St. Mark Lutheran Church

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Our Story (history of Saint Mark Lutheran Church mission)

The ohana of Saint Mark had very humble beginnings in February 1951 in the Kailua home of Mr. and Mrs. Wayland Campbell, members of Our Pastor MattRedeemer Lutheran Church in Honolulu, through the teaching of Sunday school classes.  Members of Our Redeemer canvassed the Puohala housing area in Kaneohe and received support from the California-Nevada-Hawaii District Board of Missions to establish a mission here. The many years that followed brought tremendous change and growth for this small mission country church in Windward Oahu as we share the message that Jesus Christ was crucified and risen for our salvation. Below is a timeline of our story.

1951 - In February, Mr. and Mrs. Wayland Campbell, members of Our Redeemer in Honolulu, began holding Sunday school classes at their Pastor Matthome in Kailua.  Members of Our Redeemer canvassed the Puohala housing area in Kaneohe. This resulted in the California-Nevada-Hawaii District Board of Missions establishing a mission here.  Vicar James Lang was assigned to begin pastoral work.

1952 - On August 3rd, Vicar James Lang held the first service of the “Puohala Mission” in Castle High School.
Pastor Matt
1954 - In April, “Puohala Mission” was incorporated as Saint Mark Lutheran Church with 22 members.  On July 18, Rev. Norman J. Bangert, a Concordia Seminary graduate, arrived and was installed as the congregation’s first pastor.  That fall, land for a church and parsonage was purchased.
Pastor Matt
1955 - In June, the pastor moved into the parsonage, and in September the parish hall/chapel was dedicated to the glory of God.

1956 - The rapid growth of the Sunday school and a desire to start a Christian Day School moved thePastor Matt congregation to build a small classroom adjoining the chapel.  In September, Saint Mark Lutheran School opened its doors to 12 Kindergarten keiki.

1957 - Saint Mark School was expanded to include grades K-3, while a second teacher was added. Mary Helen Hahn was appointed Principal.

1959 - In September the school offices, library, and a second Pastor Mattclassroom were dedicated, as the enrollment increased to 70 students with a staff of two full-time teachers and a half-day Kindergarten teacher.

1960 - In July, principal/teacher (3-6 grades)/youth minister Floyd Behrens came to Saint Mark from Boone, NC.
Pastor Matt
- Following Pastor Bangert’s departure to serve the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in San Rafael, California, Rev. Norman Ellermann, from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fremont, California was installed on December 3 as the second pastor of Saint Mark.

- In the summer of 1962, due to growing school enrollment (110), the adjoining Wells property was purchased ($65,000) and the Pastor Mattoriginal parsonage was converted into a temporary two classroom structure.

1966 - Due to continued growth of the church and school, the McCormick property at the corner of Kamehameha Highway and Hoene Place was purchased. In November, Pastor Ellermann accepted a call to Saint Mark Lutheran Church in Santa Rosa, California and Rev. Arnold Steinbeck of Good Shepherd Lutheran in Honolulu, served as vacancy pastor
Pastor Matt
1967 - On July 16th, Rev. Milton Gundermann was installed as pastor of Saint Mark. At that time there were 122 communicant members, and the school had 96 students in 4 classrooms.

1969 - A new two-story classroom building was dedicated on October 5th and the school expanded to 8th grade.
Pastor Matt
1972 - In August, a braille printing room was created in the old parsonage and Braille Sunday School materials were printed for Korean churches.

1974 - On March 31st, Saint Mark began one service. It was started as a trial but was continued because the congregation became better acquainted and closer as one ohana. In May, Saint Mark received a $15,000 loan from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod to buy a Mobile classroom. In order to repay the loan the annual Huli Huli Chicken sale was held. 
Pastor Matt
1975 - The church lanai was enclosed and a Japanese garden was built, which was named after the Rev. Dr. Toyohiko Kagawa who ministered to the poor in Kobe. In November, a new church organ was purchased and the constitution of Saint Mark was revised to “all members” (deleting “male”) so women could become voting members.

- By October, the congregation had grown from 165 to 200 communicant members, and plans began for a new chapel and classrooms.
Pastor Matt
1977 - On January 1st, Saint Mark, which began as a Mission Church receiving subsidy from the California-Nevada-Hawaii District, became self-supporting. In February, the young girls of the congregation began serving as acolytes (duties previously limited to boys). School enrollment was 208.

1979 - In May, the congregation sold the parsonage and cottage for $195,000 and contracted T. Iida Contracting Company of Kaneohe to build the new church and classrooms (the same company built the original chapel). Groundbreaking was December 16th.

1980 - Work began on the new church and classrooms on January 17th. On November 9th, a dedication service and 25th Anniversary ceremonies were held followed by a Luau.
Pastor Matt
1981 - In April, 2/3 of the Wells property, including the old parsonage, was sold in order to reduce the debt on the church and school. School enrollment that year was 245 students.

- The Saint Mark cross and bell tower were erected.

1992 - Pastor Gundermann retired from 25 years of service at Saint Mark Lutheran Church. Rev. Rudy Lenser served as interim. The chapel also furnished with new pew chairs and a new slate floor and chancel carpeting were also added.

1993 - On October 3, Rev. Bruce Betker was installed as the 4th pastor of Saint Mark.
1998 - In July, Joel Oesch was assigned as the first DCE Intern of Saint Mark as the high school and junior high youth groups grew. That same year, Project 2000 was begun with a view toward building a new gymnasium and additional classrooms on the site of the old parsonage, with grants from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Harold K. L. Castle Foundation, and the generous pledges of church and school families.

2000 - In March, DCE Joel Oesch accepted a call to Austin Texas and
in July the congregation called DCE Paul Marting. Paul resigned in December.

2001 - In September, we broke ground on our new gym and classrooms.
2002 - In October, the new gym and classrooms were dedicated to the glory of God and they became the expansion of the school junior high as well as a ministry resource for the community.

2004 - In October, the Saint Mark Food Pantry became affiliated with the Hawaii Food Bank. In August, Celeste Montre was placed as the Saint Mark DCE intern from Concordia Portland. Following her internship, she received a call to Faith Lutheran in Eldersburg, MD.
2006 - Saint Mark began a partnership with the Hawaii Family Promise ministry, becoming a host church for homeless families within our community.

2008 - Following Pastor Betker’s retirement from ministry, Rev. Erwin Wichner served as vacancy pastor of Saint Mark. In August, Timothy Walsworth was assigned as DCE intern from Concordia University, Saint Paul, MN. This annual internship was followed by Peter Johnson, and Loretta Moerbe and Sarah Morris who were both Concorida University, Austin, TX graduates.
Pastor Matt
2009 - In March, a worship screen and audio system were installed in the Saint Mark sanctuary. On June 24th Rev. Matthew Hilpert, from St. John's Lutheran Church in Fallon, NV, was installed as the 5th pastor of Saint Mark.

- In January, the church restrooms, kitchen, and sacristy were remodeled to improve the Saint Mark food pantry and expand the fellowship ministries of the Pastor Mattcongregation. In June, DCE Sarah Morris was called to serve the congregation and the school, and the school facilities underwent significant improvements as new technologies were added.

2014 - The congregation of Saint Mark began the process of expanding our educational ministries to our Windward community with the design and addition of Saint Mark Lutheran Preschool.

Pastor Matt
2018 - In March, Saint Mark broke ground on the Saint Mark Lutheran Church Early Learning Center.

2019 - In June, Rev. Matthew Hilpert accepted the Divine Call to serve Galilee Lutheran Church, Pasadena, Maryland. The congregation continued to follow the Lord's direction as they seek to call their next pastor of the church and school.

And the Lord continues to write the story of Saint Mark through the lives and love of our church and school ohana. If you would like to share memories of the Saint Mark Lutheran ohana or photos, please contact the church office.



Our Mission: "To Extend the love and care of Jesus Christ to all people."
45-725 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744-- (808) 247-4565-- LCMS