Holiness in our Midst: Session 132

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Story Circle Prompt: Who/what/where is your ‘ohana? What can you do to nourish it?

As I sat down to ponder the concept of ‘ohana today (Aug. 28, 2023), there happened to be a front-page article about it in The Des Moines Register. The topic was top of mind, of course because of the recent wildfires in Maui, leaving more than a hundred persons killed and undetermined numbers missing. In cable news interviews after the fires, I heard both Native Islanders and frequent tourists reverently refer to the historic city of Lahaina and its neighborhoods as their “‘ohana.” Rooted in the Hawaiian term for “family,” “’ohana,” goes beyond biological relatives and refers to extended family and community members.

The Register article (by Bobby Calna Calvan, Joe C. Hong and Mike Householder) noted that after the tragedy “… the Hawaiian spirit known as ‘ohana endures.” The writers continued: “In the Hawaiian lexicon, ‘ohana is a sensibility, a way of thinking that means family, belonging, community and so much more – solace in a time of calamity It is a unifying principle in an increasingly fragmented world. And, in recent weeks, amid misfortune, the word has taken on profound importance in a place appealing for help.”

The tragic events in the Pacific prompted me to think about whether I have an ‘ohana now that most of my family have passed away or live in other states. My conclusion is that my ‘ohana for many years was centered in the Iowa small towns (Maxwell, State Center, and Nevada) where my maternal grandparents had created strong family-like community connections. In the present, though, I have focused on nurturing several mini-‘ohanas that serve me well: my tight-knit spiritual formation group called Prairiefire, through which I am studying to become a spiritual director; my circle of long-time friends; and my First Christian Church community in Ames, where I not only count on support for my social justice endeavors, but also where I have been tended to emotionally and even physically (during my time with cancer).

The recent news revealed the longstanding spirit of ‘ohana that shines through a people connected to one another and the land they share. When such bonds are established with love over generations, we see that they exemplify strength powerful enough to survive tragedy.


  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the question: Do you have an extended family circle/community that is your ‘ohana? Is it attached to a geographical location or an organization or group? Who has been there for you in hard times?


  1.  Read aloud Session CXXXII.
  2.  Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

Holiness in Our Midst: Sharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com

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