Simple people who simply love Jesus

Reverand Lorenzo Lyons


1807 - 1886

By: Fred Cachola

Lorenzo Lyons, was born on April 18, 1807 at Coleraine, Massachusetts.  He graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York and continued his studies at nearby Auburn Seminary as a theological student.  There he met beautiful 18 year old Betsy Curtis and the developing atmosphere of romance is evident in his chronicles about “my Betsy”. *
In 1831, he was ordained at Auburn and with his young wife Betsy sailed to Hawaii from Boston on the whaling ship “Averick” with the Fifth Company of the “Sandwich Islands Mission” sponsored by the thriving American Board of Foreign Missions.  Buoyed by their “unfathomable mutual affection, and strengthened by unconquerable faith”.** this young couple left their homes and loved ones to devote their lives to thousands of Hawaiians in the remote highlands of Waimea.
He was a dedicated messenger of God for the largest missionary station in Hawaii, with his headquarters at the Imiola Church in Waimea and outreach to 13 other churches he built from Waimanu and Waipio to Puako and Kawaihae.  He offered his first prayer in the Hawaiian language a few weeks after his arrival.  In three months following that he was preaching in O’lelo Hawaii, much to the delight and amazement of the thousands of Hawaiians who were eager to listen and learn from the first haole (foreigner) who hiked regularly into their scattered Hamakua villages.   He left Betsy for weeks during his arduous district tours, spreading the word of God and tending to the spiritual and temporal needs for Hawaiians who were struggling with traumatic changes from their old ways.
Music and hymns were his creative additions to the oli (chant) and oratory styles so familiar to  Hawaiians.  Therefore, he composed and translated more Hawaiian hymns among all pastors in Hawaii – estimated as more than 600 because of his devotion to translate one hymn per week for many years.  More than half of the hymns in Na Himeni Haipule Hawaii come from his pen. ***
Rev. Lyons was not only a prolific writer of hymns, “. . . he was also for 53 years a pastor, preacher, teacher, farmer, pigsty cleaner, carpenter, painter, plumber, postmaster, poet, author, medical man, priest and counselor to thousands of people.”**** Since he was so devoted to being the only foreigner in North Hawaii doing so much for so many, Hawaiians lovingly called him “ Makua Laiana” – Father Lyons.  One government official at that time said Laiana could do “more than a whole police force in preserving order in his district”.+  He was truly beloved.
His work in North Hawaii was going so well that he dedicated hymns for other churches and other pastors like Mr. Henry Waterhouse asked him to translate his sermons while he substituted for a disabled pastor in Honolulu. ++  In 1848 Laiana was called to the pastorate at the Stone Church (Kawaiahao) in Honolulu, but in response to the earnest pleas of his people he and Betsy remained in Waimea for the rest of their lives. +++  They had two children, Curtis, born in 1833 and Luke, born in 1836.  Sadly, Luke died that same year and Betsy followed one year later.  Within a year, Laiana remarried a teacher he met in Hilo, Lucia Smith.  He and Lucia  would have three children, two girls, Fidelia Maria and Elizabeth Woodbury and one boy, Albert Brown– all of whom lived to maturity.  Many remember Lucia’s unwavering support for Laiana and the Imiola Church.
Rev. Lorenzo Lyons died in 1886, but in so many ways, his presence is alive, it thrives.  His mana, his memory, the majesty and power of his devotion to his calling, his service to God and his sacrifice for Hawaiians and Imiola Church  still sweeps thru the changeless hills of Waimea.  He was endeared among Hawaiians as “Ka Makua Laiana, Haku Mele o ka ‘Aina Mauna” (Father Lyons, Lyric Poet of the Mountain Country). The hymnology of Hawaii is surely one of his legacies, and his most famous hymn “Hawaii Aloha” will continue to be an inspiration for generations.  In that famous hymn Laiana rejoices that in the end he became, indeed a Hawaiian.  He declares Hawaii as his birthplace, his own native land – he encourage us to rejoice of the heavenly righteousness of Hawaii, of the radiant wonderful things that come to us from above, of our beloved mountain ridges, sparkling streams, and gentle winds. Finally he blesses us with the reminder that “Na ke akua a malama mai ia ‘oe” – It is God who will care for you. ++++  Aloha mau loa Laiana!

*Emma Lyons Doyle,  Makua Laiana, pg. 3
** Ibid
*** Elizabeth Kimura, “Makua Laiana Hymn Festival”, Imiola Church, Oct. 6, 1993, pg.16
**** Ibid
+ Doyle, Makua Laiana, pg. 211
++ Ibid
+++Ibid, pg. 143
++++ Paul Clark, The Little Koa Church, translation by Edith Kawai