A year ago, I wrote in one of these prayer letters, “It is my prayer that there would be an increasingly strong connection between Bethlehem College & Seminary and Bethlehem Baptist Church and the churches in Hawaii.” I’m delighted to update you about how that prayer is being answered.
In the fall of 2014, I was serving as a pastor in Honolulu, Hawaii, preparing for an upcoming conference we were helping to organize for The Gospel Coalition Hawaii chapter. We were looking forward to having Michael Oh, D.A. Carson, and John Piper come to speak to a gathering of Christians from many churches all across the Islands. God worked in remarkable ways during those three days, and I could tell you several stories of the lasting fruit from that event. But what stands out in my mind was a conversation I had over lunch just before I dropped Pastor John and Noël off at the airport. I was updating them on my plans, sharing that we were planning to move back to the mainland to teach. But there was still a crying need for theological training in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, and we wanted to keep working to address it, even from the mainland. Pastor John prayed that God would do that and perhaps even bring us back to Hawaii better equipped to provide ongoing training.
Fast forward six years later, and God is answering that prayer in surprising ways. During my years at Bethlehem, I’ve led regular ministry trips back to Hawaii and have brought several seminary students out with us. But last summer, God put it on my heart and my wife’s heart to really consider whether he was calling us back to Hawaii to train pastors and teachers there and in other Pacific islands. This led us to a series of conversations with our pastors and many others and then the leaders of Training Leaders International (TLI) and Bethlehem College & Seminary. To make a long story short, I am being sent out from Bethlehem Baptist Church as a global partner with TLI to do formal and informal theological training in Hawaii and the Pacific Rim. As part of this, we are planning to launch an extension site of Bethlehem College & Seminary in the fall of 2021.
The Hawaiian Islands have a population of over 1.5 million people and are strategically located at the “crossroads of the Pacific,” where East meets West. It is culturally and ethnically different from any other U.S. state. Nearly 20% of the residents of the state were born in other countries. The ethnic makeup of the state is about 40% Asian, 25% White, 15% Pacific Islander, and 10% Hispanic. According to the 2010 Census, 23.6% of Hawaii residents have multi-ethnic backgrounds. This is by far the most of any U.S. state (the second highest is Alaska with 7.3%). Additionally, in 2019 alone over 10 million total visitors passed through Hawaii, with over 7 million coming from North America and over 3 million from other countries (including 1.5 million from Japan). Along with this, there are another 12 million people living on other Pacific islands spread across the South Pacific with many cultural and geographical ties to Hawaii. Yet in all this diversity in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, there are very few options for in-person theological training, let alone with the God-centered vision that we love at Bethlehem.
As we look back at the winding path that God has led us down to bring us back to Hawaii, I’m amazed at how he is answering those prayers from six years ago. Little did I know that we would be partnering with Pastor John and the rest of the team at Bethlehem College & Seminary to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ by equipping men and women to treasure Christ above all things, to grow in wisdom and knowledge over a lifetime, and to glorify God in every sphere of life in Hawaii. Yet we are now preparing to bring the God-centered, Christ-focused, church-based, missions-oriented education that we provide in Minneapolis to Hawaii, with the hope that it will be a sending outpost to the Pacific Islands and Asia. We also have five current seminary students who are praying seriously about long-term ministry in the Islands and a few more who’ve expressed interest.
I could tell you more about the needs and opportunities in Hawaii, but instead, I want you to hear from some of our friends in the Islands. Will you pray for these brothers and sisters as we work to prepare for the launch of the Bethlehem College & Seminary Hawaii Extension Site and our informal training through TLI?
Chris Bruno, Ph.D.
Associate Dean, Associate Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology
- Pray that the Lord will make the way clear for the launch of the Hawaii extension site. In spite of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to be on track for a launch in Fall 2021.
- Pray for Chris and Katie Bruno and their family as they raise funds for this ministry with Bethlehem and TLI, that God would supply their needs and keep them walking closely with him. Pray that God would raise up an army of financial and prayer supporters.
- Pray for current Bethlehem College & Seminary students who are considering long-term ministry in Hawaii, serving as teachers, pastors, and church planters.
- Pray that God would send the right students to the Hawaii extension and that we would prepare them well to send them out for ministry in Hawaii, throughout the Pacific Islands, and across the world.