Rev. Shiro Sokabe, the founder of our congregation, was recruited by the Hawaiian Board of Missions in 1894 to introduce Christianity to the Japanese immigrants living in the plantation town of Honomū.
Upon his arrival, the young missionary found a lawless Japanese community with serious social problems, among them--gambling, alcoholism, prostitution, spousal abuse, and child neglect. He worked tirelessly to address these issues.
Honomū Christian Church opened its doors in 1897. Reverend Sokabe also built the “Gijuku” (a dormitory and orphanage that sheltered more than 1,500 youths from 1897 to 1917). He married Shika Sokabe who was a trained nurse and worked diligently alongside her husband for 23 years until her death in 1920.
Reverend Sokabe dedicated his life to teaching his young wards Christian values, offering aid to widows, educating neglected and orphaned children, and providing a safe haven for abused family members and the homeless.
The remarkable ministry of Reverend Sokabe quietly ended with his retirement in 1942 and subsequent pastors served many diverse ethnic groups living on the Hamakua Coast. Honomū Christian Church, Hakalau Chapel, Papaikou Filipino Church, Pepeekeo Chapel, and Papaikou Pilgrim Church eventually merged their congregations and became the Hilo Coast United Church of Christ.