About the Pastor

Barefoot in the Pulpit

To know Pastor Dennis, is to love him. Born and raised in Papakolea, a Hawaiian Homestead community on the island of Oahu, he has shared some of the hurts that came from being one of many children born into poverty. Yet, he learned to enjoy the simple things of life like improvised playthings, games, and a rich heritage of Hawaiian music and language. The way he tells it, you cannot feel sorry for him because you laugh at the same time.

Despite all this, as he entered high school, his frame grew muscular. He quickly was selected for the football team at Roosevelt High School. Surfing and canoe paddling also became his loves. He entered the University of Hawaii (UH) in 1967 as a freshman, continued his education in Southern California, and returned to UH in 1970 on a football scholarship. Pastor Dennis played both defensive back and quarterback for the Hawaii Rainbows, who were renamed the Warriors in 2000. When the football season was over, he easily made the UH basketball team.

There were still troubled waters in his lifestyle for Dennis to cross before 1993. He began attending Hope Chapel South Shore at the urging of his children, whose babysitters were Josh and Jason Nordgren, sons of Pastor Jack Nordgren. Soon Dennis was on the worship team, leading the evening service, and preaching for Pastor Jack when Jack had other commitments. As he matured in the Word, Dennis became Associate Pastor in 2001. In January 2007, when the Lord called Pastor Jack to start a Hope Chapel in Michigan, it made sense that Pastor Dennis would take his place. Shortly thereafter, the church’s name was changed to Hope Chapel Waikiki to better reflect the church’s location in the community.

Pastor Dennis has worked as a lifeguard for the City and County of Honolulu for over 25 years. During the week, he saves lives, and on weekends, he saves souls. Now a senior lifeguard, Dennis also trains junior lifeguards in one-week summer programs for kids.

Sporting Bermuda shorts, aloha shirt, a lei and bare feet, you’ll find Pastor Dennis assisting the worship team on the bass guitar or leading worship with his ukulele. He has written a number of worship songs. On Mother’s Day in 2008, he sang a song about his mother who died after being hit by a bus. It was so touching that many of us fought back tears. On Father’s Day, he spoke about his father’s final days and how he came to the Lord before he died. Dennis may not have a Bible college degree, but his real life is a testimony in itself, and his preaching comes from his heart right to our hearts.

In 2001, Pastor Dennis established an Easter sunrise service on Kuhio beach, which has grown over time in attendance from several hundred to several thousand tourists and residents alike. This service opens with the blowing of the conch, and the Bible to share being carried on an outrigger canoe. After the praise and worship, communion is distributed by scores of volunteers. Some volunteers come from the mainland just to help. Dennis also started, “Surfing with the King,” a surfing contest for all age ranges. Another outreach was a block party “Meet the Neighbors” inviting some 700 people who lived within earshot of our music to come free food, entertainment, and fellowship.¬†Additional outreaches include an annual community Thanksgiving dinner served at the Waikiki Community Center where we meet.

Still an avid surfer and canoe paddler, Pastor Dennis keeps his Bible handy and is always there with a word of encouragement or a prayer, whether it be for his flock or a stray sheep. His desire for Waikiki is to pray for all people living there by walking every block with other church members and praying over each building. It is a big vision, but then so is his heart. With God beside him, the sky is not the limit.

Written by Anne White