LAIE, Hawaii The Iosepa, a 57-foot wa'a kaulua or traditional twin-hulled Hawaiian sailing canoe that BYU-Hawaii launched at Hukilau Bay five years ago, is forging an even stronger tie between the university and the adjoining Polynesian Cultural Center sister institutions that have been "tied at the heart" for more than 40 years.
Generous donations from members of the Presidents' Leadership Council, a group of Latter-day Saint philanthropists who work closely with the two institutions, are enabling the center to build a halau wa'a or canoe learning center in the PCC's Hawaiian village, where the Iosepa will be permanently berthed and on display when it isn't sailing.
In a special ceremony in the center's Hawaiian village on Nov. 3, the council's vice-chairman Mark H. Willes, a retired business executive and former president of the Honolulu Hawaii Mission, recalled that five years ago when BYU-Hawaii President Eric B. Shumway was seeking financial help to build a new home for Iosepa, he talked about the "feelings that people from the community, university and PCC had" as they were drawn to the canoe. "They would come, they would touch, and they would feel a special spirit about that canoe.
"He then talked about how there was a building of bridges between the center, the university, the community and the extended community here in Hawaii; and as he spoke, the Spirit spoke to us and said, 'You are to help them build that house."'
Brother Willes pointed out when the new halau is completed, Iosepa will no longer be "in a back lot behind the university where nobody can see it. It will be here in this place where hundreds of thousands will come every year to see, touch and feel. And as they feel the spirit of this place, they will honor the Hawaiian heritage and the remarkable people who have helped make this place so special.
"They will also feel something that many of them won't understand, but some day will," he added, referring to the Spirit of the Lord.
William K. "Uncle Bill" Wallace III, director of the BYU-Hawaii Jonathan Napela Center for Hawaiian Language and Culture Studies which uses Iosepa as a floating classroom, told the Presidents' Leadership Council and other guests that morning, "What we're doing is not just for us, but it's for the future. I'm so grateful ... for all of those who have made it possible for us to have made it so far. There's no doubt in my mind that once Iosepa is here it will help unlock the windows of heaven and that blessings will descend upon this place, to help the work go forward."
Von D. Orgill, president and CEO of the Polynesian Cultural Center, said the PCC already sees many miracles and blessings from working closely with the BYU-Hawaii students. "We see them constantly. We're also bringing the relationship between our two institutions even closer together in a very real way than it's ever been before."