A Heart for Hilo
As God has opened doors for ministry over the years, Jamie and Alisha Dewees have willingly walked through. Thanks to one such open door, they now embrace a community where they never wanted to reside, expanding their outreach in ways never imagined.
Since giving his heart to Christ as a senior in high school, Jamie, 47, has been drawn to full-time ministry. He served on the staff of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries at Oregon State University for nearly 20 years, as well as at Clackamas Community College for four years. In 2018, Jamie switched U.S. Missions assignments to church planting/church development. They are now with U.S. Missions Church Mobilization.
At the time, God called the couple to the big island of Hawaii — specifically to Hilo on the east side of the island. Leaving relatives behind in Oregon didn’t appeal to Jamie, but he went anyway.
“A lot of times faith requires us to take risks and do things that are uncomfortable,” he explains. “Obedience isn’t always easy and it doesn’t always make sense.”
The family sold everything. Jamie, Alisha, and their four children — Haven, Sela, Gemma, and Malachi — moved to Hawaii.
The couple began partnering with Arise Church to reach the community and to invest in young adults. With their rich campus background, they also started Pursuit Ministries at the University of Hawaii in Hilo, holding weekly Bible studies.
Sensing that God wanted to expand their tent post beyond the campus, Jamie became chaplain of the men’s basketball team. Alisha, 40, led a Bible study for eighth graders, and Jamie started a basketball program for middle schoolers. They invited their children’s classmates to their home for what Dewees calls “Food, Fun, and God Time.”
The couple saw more opportunities for involvement in their own neighborhood. Shared meals and game nights with neighbors provided ideal ways to invest in new relationships. However, people moving to Hawaii from the mainland typically don’t stay long, so relationships are hard to build. “Locals don’t necessarily give a lot of time to you, because in their mind they’re thinking, Oh, they’re just going to leave anyway,” Jamie says.
The Deweeses also learned that some locals are protective of their belief systems, which include Buddhism, earth worship, and the worship of Pele (goddess of volcanoes and fires).
“We are walking evangelists in the sense that Jesus is always on the tip of our tongues,” Alicia says. “We want to share Jesus and love people the way we feel Jesus did.”
“If people sense a deep concern, that you really care about them, it opens doors to relationship,” Jamie says.
This process takes a long time, and that can be discouraging. After two years in Hilo, Alisha is finally seeing God “stewing up a trust” in Christianity, thanks to the couple’s loving approach. Many locals express fears because of the prevalence of coronavirus and limited medical resources in Hilo. Jamie and Alicia see that as an opportunity to declare God’s faithfulness.
“We feel the stew He’s cooking hasn’t even come to a boil,” Alisha says.