Kona’s Painted Church

Kona is a tender port, and it is also the port for re-entry into the United States.  That means that everyone must have a “face to face” meeting with immigrations officials.  The officials are shuttled to the ship and set up in the World Stage theater. 

Those on Holland America tours get to go through customs first, the rest of us are called by deck.  Those on private tours who happen to live on the wrong deck, well they just have to figure it out themselves.

We were lucky, Karen Macdonald lives on the big Island and is a friend from two other Holland (world) Cruises.  She offered to meet us at noon in front of a hotel a short walk from the tender port, so we were in no rush.

The customs process was funny, made even funnier by the fact that we were sternly admonished not to make jokes.  We also couldn’t take pictures. 

When our deck is called, we go to the forward elevators and descend to deck 2.  On Deck two we are directed onto a line that travels along the port side from the forward elevators, 100 yards to the midship elevators and then 100 yards back along the starboard to the forward elevators.  There a crew member scans your keycard, and you walk, probably another 25 yards to the entrance of the theater, where citizens and non-citizens are separated.  Non-citizens go to a table where they are questioned and stamped in (even though each of them got on the ship in San Diego a week before. Don’t worry, we’ll eventually get to the Painted Church.) 

Citizens open their passports to the picture page and walk by a customs official who looks and waves you on without stopping.  Back out the port side to the forward elevators, where a crew member puts a sticker on your keycard that looks like a chip off of a flesh colored band aid.  I took no pictures, but I couldn’t help myself, as the lady put the band aid on my key card I asked “What no ‘t’ shirt?”  I supposed she also committed a federal offence when she laughed.

No T shirt, but when we landed Karen greeted us with seashell leis.  Karen took us to several places along the Kona Coast. This post I dedicate to the Painted Church.  It is the church of St. Benedict built in1842 close to the shore and later moved up the mountain. 

In 1899 father John Berchman Velghe, a Belgian priest inspired by the stained glass windows of his native Europe began painting bible scenes on the walls using basic house paint to share bible stories with his parishioners who couldn’t read.  In 1904 he became ill and returned to Belgium before completing the job.

Karen tells us that the only painting that was badly warn was the painting depicting Hell.  And Hell did look a little worse for the ware. 

Hell is fading out.

Outside the church has a commanding view of the coast below.

And there is a shrine to Father Damian, now St. Damian, one of two Hawaiian Catholic Saints.  Damian tended to lepers on the island of Molokai until he, himself, succumbed to the disease.  His monument has flower and shell leis around the neck and as a hatband.

Below Father Damian a mountain apple tree sheds its blossoms covering the ground below.

We left the Saint and the Church to explore a site sacred to practitioners of an older Hawaiian religion.  We will explore it together in the next post.

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