Within 10 years, Opukaha’ia went from being an orphaned isolated, disheartened, Hawaiian speaking, idol worshipper at Kealakekua to becoming a world traveler, a student of English, Greek and Hebrew, a professing Christian, a church member, a candidate for Christian Ministry, a translator of the Scriptures into Hawaiian, the originator of a Hawaiian alphabet, a speaker who evoked positive responses for missions when making his appeals in English throughout New England. This memoir details the amazing story of a uniquely able, adaptable, alert, curious, educable, hard-working, unusually intelligent and very remarkable nineteenth century young Hawaiian. Opukaha’ia bridged the idol worship of the Pacific with the Christianity of the Atlantic. It is a story of suffering, pain and death. But it is also a story of healing, renewal and joyous faith. Opukaha’ia’s amazing story is an important part of Hawaiian and American history. It is hoped that this generation will take advantage of the opportunity to know, appreciate and share that story.
Reverend Edwin W. Dwight, a senior in Yale College, met Henry in 1809, when he discovered`Ōpūkaha`ia sitting on the steps of the college. When `Ōpūkaha`ia lamented that "No one give me learning," Dwight agreed to help him find tutoring. `Ōpūkaha`ia took up residence with one of Dwight's relative, Yale president Timothy Dwight IV, a founder of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, who instructed him in Christian and secular subjects. He had studied English grammar and the usual curriculum in public schools by the time he converted to Christianity in 1815, during the Second Great Awakening.