Sprucing Up The Old Rugged Temple

Pastor Grosse: Change is good. Coco Zickos photos

Change is in the air at Kaua’i Baptist Temple in Lihu’e. Not only are renovations currently under way, but the congregation will celebrate its 30th year of ministry Oct. 16, and Pastor Nathan Grosse looks forward to beginning a new chapter of service to the community.

“We’re doing everything that we can to minister people and meet people’s needs,” says Grosse, a Montana native who attended Golden State Baptist College in California. “And the more we can do, the more we will do, both on a physical and a spiritual level.”

The Lihu’e building, where worshippers have gathered for decades, is thought to be more than 100 years old.

“It definitely could be,” says Grosse regarding the structure, which was built prior to electricity.

Originally, the temple, located where Anchor Cove Shopping Center in Nawiliwili now stands, may have served as a school building.

“I’ve tried to do a bunch of research, but it’s really hard because there is not a lot of documentation,” says Grosse. “All you can take are people’s stories.”

One piece of history that’s certain is that the church donated property to Hawaiian families some 30 years ago when developers in Nawiliwili attempted to displace them.

“They had their land sold out from underneath their feet, and it happened a lot,” says Grosse.

Marian and Robert Delapenia, who lived on the property, have been attending the church since the 1970s, when it was known as Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church.

During that time, it was rumored that attendance was as high as 200 people on any given Sunday.

“I wonder how it’s possible, but it has been,” says Grosse in reference to the small auditorium. “I’m hoping to recover to those days.”

Though it is unclear exactly how long the structure has served as a house of worship, we do know that Kaua’i Baptist Temple started in Hanamaulu where its founder, Steve Wygle, ministered from his home.

So while the church’s face lift may be moving it away from its humble beginnings, it will leave the place “all beautiful and modern” with a big-screen television to boot. Restoration is not only thing occurring in the building. The temple will offer many new activities in the coming months, including adult Bible classes and vacation Bible school for children.

Pastor Nathan Grosse at the historic temple

Grosse also will continue to host a variety of events, from barbecues and potlucks to Christmas programs and Thanksgiving meals.

“We want to provide opportunities just for people to get to know each other and just to grow in their relationships,” he says.

Grosse realized he was up to the task of ministering when he was a teenager.

“I knew I wanted to do something productive with my life and change the world, if you will, but I didn’t know what that was,” he says. Then, at 17, he “felt a calling” to become a pastor. He didn’t make his way to the island until 2005 when he moved here with his wife, Hanakapiai, a Kaua’i native whom he met in college. A month after arriving, he and Hanakapiai started Lanakila Baptist Church. But they had difficulty finding places to meet.

“We were just bouncing around,” he recalls.

In the meantime, the pastor of Kaua’i Baptist Temple decided to resign and move to the Mainland. By June 2008, Grosse was elected to serve as the new pastor and merged Lanakila Baptist Church with Kaua’i Baptist Temple.

When he first started, there were only around 30 people regularly in attendance. Now some 90 individuals show up every Sunday.

“We’re kind of at a crossroads right now. We’re packed and hoping to get a solution within the next month or so,” says Grosse, father of Piilani, 5, and 18-monthold Lanakila.

That could mean expanding the property or possibly moving to a new location.

“It’s exciting,” he says. “New stuff is happening all the time.”

Starting a food and clothing service and possibly providing shelter for the homeless are among the many goals Grosse has for the future.

“We are working very hard to develop relationships within the community and with each other. And that’s really one of the reasons why we are the way we are, is for relationships,” he says.

An opportunity for those friendships to bud will occur Oct. 15 during “Ohana Day” in Anahola, where games, fellowship and food will be in abundance in celebration of the church’s 30th birthday.

“It’s going to be a relaxing day to have a good time,” says Grosse.

A special service will be held Oct. 16 honoring the five pastors who have ministered at Kaua’i Baptist Temple. The church’s original pastor, Wygle, will be a guest speaker.

Visit kauaibaptist.org for more information.