school. A recent news piece is reproduced below in which he and a classmate, Steve McCann, study a problem in Brooklyn, New York that is related to this year’s census program.

WAIKIKI BEACH CHAPLAINCY

We have had a long partnership with the Beach Chaplaincy as Gay came to Christ through the ministry of Bob Turnbull, the Hollywood actor turned‐pastor who started the ministry in February 1970. Gay had friends who attended Kalihi Union Church who invited her to a summer youth camp; Bob Turnbull was camp speaker, and through his Gospel messages, Gay came to understand God’s love and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

The photo at [the top] shows us ministering on the beach right in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel, supporting the work of the Waikiki Beach Chaplaincy. Behind us, sharing her praises to Jesus, is Margaret Onaka from the hula ministry Spirit of Joy. Also dancing with us that morning (out of camera range) were leader Debbie Rutkowski, Pat Murakami and Teri Steinwandt, all from Makiki Christian Church.

We have sung for the WBC pastors through the years, first with Bob Turnbull, later Gene Ozbun, and finally Alex McAngus, former Waikiki entertainer who gave his heart to the Lord and has been head of this ministry for more than twenty years. For a number of reasons, however, we have not been able to sing at the Chaplaincy for the past several years, so it was God’s intervention when volunteer Glenn Fortune approached us at this year’s HIM conference and asked if we might be able to sing for Pastor Alex this past May. The time was right for a reunion, so we kicked off our shoes, put on the rubber slippers and Hawaiian clothes and headed for the sands of Waikiki.

It was a special day ‐ the skies were blue, the sun warm and comforting, the breezes blowing, the audience of visitors in their beachwear receiving the Gospel message and songs of praises with joy and gratitude. It was good to be back and we will be returning as time allows.

Thousands of tourists have been blessed with this unique ministry through the years. Imagine ‐ going to church on the beach and worshipping God in the wonder of His creation.

We think of former volunteers like Ruby Nobles (now in northern California), Chuck and Doni Antone with an active ministry on the big island and in Taiwan, and Brian Jahnke, now manager of the Waioli Tea Room in Manoa Valley. All of these dear ones and many others have sustained and served the Lord through the work of the Beach Chaplaincy. We’re glad to be able to partner again in this vital work for the Lord.

NOTES FROM GAY

Randy and I took an eight‐week course in April and May, sponsored by the Bible Institute of Hawaii. It was called “Hebrews: On To Maturity” and was taught by our good friend, Ada Lum, who is an international Bible study teacher. What I learned in Hebrews was that in addition to being our Lord and King, Jesus was our great High Priest. He was a High Priest who offered Himself on the altar. He Himself was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Because of His work on the cross, we all can know forgiveness of sins, abundant life and eternal life. I thank God for further teaching on this important work of our Lord Jesus.

One of the benefits of taking courses like this is that Randy’s creative juices start flowing. A few years ago when we took a BIH course on Psalms taught by Pastor Don Baron, Randy wrote several songs which people really liked: “Blessed” based on Psalm 1, and “Pleasant Places” based on Psalm 16 are two of my favorites, and both were on our album, “When Two Become One.”

Now that we are working on a new CD (I know, we’ve been working on it for a long time, thank you for patiently waiting), it is good timing that we took the Hebrewscourse because Randy wrote four new songs: “King of Righteousness,”“A New Covenant,” “A New and Living Way” and“To Calvary.” We debuted these songs in class and received Ada’s stamp of approval because they were based on God’s word and were theologically sound.

My mom is doing fine. She is still with Tess and Edwin Koh at their home in Waipahu. I thank the Lord for the loving care they give to Mama. On April 12, Easter Sunday, Mama celebrated her 97th birthday. God has blessed us that we still have Mama with us and that she still has a good quality of life. I try to visit twice a week and bring her favorite foods like Satoimo (Japanese potato), sushi, avocado and french fries. She really enjoys eating and watching her Japanese cable TV.

We humbly ask for your continued financial support especially at this time. When we go on a mission to a country like Vietnam or the Philippines, we have to pay for all of our expenses. In addition to our mission expenses, we need to raise support for operating costs of running Christian Vision. They take care of paying our salary, costs for putting on a concert like the Youth Rally we sponsored on May 29 at University Avenue Baptist Church, recording costs and travel costs for Randy and Andrew’s upcoming trip to the Philippines. Please give as God leads you. Thank you and God bless you.

Andrew preached on Mother’s Day at Kalihi Union Church. He spoke on the “Hope of Glory” from I Peter 1: 3‐7. He talked about how all of earth’s sufferings will be forgotten when we see Jesus face to face. But even more wonderful will be the joy on God’s face when He sees us. Then Andrew showed the above picture to the congregation and said: “This is a picture of God’s Glory. What do you see in my mother’s face? You can see the joy in her for she delights in me. One day she will die and then she will turn and see the face of God in all His glory. She will see the same joy and delight as He beholds her ‐ the child He loves.” What a beautiful illustration of God’s great love for us ‐ given in a mother’s day sermon

After three years in Hawaii, Andrew is leaving for the mainland at the end of August. He will be studying for a Master’s degree in Journalism at New York University. He wants to use his writing and interest in documentary filmmaking in missions, to tell the stories of people in poor countries and raise support for missions. Andrew is one of 150 incoming graduate students and because of his excellent academic record, test scores and essay, he was given the top scholarship ‐ full tuition plus living expenses for the first two semesters of a three semester course. I thank the Lord for providing so wonderfully for Andrew. I trust that He will also provide through various scholarships for the third semester. Please pray as Andrew continues to prepare himself for God’s work.

KOREAN TOUR IN OCTOBER

Randy and Gay will be taking a tour to Cheju, Pusan and Seoul, Korea from October 12‐22 of this year. Organized by Christian Vision supporter Ellen Suhl, owner of Quality Travel, the tour will be combining sightseeing, shopping and visits to Korean drama filming sites along with Hongo concerts at Korean Methodist churches. Ellen graciously hosted Randy on an exploratory trip to Korea last year when he was able to share his music with Korean Christians. Their enthusiastic response and invitation to “please come again, but next time bring your wife” resulted in the planning of this fall’s excursion.

Cost of the tour is $3,975 which includes: air and ground transportation, accommodations at deluxe hotels and breakfast.

If you are interested, please contact Ellen Suhl at Quality Travel, (808) 941‐8555, 1580 Makaloa Street, Suite 860, Honolulu, HI 96814. Or you may email the Hongos (rghongo@hotmail.com) or write to them at P.O. Box 31124, Honolulu, HI 96820. Deadline for registration is July 15, 2009.

Dear Christian Vision Family and Prayer Warriors,

Thank you for your love and support as we have been touring here on the mainland U.S. for the past four weeks, having left Hawaii on July 7. We are sharing some of our mission experiences in this online blog called REPORTS FROM THE ROAD and we thank you for your ongoing prayers for our ministry.

Aloha in Jesus,

Randy and Gay Hongo

» Part 1 – July 13, 2011
» Part 2 – July 20, 2011
» Part 3 – July 30, 2011
» Part 4 – August 8, 2011

(Note: Listed items above previously contained links, the content in their paths have been combined and compiled below and the links have been removed. The text has been kept for archival reasons.)

Part 1 – July 13, 2011 – Louisville, Kentucky

First of all, thank you for praying for Gay in the last two weeks. She had a viral infection from June 23 and her doctor was concerned about swollen polyps in her nasal cavity being a problem if she flew. He gave her steroids and antibiotics to help, and told her he would not let her fly out on July 7 if she still had infection at her July 6 check-up. Praise God, when she went in, she was better and doctor gave her the clearance to travel. We left July 7 as scheduled and flew all night straight to Chicago (same plane as Kalihi Union friends Jim and Janet Ohta), then flew in to Louisville.

It is a blessing to be in Louisville again. The city is like a second home to us as we lived here for five years from 1975-1980. I received my Master of Church Music from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, same school as Pastor Bill Rutledge. He was graduating when I entered in August 1975. After three years in the program, we lived here another two years, using Louisville as our home base as we traveled by car and plane throughout this part of the country doing concerts and music evangelism. God was already preparing us for the public performance ministry that was to be our life work.

We arrived here Friday noon and after a good night’s sleep, we were ready to work. Our hosts and good friends Jim and Shirley Taliaferro set up several programs for us. On Saturday afternoon, we sang a program for seniors at the Franciscan Health Care Center; on Sunday, we sang in the morning service at the Bethlehem Baptist Church; on Sunday afternoon, we visited an ailing pastor at the Oak Lawn Retirement Home. We sang praises to Jesus and the Lord anointed our music so that all were blessed.

July 10 – At the seminary reunion with Paul Honaker, music director at Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia.
July 10 – Opening night dinner of Southern Seminary’s music school reunion in Louisville, Kentucky with Professor Phil Landgrave (center) and classmate Mark Maslin of Rockledge, Florida.

Our reason for coming to Louisville was to attend the first ever music school reunion of Southern Seminary. About 150 graduates from over the 65 years of the school’s existence came together to honor professors and to rehearse and prepare for a reunion concert. Only 10 people from my years attended (1975-1978). The rest were older or younger alumni. Still it was good to be with musicians who are faithful servants in their churches and ministries. To be praising the Lord together with gifted singers and instrumentalists was a blessing to me as a musician.

It was also a time for me to reflect over all that God has done in my life over the years. Being in Louisville again and reunited with old classmates reminded me of when I was 28 years old and a new student at seminary. And then to realize all the experiences and accomplishment God has given me over the years and to realize the fruit of His work in my life has been humbling, overwhelming and praiseworthy. To God be the glory for all the good that has ever come out of my life.

Sunday night was a special social hour at a nearby restaurant, seeing old friends and talking story about all that has been going on in our lives. Monday and Tuesday all day were spent in rehearsals with our different choirs – so energizing to hear these robust, quality voices surrounding me, and all of us as One Voice praising the Lord. Monday night, a special concert for all who wanted to share. Gay and I were asked to sing a Hawaiian song, we sang “Aloha Ke Akua” with hula, the alumni loved it. Tuesday night was the public two hour concert with all the alumni singing in the different choirs.

July 12 – Gay is sitting in the choir’s front row as we rehearse for Tuesday evening’s concert in Alumni Chapel.
July 12 – Rehearsing with fellow music school graduates for Tuesday evening’s big reunion concert in Southern Seminary’s Alumni Chapel.

I’m grateful for what I learned at Southern, for the relationships I made, for the experiences Gay and I had during those five years in Louisville and for how those experiences shaped the people we have become over the years. Such a special place – Andrew was born there in 1978, so a special place indeed. We tell everyone we moved back to Hawaii in 1980 when Andrew started saying, “aloha, y’all.” Time to teach that Hawaiian boy pidgin English!

I’m grateful for what I learned at Southern, for the relationships I made, for the experiences Gay and I had during those five years in Louisville and for how those experiences shaped the people we have become over the years. Such a special place – Andrew was born there in 1978, so a special place indeed. We tell everyone we moved back to Hawaii in 1980 when Andrew started saying, “aloha, y’all.” Time to teach that Hawaiian boy pidgin English!

July 13 – Seminary classmate Rev. Bill Shoulta and his wife Jill invited us to their home for a grilled chicken dinner served with zucchinis from their garden and a fresh lemon cake that Jill baked. There went the diet! The Shoultas often invited us to sing at Providence First Baptist, the church where Bill pastored while he was at seminary.
July 13 – While in Louisville, we visited Juanita Green at the Crescent Nursing Home in nearby Shelbyville. Juanita and her now-deceased husband Boyd hosted us in their home whenever we visited their church, Buffalo Lick Baptist, during our seminary years (1975-1980). They were our Kentucky Mama and Daddy!

Today, Wednesday, we went to sing at the Crescent Nursing Home in Shelbyville, 30 minutes outside of Louisville. We went to visit Juanita Green, now in her 90s. Juanita and her husband Boyd, now deceased, never had children, so when we went to sing at their country church, Buffalo Lick Baptist, they immediately adopted us and we became good friends. When Andrew was born, they were the first ones to visit the hospital. What a sweet reunion with Juanita. We sang for 20 residents at the home, sang all of Juanita’s favorites – “Rock Of Ages, “Old Rugged Cross,” “How Great Thou Art” – as well as Hawaiian and patriotic songs. Just like old times. We spent some time with Juanita after the concert and had prayer together.

Tomorrow we go to central Illinois to the little country town of Bement. We will be singing for a nursing home, for a friend’s wedding and for a worship service and concert at the First Presbyterian Church, one of our supporters. Andrew is free so he will fly over from New York on Saturday and join us for the weekend concerts. We also will drive three hours up to Chicago for a short visit with Donald Hustad, one of my seminary professors and former organist for the Billy Graham Crusades; Dr Hustad was not able to come to the reunion for health reasons, so we will make a special visit to spend some time with him. He and his wife Ruth are monthly supporters of Christian Vision and we want to thank them in person for their love and encouragement.

It’s been a full first week but we have been used by the Lord to warm the hearts of His people. Thank you for praying for us on our journey.

In Jesus,

Randy and Gay

Part 2 – July 20, 2011

We are nearing the end of our second week of our summer concert tour on the mainland. Mahalo for your continued prayers for our labors. The hot weather is very draining so we try to stay indoors as much as possible where it’s cool and comfortable. When we step out of a building and go outdoors, it’s like walking into an oven with the heat overpowering you. Hawaii weather is the best – all year round.

After our time in Louisville last week, we flew to Bement, Illinois. Bement is a small farming community in central Illinois – about 25 minutes drive southwest of the Champaign/Urbana campus of the University of Illinois. That site is famous for the Urbana missions conference sponsored by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, although in recent years, the conference has been moved to a school in St. Louis because the crowds have been too big for the UI campus. In 1966, Kalihi Union sent some young people to that conference – Gay and I were students at the University of Hawaii at that time and were members of that small contingent. Others included Mark and Diane Yasuhara, the famous singing couple known as The Hawaiians who used to sing with the Billy Graham crusades, and Leonard Hirahara. We were all young and young in the Lord at that time, little knowing how much that conference would have a profound effect on our lives. God really planted the seeds for missions in Gay’s and my heart during that conference; and even though we were not even sweethearts at the time, God would grow that seed within us and, over the years, inspire us as husband and wife to become a full-time missionary singing team for Him. Years later in 1996, Andrew would go to that same mission conference in Urbana and would have that same missionary zeal nurtured through his experiences at the conference.

When Andrew was a Yale freshman in 1996, he told us he would not come home to Hawaii that Christmas but wanted go to the Urbana missions conference instead. Knowing we would miss him, we made plans to spend Christmas together in Illinois. Donna Sharp, a teacher in Bement, was a friend of our friend Jayne Fujioka from Hilo; Jayne had introduced us on one of Donna’s trips to Hawaii because Donna was a fan of our music. We called Donna – whom we knew lived not too far from the Urbana campus – and asked if could spend Christmas with her so we could be with Andrew. She enthusiastically agreed, so we flew to central Illinois in the dead cold of winter (the weather conditions are extreme here) and spent a memorable Christmas together. Donna arranged for us to sing at her church, the First Presbyterian Church of Bement, and we remember what a beautiful service that was – the Hongos singing “Silent Night” in Hawaiian as the fresh snow fell gently outside. Just like a Christmas card picture. Donna says her church members still talk about what a special Christmas service that was.

Since that time, Pastor Marsha Frederick and the First Presbyterian Church have become regular supporters of Christian Vision and we have visited several times over the years. Two of those trips were extra special: in 2005, we came with Darin Yamada and his Ohana Aikane hula team from southern California to help the town celebrate its 150th anniversary; in 2007, we came with Ethel Kubo and her Master’s Touch hula team from Olivet Baptist. This year, because of our trip to Louisville, KY for my seminary music school reunion, we knew we had to visit Bement – Kentucky is just one state away – to be with Marsha, Donna and the First Presbyterian ohana.

July 17 – Andrew was able to take time off from his work in New York to fly to Bement and sing in our weekend concerts.

Andrew was able to take time off from his work in New York to fly to Bement and sing in our weekend concerts. One thing he really wanted to do was eat freshly-picked corn which we found in a local market. Here he is, shucking the corn with pastor’s wife Carolyn Graves of Red Bud, Illinois.
What made this visit extra special was that Andrew had last weekend off and was able to fly in to be with us for the weekend concerts. People had not seen him since December 1996 so they were happy he could join us, happy to see how God has grown Andrew to be a fine and faithful servant, happy to hear all three Hongos in music ministry. They appreciated our songs, our testimony of what God is doing in our lives, and especially Andrew’s accounts of his missionary experiences in Cambodia and Vietnam. We sang in the Sunday morning service, then did a full concert Sunday evening.

One of the church leaders Walter said to me, “you know, Randy, I was not planning to come to the Sunday night concert because of other plans with friends; but after hearing your family Sunday morning, I turned to my wife and said ‘we need to come tonight.’ ” Walter changed his plans, invited his friends to come Sunday night and all were blessed. I appreciated Walter sharing that with me; all glory to Jesus for the good work and ministry He does in people’s hearts through our music.

Many others were touched: Beverly had just lost a father-in-law and was grieving; Cheryl was going through challenges at home with her children after her husband’s passing; Marilyn was dealing with a husband and son who were not speaking to her. These and others were touched by the Holy Spirit as we shared songs and scriptures of praise and encouragement. What a privilege to be in this music ministry for the Lord

It was also a time for reunions. Helen and Larry Mercades drove all the way from Chicago to come and hear us. An older Filipino couple originally from Hawaii, Helen and Larry brought a full dinner of hot dogs, chicken, white rice, tossed salad, hot vegetables in cream of mushroom soup (so local!) and dessert. Plus they brought a blanket that Helen had knit as a graduation present for Andrew. So thoughtful of them. Also, former seminary classmate Pastor Bill Graves and his wife Carolyn drove in from their church in Red Bud, Illinois – about three hours away. Last time we were together, we had sung a concert at their church in Addieville, Illinois. Their son Joel is a pilot with the Air Force in San Diego so hopefully, he will be able to come to our concert in that city next weekend. Christian Vision supporters Lavelle and Mary Ann Mayo, formerly stationed in Hawaii with the military, drove two and a half hours from their home in Indianapolis to be with us. What a blessing to have such support from friends throughout the U.S.

July 15 – We sang at the Piatt County Nursing Home in Monticello, Illinois and met this lovely resident whose family joined her in listening to our concert. We called up her young granddaughters to do the hula which they enjoyed very much.
July 15 – Our hostess and Christian Vision supporter Donna Sharp from Bement arranged for our concert at the Piatt County Nursing Home. She wanted us to sing for her good friend Adra Kopp, seated. Adra enjoyed our songs and even harmonized with us on her favorite hymn, In The Garden.

On Friday afternoon, we went to the Piatt County Nursing Home to sing for the seniors there. Barbara, a member and good friend from First Presbyterian, arranged for us to sing for her mom Adra and the other residents of the home. We had sung there on a previous visit and the residents could not wait to hear us again. We sang Hawaiian songs, patriotic songs and of course Gospel favorites. We sang Adra’s favorite – “In The Garden” – and Adra enthusiastically sang along with us.

July 15 – A very special reunion with Dr. Don Hustad at his nursing home in La Grange Park, Illinois.

A very special reunion with Dr. Don Hustad at his nursing home in La Grange Park, Illinois. My Hymnology and Conducting professor at seminary, Don and his wife Ruth were unable to attend the Kentucky reunion; so while singing in central Illinois, we drove 3 hours north to have a meal and spend some time with the Hustads. Don served for several years as organist for the Billy Graham crusades.
We also were able to drive to Chicago to visit with Don and Ruth Hustad at their retirement residence in La Grange, Illinois. Dr. Hustad was one of my seminary professors and, because of ill health, was not able to attend the reunion. He has been such an inspiring musical mentor in my life as well as a faithful supporter of Christian Vision that we felt we needed to go and visit him, especially since we were only three hours away. We ate with Don and Ruth in their residence dining room, spent an hour talking story and singing for them in their apartment, then drove back to Bement. It was a special time with dear friends. Don was organist for the Billy Graham crusades in years past. We discussed how interesting it was that several of Dr Graham’s crusades team are still alive and in reasonably good health: Billy Graham, George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows, Don Hustad.

I’m writing this on Wednesday, July 20. We fly out of the Champaign Airport this afternoon and head for San Diego where we will be singing for a wedding. Nancy and Michio Ogomori, former KUC members and Christian Vision supporters, invited us to sing for their grandson Daniel Tsunekawa’s wedding this Friday in Oceanside, California. Bobby and Dottie Yuen will be flying in tonight for the wedding. Then on Sunday morning and evening, we will sing for a Filipino Southern Baptist church in San Diego. The services will be at Southwest Baptist Church, 2295 Leon Avenue in San Diego. We ask God’s blessing on our time in San Diego as we continue to be His musical servants and ambassadors.

If anyone wants more information about any of our programs on the road, please feel free to email us at: rghongo@hotmail.com. Or you can call Gay’s cell, 808-286-1778.

In Christ,

Randy and Gay

Part 3 – July 30, 2011

Our third week of our summer concert tour took us from the farmlands of central Illinois back to the west coast – to San Diego and to a city 35 miles north called Oceanside.

July 22 – In Oceanside, California at Daniel Tsunekawa’s wedding: pictured with the happy groom at left are Bob and Dottie Yuen from Honolulu and at right, Kalei Mueller-Tsunekawa, Daniel’s older sister.

We went to sing for the wedding of Daniel Tsunekawa and his beautiful bride Aimee Blagg at the North Coast Church in Vista. Daniel’s grandparents, Michio and Nancy Ogomori, are former KUC members who now live in Oceanside. When their daughter Lynn – Daniel’s mom – was a youngster at KUC, she was active in the music program, singing in the youth choir and often doing solos in church service. Today Lynn and her husband Alan Tsunekawa are members at North Coast where Lynn is on the music staff and continues to be a prolific songwriter. One of her songs, “I Worship You, O Lord,” is featured on Randy’s piano CD, LOVE YOU MORE.

Flying in from Honolulu for the wedding were Dottie and Bob Yuen who – like the Hongos – are like family to the Ogomoris. We all have shared many pleasant memories since first being together at KUC in the mid-1960s.

The outdoor wedding on the church’s new multiple-acre campus was held on a balmy, sun-kissed Friday afternoon with a gentle breeze blowing and a blue sky overhead. We sang “The Hawaiian Wedding Song” as Daniel and Aimee shared Communion and almost changed the lyrics to “blue skies of California smile on this our wedding day” because the day was so beautiful. Following the ceremony was a reception held in one of the church’s auditoriums.

The North Coast Church – with about 5,000 members – might be familiar to some of you since our KUC elders and pastors studied STICKY CHURCH, a book written by the church’s head pastor Larry Osborne on the subject of expanding church growth through small group studies. Pastor Osborne is a popular speaker on that subject throughout the U.S. Hawaii congregations like New Hope Fellowship attend workshops at North Coast every year.

Having visited Nancy and Michio for many years, we have grown to be good friends with their friends – Larry and Ora Yearley, Paul and Jill Savona, Larry and Rose Lepley, Jerome and Lenore Griego, among many others. It was great to have fellowship with them again. Also good to spend time with Lynn and Alan’s daughter Kalei and her husband Josh Mueller and to taste Lynn’s ono fried rice for breakfast one morning. It was just like we were back at the Ogomoris’ Kaneohe home many years ago.

The day after the wedding, the Ogomoris and Yuens drove us down to San Diego where we were to be guests of Blessed Hope Baptist Church, a Filipino Southern Baptist Church. In February of 2010, Gay and I had sung for a Valentine program for a Filipino congregation in Hawaii and met a visiting pastor Fermin Ancho and his wife Lemy. Pastor Ancho enjoyed our music and invited us to sing at his church the next time we went to San Diego. When the invitation came for Daniel’s wedding, we contacted Pastor Ancho who immediately confirmed weekend services at his church.

July 24 – At the Southwest Baptist Church in San Diego, California with Pastor Fermin Ancho, his wife Lemy, her mom and their children. Pastor Ancho had met us in Hawaii in February 2010 and invited us to sing for his Filipino congregation.

Head Pastor Ted Mendoza greeted us when we arrived at the church on Sunday morning – I felt like I was looking in a mirror. We are about the same height, same coloring, same body shape, and same hair-do. (No jokes please.) Oh and one more important thing – same radiant smile. Many people think my Japanese-Hawaiian-Chinese background makes me look Filipino. When Andrew was graduating from high school, one of his teachers even asked him, “aren’t you applying for the Filipino students’ scholarship?” Gay likes to joke that when she and I were students at the University 45 years ago, she was attracted to me because she thought I was Filipino. After all, she is from Waipahu and she loves the Filipino culture and people. Sorry to disappoint her, but I think after all these years, she’s content with me.

Pastor Mendoza, a warm and congenial brother in Christ, made us feel at home immediately. Pastor Ancho – who is a chaplain in the navy and serves as one of the associate pastors of the Blessed Hope Church – led the service and introduced us to the congregation. We sang “Aloha Ke Akua,” teaching the people the various meanings of the word “aloha,” then sang our original song “Blessed” based on Psalm 1 because the morning message was on being responsible people for God, then closed with “How Great Thou Art.” Later in the service during the offering, we sang another original, “We Are Your Church.” The people were grateful for our sharing and said they looked forward to our evening concert.

A luncheon was served in the social hall, featuring our favorite Filipino noodle and beef dish, pansit. While in Hawaii, we have been following a healthy, all-vegetarian diet. However that is challenging to do on the road when we are being hosted by gracious brothers and sisters in Christ. So we’ve relaxed our rules a little and have enjoyed occasional non-vegetarian meals. For example, when we were in Louisville, our lovely hostess Shirley took us to a restaurant called Smoky Bones that boasted the best ribs in Kentucky where the meat “just falls off the bones.” Of course, we had to be good guests and taste the succulent mountain of beef that was on the platter before us. The old missionary adage that Andrew taught us after he was presented entrees of monkey and dog while serving in Vietnam came to mind: “where God leads I will follow, and what I am fed, I will swallow.” We try to make the best choices possible while traveling but can still appreciate an occasional barbeque rib or plate of Filipino noodles.

That evening, five different Filipino churches from San Diego gathered in the Southwest Baptist Church sanctuary for a Hawaiian Christian concert. We shared our testimony, and shared popular island songs, traditional hymns, Hongo originals and a rousing rendition of the Filipino love song, “Dahil Sayo,” which brought down the house. People laughed and cried as the Spirit of God ministered to all in some meaningful way. We received a standing ovation at the end of the concert.

During the post-concert reception, many photos were taken, CDs were sold, and invitations extended for us to return in the future. We are grateful to the Lord for meeting Pastor Ancho in Hawaii who in turn introduced us to his Filipino church in San Diego. God is so good to keep expanding our tent and the scope of our ministry.

Our last two days in San Diego were spent relaxing with John and Kris Robillard. I first met the Robillards when I was playing piano at the Halekulani in the mid-1980s. They enjoyed my music and since they would visit the hotel annually, our friendship continued and grew through the years. On one of our concert tours of California to sing at John and Kris’s wedding vow renewal ceremony, they presented us with a formidable gift – a black baby grand Kawai piano that sits in the living room of our tiny apartment. When we tell John and Kris that many songs were created and rehearsed on that piano, they say “praise God, it was a gift from Him.” They are strong members of the Catholic Church in Point Loma and are grateful they can have a part in our ongoing music ministry. When Christian Vision one day soon establishes the Hongo Music Center, that baby grand piano will have a prominent place in the center.

The Robillards put us up in a hotel, took Gay shopping at Nordstrom Rack and Loehmann’s, took Gay to buy See’s candies from what looked like the biggest See’s store in the world, prepared Oriental-style pepper steak at their home one night, took us out to a delicious anniversary dinner the second night at a swanky restaurant called Old Trieste, and encouraged us just to relax at their swimming pool and jacuzzi during the day and play with their dog Smoochy. We had a relaxing stay.

After a week in southern California – very much south as the Blessed Hope Church is only a couple of miles from the Mexican border – we flew to the east coast for our final weeks on tour in New York City and Boston. Andrew picked us up Wednesday night at LaGuardia Airport. He borrowed a van from a brother at Teen Challenge and brought two friends to keep him company – his roommate Leon from Shanghai, China and Pastor David, a Teen Challenge staff member from Nigeria. We landed in New York at 9:30 at night. Andrew and his friends had not eaten so he took us to a middle Eastern restaurant in Brooklyn where we ate humus, pita bread, falafel and exotic salads. Talk about ethnic diversity. That’s New York for you.

In our next letter, we’ll tell you about our time in the Big Apple and our visit with former Kalihi Union pastor Rich Weisenbach and his wife Pat in Wakefield, Massachusetts. We are looking forward to a joyful reunion.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support of our ministry. We acknowledge the vital part you all have in financially blessing and praying for our work for the Lord. We serve Him together – we are one ohana in Jesus. Amen!

Much aloha,

Randy and Gay

Part [4] – July 30, 2011

When I last wrote, we had landed in New York on Wednesday night, July 27. After a long flight from San Diego with a connection in Chicago, we landed at 9:30 pm, with Andrew and two of his friends picking us up in a borrowed car. We went out to a late supper at a middle Eastern restaurant, got back to Andrew’s apartment about 11:30 pm and turned in for a good but short night’s sleep.

Andrew was up early the next morning – he had to leave the apartment at 6:45 am to get to JFK Airport to catch a flight back to Honolulu. Yes, we come to New York, he leaves for Hawaii. Go figure! Actually, we knew this was the plan. After we had decided on our tour schedule, Andrew informed us that he had made plans to return to Hawaii for his friends’ wedding that weekend of our arrival – Tariya Enos and Ross Mukai are his good friends and co-teachers at Hawaii Baptist Academy so he really wanted to be home for their celebration. That was fine with us. Our plan was to do concerts in Boston over the weekend and we wanted Andrew to sing with us, but we understand how meaningful his friendships are and how much he would want to be in Hawaii for the wedding. So we were prepared to do Boston without him and knew that God would bless our programs.

On Friday, we unpacked and just re-organized our four suitcases, washed some clothes, rearranged the omiyage and rested. After all, we were entering our fourth week on the road.

On Saturday morning, we caught a cab to JFK and flew to Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, arriving at mid-afternoon. Pastor Greg Bishop of the Spanish-speaking Leon De Juda Congregacion (Lion of Judah Church) picked us up along with his son Noah and took us immediately to the church. In a few hours, we would be singing for 100 children and their parents for the church’s Vacation Bible School closing night program. Greg is Caucasian, from Hartford, Connecticut. While in school in Boston, he met and fell in love with Kennis Furuya, daughter of Christian Vision supporters Ken and Harriet Furuya from La Crescenta, California. Greg spent several years as a missionary in Guatemala so he speaks fluent Spanish. Upon graduation from seminary thirteen years ago, the Lord opened up a ministry for him at the Leon De Juda church.

July 29 – A fun night in Boston, Massachusetts, singing for Vacation Bible School students at the Spanish-speaking Leon De Juda (Lion of Judah) Church.

Pastor Greg Bishop and his wife Kennis, daughter of Christian Vision supporters Ken and Harriet Furuya, arranged for us to sing for more than 100 children and their families.
One of the people we wanted to visit on this summer concert tour was former Kalihi Union Pastor Rich Weisenbach who now serves at the First Parish Church in Wakefield, 30 minutes north of Boston. After confirming our time with Rich, we contacted Pastor Greg and he enthusiastically squeezed us in to his church’s weekend activities. So Friday night, we were the special missionary guests at the VBS final night program. Their theme was PANDAMANIA, Where God Is Wild About You, and there were many “wild” and lively ones in the audience that evening. Singing lots of motion songs and teaching the children and their parents about Hawaiian culture, songs and hula, we proclaimed the love of Jesus in our fast-paced program and the children had a great time. They were so attentive, especially when we called some of the VBS teachers to teach them the hula to “Pearly Shells.” The crowd went…well, wild, as they saw the few adults take the stage and try their best with the hand motions and gentle hip sways. Several of the adults said they looked forward to our Sunday afternoon concert when we would sing for the whole church.

After the VBS program, Kennis Bishop and her two-year old daughter Charis drove us the half hour north to Wakefield for our happy reunion with Rich and Patty Weisenbach. First of all, the Weisenbachs send their aloha to all the Kalihi Union Church family. We spoke of many of you, looked at old photos of their time in Hawaii, watched videos of their children Pam, David and Kim and their families in recent years, and had a wonderful time talking story and recalling pleasant memories. The Weisenbachs are planning to be at KUC for the 100th anniversary in 2013 – in fact, their plan is to bring their whole family and all the grandchildren since they haven’t been to Hawaii since their return to the mainland years ago. They are all looking forward to being in the islands and meeting all of the KUC family again.

After a good night’s sleep, we were ready for Saturday’s big event: a two-hour concert on the lawn – the Common – in front of the First Parish Church. KUC will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in two years; the First Parish Church is celebrating its 367th birthday this year! Imagine attending a church that was started in 1644 by some Puritans who had escaped the religious persecution of the church of England and had sailed to the Americas and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Talk about history. It really is something experience – being on the east coast, singing in one of the thirteen original colonies and realizing this very spot is where the United States of America was born. Real chicken skin time.

After breakfast with Rich and Patty, eldest daughter Pam came over to practice. She still remembers the hula motions to our song, “River Of Peace” so we had asked Pam to dance with us in both weekend programs. She came over about 10 and of course, we spent a couple of hours talking story and only twenty minutes rehearsing the song. After a light lunch, we changed into our Hawaiian costumes and made our way to the Common at 1 pm to set up the electric piano and do a sound check.

The purpose of the public concert was outreach – we would sing in the gazebo in the middle of the Common and whoever wanted to could sit on lawn chairs on the big grassy expanse or could just listen as they walked or jogged by. It was all very low key and free-flowing. The church members had set up a refreshment table where cold drinks and fruit cups were made available to the public; we also set up a CD table for anyone interested in buying our CDs.

The day was sunny, the sky was blue, a breeze was blowing, and the gazebo was facing a refreshing lake with sail boats skimming along its waters. A picturesque scene. We started exactly at 2 pm and sang for the next two hours – all kinds of songs from Hawaiian favorites like “Blue Hawaii” and “Little Grass Shack” to oldies like “I’m In The Mood For Love” and “Unforgettable” and patriotic songs like “God Bless America” to praise songs like “How Majestic Is Your Name” and “Lord I Lift Your Name” to Gospel favorites like “How Great Thou Art” and “He Touched Me” and Hongo originals like “Aloha Ke Akua” and “Never Far From Home.” Whew, it was a marathon. Even though we were singing in the shade of the gazebo and the breezes were blowing, it was still warm to be out of doors for that long. We realized how much of a toll it was on us after the concert, as we were winding down back at the house. We were really exhausted…but good kind exhausted, knowing that the church members enjoyed the program and that passers-by were touched.

Pastor Rich shared that a stranger was walking by, listened to some songs, then approached Pastor Rich to thank him for setting up the program. With tears in his eyes, he told Rich that he had just gone through a romantic break-up with a woman he had been in love with for a long time and was planning to marry. He was really hurting. Since Gay’s and my 40th anniversary was the next day (July 31), we sang several songs about love and romance and shared testimony of how God has been faithful in our marriage. This stranger said the words and the songs we shared ministered to him because of his particular need that day. Rich was grateful for God’s timing and how this man was encouraged by the Lord’s Spirit. So we never know how what we say or sing may mean something to a person in our audience. Our responsibility is to sing as God leads and to trust that He is at work even when we do not realize it. When we get to heaven, we all will discover moments in our lives when we were a blessing and witness to another person and didn’t even know it. To God be the glory.

July 30 – Following an afternoon concert at the First Parish Church in Wakefield, Pastor Rich Weisenbach and wife Patti served us dinner on the lanai of their condo in the town of Magnolia facing picturesque Massachusetts Bay. It was great to be with the Weisenbachs who had served at our home church, Kalihi Union, in the 1980s.

Late Saturday afternoon, Rich and Patty took us to Magnolia, a seaside resort where they purchased a beautiful, cozy condominium for their retirement. With a magnificent view of the Massachusetts Bay visible from their lanai, the four of us enjoyed a delicious dinner of pasta, pizza and a salad of local greens. All very tasty and delicious. Again we talked for several hours before driving back to Wakefield to prepare for Sunday morning.

Our first program on Sunday morning was the 9 am service at the First Parish Church. The theme for the morning was Missions since we were the special guests for the whole service. In addition, Rich asked if we could give ten minutes to Gordon and Ellen Sturgeon and their teen-age daughter Sarah who had been called to serve in Rwanda and Uganda. Gordon is a hydrologist – a scientist who studies the movement, distribution and quality of water on the earth. He will be working in the African nations, helping the people find water for their survival. The Sturgeons needed to raise more support and Rich asked if it were alright if they shared their need

We talked about our work in Hawaii and in Asia, shared what Andrew was doing in New York and about his documentary on the Cambodian street children, and sang praise songs, mission-themed songs, a wedding song “Submission” in honor of our 40th anniversary and our family song, “Never Far From Home.” We thanked Rich and Patty for their years of service at Kalihi Union and also praised God for 28 years of ministry at Wakefield that Rich would be celebrating the very next day. The theme of families in ministry and in missions – and all our families being part of the greater family of God – resonated throughout the morning service.

After the service, Ellen told us she couldn’t stop crying during some of our songs and had a hard time “keeping things together” when it was her turn to share the family’s work in Africa. We pray that our input and testimony helped the Sturgeon family raise money and know that their needs will be met so they can go to the mission field. As Ada Lum once reminded us of something the great China missionary Hudson Taylor once said: “God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack for God’s resources.” We praise God that He will provide for the Sturgeons.

July 31 – After Sunday service at the Wakefield church, Rich and Pat invited their family to lunch. Next to Randy are their daughters Pam and Kim with their husbands and Kim’s three children. They will all visit Hawaii in 2013 for Kalihi Union Church’s 100th anniversary. The Weisenbachs’ son David lives with his wife and six children in Maine.

There was a fellowship time in the social hall following the service – we blessed the Sturgeons with an offering and a few CDs and spoke with different church members who remembered us from our previous visits to First Parish. Then it was on to lunch at the Weisenbachs’ home as Pam and her husband Gadar, and Kim and her husband Brian and their three children came over to feast on grilled pork and salads. It was so good to be with the Weisenbach family again – reminds us of times we use to visit the old parsonage on Lalamilo and eat together around the dinner table with everyone talking and laughing loudly at the same time. Just like the old days.

Pastor Rich will be retiring in a few years. Earlier in the year, he had asked if it were possible for Gay and me to come and sing at First Parish one final time before his ministry there ends, so it was our privilege to visit and honor his request. We will always be grateful to Pastor Rich and Patty and their valuable place in the life and history of Kalihi Union Church.
Following lunch, the Weisenbachs went to visit a friend who was dying of cancer. We asked if we could go with them to sing for her which we did. We spent a half hour singing hymns of hope and peace to this dear one, then had a time of prayer. Following this visit, Rich drove us back to Boston for our late afternoon concert at the Spanish church.

Our second concert of the day was at 4 pm at the Leon De Judah Congregacion. We sang for almost an hour and a half – presenting Hawaiian songs, Gospel songs, love songs in honor of our 40th anniversary, songs of encouragement like “You Raise Me Up” and the hymn favorite “How Great Thou Art” with the final verse in Spanish. This was a delightful concert. The Latin people are very much like the Hawaiians and I told them so: they love to sing, to laugh, to smile, to dance, to enjoy fellowship, to encourage the onstage performers with shout-outs and spontaneous applause. That was evident from our first note – so much love and aloha were coming our way from the smiling faces of the audience members, we felt very much at ease. In addition, there was an excellent sound system set up for us with an easy-to-play electric piano and great lighting in the sanctuary. All of this added to making this one of the best concerts of our summer tour. When it came time to teach the audience “The Hawaiian Alphabet Song,” there was no need to coax a hesitant audience – everyone immediately jumped up as we taught them the motions to the different letters. When we taught “Pearly Shells,” the whole audience wanted to rush the stage. When we sang Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” in honor of our anniversary, there were swoons and cheers. When we kissed after “Hawaiian Wedding Song,” more applause and whooping. When we sang “Never Far From Home,” out came the kleenex as people unashamedly wiped tears from their eyes. And when we launched into spontaneous praise songs, the audience rose as one and sang enthusiastically and vigorously of their love for Jesus their Lord with hands lifted to the heavens and eyes closed. The program was a roller coaster of intense emotions from beginning to end. It was wonderful.

July 31 – Happy 40th Anniversary! After our late afternoon concert at the Leon De Juda Church, Kennis Bishop surprised us with a reception in the church hall, featuring a beautifully decorated cake and refreshments.

Happy 40th Anniversary! After our late afternoon concert at the Leon De Juda Church, Kennis Bishop surprised us with a reception in the church hall, featuring a beautifully decorated cake and refreshments. Later that evening, Ken and Harriet Furuya – Kennis’s parents visiting from California – treated us to a delicious lobster dinner at Legal’s Seafoods, one of Boston’s most popular restaurants. There goes that darn diet again.
After the concert, Kennis ushered us into the social hall where she and the ladies hosted a surprise reception for Gay and me, complete with cookies, punch and a big, beautiful white cake with blue decorations and HAPPY 40TH ANNIVERSARY in purple frosting. We then met many of the church members, all who thanked us for coming and asked that we come again in the future. Next time, they want us to sing in the two morning services so that all of the church can hear us. We thank the Lord that at our age and nearing the 30th year in full-time ministry, He continues to expand our tents and open up new opportunities for us to share our songs and testimony.

One very special aspect of this weekend in Boston was that Kennis’s parents – Ken and Harriet Furuya – flew a couple of days early to the city so they could be with us for the Sunday afternoon concert. The Furuyas were planning on coming to Boston sometime during that first week of August, wanting to help babysit Noah and Charis while Kennis and Greg maintained their busy work schedules. When Ken and Harriet found out we would be there on Sunday, July 31, they made the extra effort to change their plans and catch a red-eye flight to be there for the afternoon concert. They are dear friends and supporters, and help coordinate our schedules and provide transportation when we do our concerts in southern California. God blesses us with wonderful helpers and volunteers around the world like the Furuyas as we serve Him with our music.

For our anniversary celebration that evening, Ken and Harriet wanted to make sure we didn’t want to spend the anniversary by ourselves and asked if they could take us to dinner. Both Gay and I immediately said, “of course we want to spend it with you.” Hmmm, does that sound like we weren’t excited about being by ourselves on such an important date? We assured the Furuyas that Gay and I can have a dinner for two on another evening but for that night, dinner for four would be fantastic. And it was. With apologies to my health food doctor and vegetarian mentor, Terry Shintani, I fell off the wagon. Again. Ken and Harriet took us to Legal Seafood’s for some of the most delicious lobster we have ever eaten. I have not eaten lobster for a long time, so it was blissful to dine on such succulent seafood again – and such high quality lobsters too. We were in heaven and thanked God and the Furuyas for a memorable evening.

The 40th anniversary is the Ruby Anniversary. And ruby is an important gem to us anyway because it is the July birthstone and both our birthdays are in July – mine on the 1st, Gay’s on the 4th. So for three reasons, our gift exchanges for our 40th year together should have included the red gemstone. With our budget, however, the closest we could get to an expensive red symbol of our love would be the red-shelled crustacean. So that justifies our unhealthy splurge on lobster dripping with lemon zest and clarified butter. Yummy.

August 1 – Playing tourist in Boston: the Bishop and Furuya families took us on a cruise of the Charles River where we saw Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the strikingly-distinctive Zakim Bridge, visible in the distance.

We also walked around the city, saw many historical sites and ate more lobster, this time in an east coast favorite, a sandwich called a Lobster Roll.
We spent the next day sightseeing around Boston – taking a cruise on the Charles River where we passed Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the recently-constructed architectural marvel, the Zakim Bridge. The Bishops and Furuyas also took us walking through downtown Boston where we saw Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall and the Holocaust Memorial. It was a delightful day of viewing and reading about our nation’s history. For dinner that night, it was back to the Bishops’ home and a dinner of sushi and chicken katsu. Another blessed day.

On Tuesday, we flew back to New York. Andrew had planned to stay in Hawaii longer but returned to New York on Monday night because he had received a call in Hawaii for a Tuesday morning interview for the CNN show, GPS, with the respected U.S. foreign policy correspondent, Fareed Zakaria. This was a good opportunity for him to possibly be hired by a top TV station so it was important that he return for the interview. Andrew said the interview, as far as he could tell, went well. He’s still waiting for to hear from CNN. The interviewers wanted him to come up with a few story ideas and script proposals so he’s been working all weekend to write something creative, provocative and reasonably intelligent. He knows that the Lord is in total control: if God wants Andrew to have this job, it will be his; if not, God has something else in store. As always with all of us, it’s so liberating to be at peace and not be anxious about anything. We rejoice because we know God has everything in control and that He has perfect plans for us, plans for hope and a future (Jeremiah 29: 11).

We spent the rest of the week doing personal business – catching up on email correspondence, going to the beauty parlor and barber, visiting friends in the city. One friend is Genevieve Go, a retired doctor here in Brooklyn. Originally from Hawaii, Genevieve has been living in New York for 40 years. Her friend in Hawaii, Lorraine Loui from Makiki Christian Church, introduced us and asked us to sing for Genevieve’s mom at her nursing home when we were here in January for Andrew’s graduation from NYU. Genevieve’s mom passed away shortly after our visit and she asked Andrew to play his ukulele and sing at her mom’s funeral. Genevieve has become a good friend and “aunty” to Andrew and she offered to take Gay to a hairdresser in Chinatown who understood Asian hair. We pray our times with her are a good witness of God’s love and aloha. We believe they are.

August 5 – With Vivian Hernandez at the Bowery Mission Women’s Shelter in New York City.
August 5 – Andrew worked at Teen Challenge Ministries for three years after graduating from Yale in 2000 and still volunteers at the Brooklyn center today.

Andrew worked at Teen Challenge Ministries for three years after graduating from Yale in 2000 and still volunteers at the Brooklyn center today. He arranged for us to sing at the Bowery Mission Women’s Shelter in the upper East Side of New York City which is under the supervision of Vivian Hernandez, in the photo at left and also a former staff member at Teen Challenge. We sang for the women, prayed for them, shared testimonies and praised the Lord together. A few of them allowed us to take their picture to share with you, our Christian Vision family.
On Friday, Andrew arranged for us to present a concert at the Bowery Mission Women’s Shelter on the upper East Side of New York City. Supervisor of this woman’s program is Vivian Hernandez who worked on staff along with Andrew at Teen Challenge from 2001 to 2004. Vivian asked us to come and minister to her women – about 15 of them were in attendance – and to speak to their personal needs, their family needs and the victory they can have over their addictions through the blood of Jesus Christ. They enjoyed the Hawaiian songs and danced the hula with ease; they applauded when we sang love songs, remembering their own failed marriages and relationships and giving all of that pain to Jesus; they cried as we sang about family and about how God can sustain and uphold us even through the storms of our lives. There were many tears shed during our hour and fifteen minute concert as God cleansed their hurting hearts and renewed His love for them. After the concert, we met individually with the ladies and prayed for each one.

Because Andrew was still busy working at home on his CNN proposals on Sunday morning, we did not go to Redeemer Presbyterian, his church in Manhattan. Gay and I were uncertain how to catch the taxi or train into the city, plus it was so hot outside. We just had church at home, having prayer, reading our devotional Scripture on I Thessalonians 5: 21-23 and discussing the new nature that we have when we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. The flesh of the old man should be buried; as new creations, we should bear and display the fruits of the Spirit to the glory of God. We agreed that we all have struggles in this area, but through the grace and mercy of Jesus, He sustains us as we keep trying in His power to be the men and women of God that He wants us to be. Without Him, we are nothing. With Him, we are everything – and we can do all things. All for His glory.

In the late afternoon, we were invited to a Cambodian household for dinner and fellowship. These Cambodian Christians befriended Andrew when he needed help with translating his Cambodian documentary and was given the name of Thai, one of the men at the gathering who is pastor of a Cambodian church in Brooklyn. Thai invited us to his Mom’s house where she and the whole family prepared a delicious barbecue with exotic and delicious Thai dishes and noodles. After dinner, Mom brought out the Thai hymnal and we sang hymns together – Thai’s family and friends singing in Khmer, the Cambodian language, while we sang in English. The Hongo family later shared Hawaiian songs, traditional Gospel favorites and some of our originals. The gathering reminded us of our many visits to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia and interactions with the gracious people of that nation.

I’m writing this on Monday evening, August 8. We have already entered our fifth week on the road and continue to see God unfold His plans for our ministry day by day. Our planned schedule may change, meetings may be cancelled or more likely, programs are added. But we flow in the Spirit and trust the Father is guiding us as He chooses. We are His willing servants and follow in obedience.

Isaiah 30:21 says: “Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ” That expresses exactly what we experience whenever we are on the mission field, whether on the mainland U.S. or in a foreign country or even at home in Hawaii. We may not always know what God is doing, but we trust Him and move as we feel He is leading. There is an old Jewish proverb: WE PLAN, GOD LAUGHS. We can make all the plans we want to, but God may have a different plan than ours, one that should reign supreme. So we make plans, we schedule events and concerts, and if they change, we will know that all along, the Father Himself had a different direction for us to walk in and asks only that we listen to His voice behind us saying, “this is the way….go!” Still learning that after 64 years.

We love and appreciate you, our ohana in Jesus.

Blessings,

Randy and Gay

ps-I know this has been verbose, Gay is yelling from the bedroom, “the letter long enough, Daddy.” But I wanted to share a praise. Andrew’s Cambodia documentary, LEGACY, has been accepted for showing at the Southern Utah Film Festival called DOCUTAH, to be held at the Dixie State College in St. George Utah, 90 miles east of Las Vegas. The festival is September 8-17 and we hope he can go to introduce his film and talk about its production. If we can rearrange our schedule, we would like to be there in person to cheer him on as well. We give thanks to the Lord. This is quite an honor as only 100 films were selected from applications from 42 countries. This is one of the smaller film festivals in the world, but still, it’s a beginning and we praise God for opening this door for Andrew and allowing his film talents to find favor with people within the industry.

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