Joseph Kanoho Keilikoa works at the Polynesian Cultural Center. He's a very friendly man, a very kind man and a very spiritual man. He lives with some disabilities, but that doesn't stop him from getting up each day and working his heart out. Joseph. or as his nametag says, "Chief" has been working with Photo Poly, which is the contracted photography team who takes the pictures of our guests during their visit to the PCC.
|I'm cheating by using one of my personal|
pictures to show you a PhotoPoly pic, but you get the idea...
(don't kill me, Audra....you look adorable!)
Every evening I can see Joseph walking up and down the paths of PCC, greeting the guests, making sure that things are running smoothly, and looking as if he is having the time of his life. I've found occasions to talk to him a little here and there, but never in depth.
A few weeks ago Elder Jones and I met up with him during lunch. He was on his way to work, so he stopped at our picnic table and just talked for a little. I was impressed with how he took the time to know how we were, and give words of encouragement and support. I thought to myself, there's so much more to know about Joseph. I'd like to meet with him and learn more. I asked and he said yes! He has been very generous in his time and support in allowing me to share his story.
Here is what I found out:
Joseph was born right here on the island at Hickam Airforce Base. Besides a few years in Japan as a boy due to his father's military career, Hawaii has been his home. He explained to me that early on his mom knew something was wrong with her little boy, but the doctors told her "he's fine, just give him time." It was just a matter of time before her intuitions and observations were validated. Joseph was diagnosed as profoundly deaf. He also had Cerebral Palsy. From then out, his mom took him to many specialists, had him go to speech therapy to learn to talk, and tried to get him the best care she could find.
When Joseph was around 6 or 7, his mom joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A couple of years later, his parents divorced. Joseph started to list out all the different schools he has attended in his life. There simply were too many to keep track of. Despite all the turmoil, it is clear when you talk to him that he is a man of deep thought and intelligence.
Joseph completed 1 1/2 years of college right here at Brigham Young University - Hawaii. Then he went to work. Through it all, he has kept active in the LDS Church. He attended all four years of Seminary (high school aged religious education made available to all youth) and following his graduation, he had a great desire to serve a mission. His mother assumed that he would not be able to go due to his disabilities, but his stake president told her "let him go." So at the ripe old age of 23, he was called to a mission to Arizona. But things didn't go exactly as planned and he actually ended up going to California for a few months, and then on to Minnesota. Joseph notes that he ended up serving in 3 different mission areas in 3 different states. This is most unusual. But as he says, "It's the Lord's plan. You have to go where He wants you to go." He shared that he loved his mission and that it was a very rewarding experience.
Most of the time he served in an American Sign Language mission, but because he had been trained to speak English, he had assignments in both speaking and non-speaking areas.
Following his mission, Joseph came home. A few years ago he married his dear wife, Korrie (one of the better computer wizards of the area, I might add) and started working at the PCC. I asked Joseph what he thought about working here.
He told me "people all over the world are affected by the Polynesian Cultural Center. They can see the light of the Savior and the meaning of ohana (family) here. The PCC is like another way of sharing the light of Jesus Christ with others. We don't preach, but we share His spirit. This place is something that they'll always remember for the rest of their life. It's almost like a mustard seed because it starts out small, and then grows and spreads. People say, 'there's something different here, you can just feel it.' They ask us 'what do you believe', 'why are you different', and we answer them," he explained.
Joseph then shared that "everyone has their own cornerstone that gives them strength. There are seven cornerstones in my life. My testimony first of all, the Savior and the Holy Ghost, my spouse, the temple, the scriptures, and my patriarchal blessing."
Joseph believes that we should all take the time to figure out what our own personal cornerstones are. "Sharing these types of blessings with our family and friends is what keeps us smiling."
I hope not to embarrass Joseph with a personal story, but I just have to share it. This last December, the Polynesian Cultural Center held their annual Christmas Lagoon, a beautiful celebration of the Christmas Story told through music, dance and dramatic reenactment. The story is portrayed through different stations along the PCC lagoon and the guests are conducted through each station in a PCC canoe.
Another part of the events is our Christmas Train - which consists of three 'cars' pulled by an electrical 'engine'. It is great fun for the children to ride.
One night the number of guests attending our lagoon was quite high and the roads and sidewalks inside the PCC were simply packed with people. The train would wind it way past the lines of people, the food carts and the various stores. Sometimes we actually had to ask people to move out of the way. I was stationed in the most crowded section. Whenever the train would come through I would walk in front of it calling out "step aside please, the train is coming". Obviously, through this section the train had to move very slowly - so it was not too difficult to keep ahead of it.
So there I was, walking in front of the not so speeding train. As the crowds parted, I saw Joseph walking towards me, also trying to clear a path. When he saw me, he got this look of great distress and yelled "SISTER JONES, THE TRAIN IS RIGHT BEHIND YOU. GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!" Joseph couldn't hear me say, "I know Joseph, it's alright." All he saw was me smiling and waving. He could not believe that I wasn't paying attention to his warnings. So he came right up, wrapped his bear like arms around me, and with my arms pinned down by my sides, unceremoniously hauled me out of harms way, literally dragging my feet behind me - thunk, thunkity thunk.
Joseph is probably a good 4 inches shorter than I am, so this must have been a Herculean task, but he was going to save me and that was all there was to it. I chuckled all evening at the thought of how it must have looked to him, this crazy missionary who didn't have enough sense to GET OUT OF THE WAY. But mostly I was impressed by Joseph's great heart. In that moment he changed from simply a friendly guy to a great friend. I mean, how else could you feel about a man willing to save your life despite yourself?
Joseph shared with Elder Jones and I some of his favorite scriptures. The one that really touched me is from the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price.
It seems to me that our friend Joseph is also one of the great ones. Great in heart, great in spirit, great in faith. He brings with him a level of patience and enthusiasm that humbles me. Joseph has a clear mission on this earth, and like others chosen by Heavenly Father for specific purposes, his path is neither easy nor direct. You see, its never about our perfection, but in utilizing our imperfections to highlight how the love of Christ can lift us all.
Thank you, Joseph Keilikoa, for reaching out and dragging me along this bumpy road of life. It's people like you who make it all so spectacular a trip.
Joseph wanted me to share his personal testimony. So here it is, in his own words. How I love the opportunity to let Joseph's voice be heard. I'm sure as you read you will see Joseph's beautiful faith and champion heart.: