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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, March 18, 2005

Daniel H.C. Kong, Baptist preacher, dead at 76

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Daniel Hen Chong Kong, the first local-born resident to be pastor of a Southern Baptist congregation in Hawai'i, died Monday at Straub Clinic and Hospital. He was 76.

Daniel Hen Chong Kong

An eloquent preacher with exceptional people skills, Kong established an outreach fellowship ministry in 1965 known today as the Ilikai Protestant Church that offers non-denominational Sunday services to thousands of visitors annually.

He also served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Wahiawa, Olivet Baptist Church, Central Baptist Church; executive director of the Hawaii Baptist Convention, and president of Hawaii Baptist Academy.

"He had a natural gift for leadership and preaching," the Rev. Mori Hiratani, retired pastor of Pearl City First Baptist Church, said of Kong, a childhood friend.

Hiratani and Kong graduated from Leilehua High School in 1946, a class that produced six Southern Baptist ministers. Hiratani's family were Buddhists, while Kong's mother was a Congregationalist and his father an Episcopalian. The Southern Baptist conversion for many Wahiawa youths at the time was influenced by the Rev. James Belote, who served at what is now called First Baptist Church of Wahiawa.

"Everything else was closed down from 1943-45," Hiratani said of the area churches. "Many of us had brothers and friends dying in the war, so it was a time when we had great questions in our minds about what life was all about. (James Belote) challenged us to commit our lives to the Lord's work."

Kong started college at Michigan State, where his roommate was George Ariyoshi, later Gov. Ariyoshi, but earned his degree from Georgetown (Ky.) College. He received his master's of divinity degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

"He had the unique ability to communicate the gospel because he walked the talk and lived the life," said Sharon Hagio, a longtime Hawaii Baptist Academy development office staff member. "He was truly an ambassador of Christ."

Kong, who retired as HBA president in 1993 because of health reasons, played a major role in the building of the academy in Nu'uanu, said Hagio.

Kong was president of the Hawaii Baptist Convention when the governing body of the local Southern Baptist churches authorized the April 1972 purchase of the Robertson Estate on Pali Highway for $553,000. The HBA campus was moved from the corner of Heulu and Liholiho streets to the new site in 1975.

"It was difficult to do a capital fund drive here because there just weren't many church members here," Hagio recalled. So Kong and then-HBA president Stan Sagert embarked on a Mainland fund-raising effort that secured enough money to complete the project.

"During the early years, Dan Kong spoke all over the south for six months, and as a result, the funding needed came from the Mainland," Hagio said. Mainland support contributed 70 percent of all building costs of HBA's three campuses.

The Ilikai Protestant Church ministry, a mission of Olivet Baptist Church, was started in 1965 by Kong and by former Honolulu police chief Dan Liu, a church deacon.

"He had the gift to associate day-to-day things with things from the Bible so it would apply," said Carol Oliver, ministry coordinator of the Ilikai Protestant Church, which honored Kong on its 40th anniversary celebration on Feb. 19.

Kong is survived by his wife, Mary Eleanor; daughters, Danette Poole, Verdine, Edna and Betty-Jo DeFries; sister, Eileen Kong Lovelace; and three grandchildren.

A service will be held Sunday at Olivet Baptist Church, 1755 S. Beretania St., at 3:30 p.m. Additional parking will be available at Central Union Church. Aloha attire.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions in Kong's memory to the Central Baptist Church building fund, 1717 Nehoa St., Honolulu HI 96822; the Kong Scholarship at Hawaii Baptist Academy, 2429 Pali Highway, Honolulu HI 96817, or the Maui Economic Opportunities BEST Reintegration Program, 99 Mahalani St., Wailuku HI, 96793.

Reach Rod Ohira at 535-8181 or rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.