For Kunāne Hillen, moving to Portland, Oregon, was a big change. “My first thoughts were, ‘It’s cold!’” he says. He was firmly attached to the sunshine, warm ocean waves, beaches and culture of his hometown—Honolulu, Hawaii. He’d never spent more than three weeks away. And yet he knew that, despite the climate change, Multnomah University had what he wanted for an M.Div.
Body surfing, ukulele, church friends and family were the main factors in Hillen’s life throughout his childhood. During his senior year in high school, Hillen took a Hawaiian history class that made him realize how much he loved his own people.
“After watching a film about Hawaiians, my heart broke,” he says. “I originally wanted to do intercultural missions, but then I got a heart for Hawaiians.”
Hillen attended Bible college on the island and earned his bachelor’s degree in Bible and Pastoral Ministry. He then began to wonder what was next. “I was looking for a school that would help relate Hawaiian culture to theology,” he says.
The Master of Divinity program brought those components together for him. “MU’s really helping me process my theology,” Hillen says. “I get to tie Hawaii into my papers and discussions in class. I want to learn what the gospel means, not only in the Hawaiian community but also in the global indigenous community.”
Hillen also appreciates his professors. “They are very personal,” he says. “They are willing to meet outside of class. They encourage me to talk. They don’t just teach to blank faces; they’re engaging.”
When Hillen returns to the islands, he’s excited to teach the integration of theology and culture to his fellow Hawaiians. And he’s especially eager to get back to his own warm beach. “I dream of the waves sometimes,” he says wistfully.