Brian's Ramblings

My thoughts in text, photo, and video form

Sunday, April 24, 2016


"When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." -Alexander Graham Bell

[Editorial note: This entry was composed over the course of about two months, as I didn't feel it had enough substance for a quality entry.]

On March 24, 2016, I had the honor of being invited to share my testimony at Grace Bible Pearlside Church during their pre-Good Friday service. Pastor Norman Nakanishi sent a text message maybe the week prior. Whenever a pastor texts you with an invitation, it's always good practice to say, "Yes!" We got the details squared away, despite both our hectic schedules.

I prepared quietly on the Monday of that week (March 21), once I had my lesson prepared for my final technology thread class of the science course that I am involved with this spring. What people heard on Thursday evening (March 24) could have come across as short, easy to prepare. But, it really takes stillness and silence to find the best words to share the works of God through my testimony. I also read through Bible passages for deeper, and enhanced understanding.

My dad and one of my twin sisters, Lori, came home that same afternoon, after visiting my other twin sister, Lynn, my nephews (one is a newborn), and my brother-in-law in Oregon. They had a nice visit and were excited to attend service that evening.

Pastor Nakanishi knows me extremely well, as we met every Friday for many, many weeks either one-on-one, with his partner, Anthony "Tony" Holyfield, or in Grace groups (small group). He's heard more about me, but more importantly, from me than most people anywhere. My journey to have Jesus back in my life is really because of his steadfast commitment to lead seekers on that journey. As I shared in my testimony that Thursday evening, I explained that I overthink things, so it took some weeks for me to finally surrender my life to Jesus. If interested, you can view the service below:

The questions posed were about experiences that I didn't share publicly before, so preparation was more intense than other services I've spoke at; just because of the overall message being conveyed. It's always good to be challenged to rise above, as was the theme of the series for that specific Thursday.

I didn't know Russell Tolentino, who is a leader for the "young adult" ministry, would be asking the questions. This plays into the rhythm or tone of a conversation. Pastor Nakanishi and I have shared a service more than a few times, so our rapport is well-established. He can play off me, and I can do the same, usually. But it was nice meeting Russell and interacting with him, as he covered the Hawaii Warrior football team in 2007, when we had a magical season, with the hand of God rooted deeply in the heart of it. Russell had heard a lot about me, but didn't get to talk with me during that season, as he had bigger "fish" to catch like Colt Brennan, Davone Bess, Ryan Grice-Mullin, and Dan "the Iceman" Kelly, just to name a few.

This was the first time experiencing Grace Bible Church Pearlside's great new church facility. It is truly beautiful and comes alive with people giving all glory to God. The people of the church have always treated my family and I as one of their own, even if we don't attend this church - simply because of location. If I could teleport, I'd be at this church weekly to enjoy Pastor Nakanishi's sermon and fellowship with wonderful people. I left with my family that night, grateful and humbled with the blessing to share my testimony during a special service.

I did not expect to be invited back to Grace Bible Church Pearlside only about two weeks later. But, again, when a pastor invites you to share at church, say, "Yes!" Be obedient and place you whole faith in the hands of God.

On April 10, 2016, I spoke at all three morning services - 7:30, 9:15, and 11:15AM - for the church. The series was now "Go Beyond" and my testimony focused on the story of Abram, and I shared parallels based on how others judged him for face value, which translated into lesser expectations. During this testimony, I spoke about doors being opened and closed purposefully by God; we need to fully trust Him and be obedient by not remaining "stuck," looking at the door that closed. We could miss the door that has opened, potentially missing an opportunity to continue God's work. If interested, you can watch the service below:

This was another special opportunity, but one that I viewed as an opportunity to openly share and invite my friends and colleagues to church. You never know how such invitations will be received, but we MUST go beyond and not concern ourselves for being fearless warriors for God. For the first service, which I admit was earlier than I usually am awake on Sundays, my colleague, and her husband, with a mutual friend attended. This immediately made me understand that I was here purposefully. My mom's sister and brother (my aunt and uncle) attended, too!

Sharing testimony during a service is quite an exercise in endurance, as you're choosing to open up so many layers of your life; taking courage and faith to do so, knowing that your words might resonate with at least one person in attendance. The first service ended and I tried my best to greet everyone who came up to me before leaving. This is when I wish time could stand still, just so I could connect with people!

I had some moments to "rest," before the next service. Based on listening to my testimony that during that early service, I made small changes in my testimony with the intent to make my message clearer and easier to decipher. I also could add in a little more, as the 9:15AM service could run over the 60 minutes, unlike the first one. So, I included some humor. There's a very fine line as to how much levity you can inject into a testimony, while still being true to His word and expressing how powerful a relationship with God can be. The congregation laughed when I hoped they would, so I was relieved. Service concluded and I saw my colleague and wonderful friend. This was special, as this individual openly admits to not attending church regularly for personal reasons. The person's wonderful son attends another church and has encouraged his parent to attend. That lasted for one Sunday. So, having this person tell me that my message was enjoyable was wonderful! Of all the people I invited personally, and directly, this person was one who I really didn't know how this friend would take to my invitation. God places people where they are at all times purposefully, and I'm glad that I could see my friend after the service just to say, "thank you for attending!" I believe this service had about 750 people in attendance. Amazing.

After all of the handshakes and hugs, I went back with Pastor Nakanishi and his wife, Faye, to rest and relax. Talked a little Hawaii Warrior football, but not too much. We used the time just to enjoy the company of each other!

I fiddled with my testimony, again, trying to make it better for the final service. The 11:15AM audience was more reserved than the others, but they did laugh when I hoped they would. We finished our last service and I thanked Pastor Nakanishi, Tony, and William Lile (who was extremely gracious in hosting my family and I). When I was on stage, I noticed one of Hawaii's finest (HPD), standing guard just in case. As I made my way out of the beautiful warehouse converted into a place to worship, the officer came up to me, asked if I attended Easter Seals Hawaii in the past. I said I did, which prompted him to share that he worked with me when I was a kid, attending the after school program at the 710 Green St. location. Talk about the world being so small! He was happy to be present to hear me speak and we exchanged pleasantries before I departed. I left with an energy that is difficult to describe in words - I felt uplifted, rejuvenated, blessed, and ready to be more of a blessing to others!

We stopped at Sam's Club to fill the van with gas. As we pulled up to the open pump, I heard the couple on our right arguing about something. "Remember, you need to be blessed to be a blessing!" the lady reminded the man outside holding a credit card. God has a sense of humor, as just after having that said, the man looked towards his left and saw me in our van; "Hey Brian!" he said happily. He stopped complaining and pumped gas into his vehicle without further bickering with the female in the car. Definitely a God moment!

I share all of this to get to where I am today, as sometimes doors will remain closed until you take proper and just action to push the door open. Especially if opening a "closed door" could bless others, too! [This is getting ahead of myself, but this entry was created under unique situations.]

I had a wonderful afternoon of "meeting" with an incredible person at Kailua Beach on Friday about a month ago. We arranged to do a lunch meeting to discuss potential collaboration on a project. At the last minute, I came up with the idea of bringing lunch to Kailua Beach and enjoying that beautiful scenery that screams, "Hawaii!" all over it. Just smelling the ocean sea, having sand get on you despite not even stepping into sand, and watching people joyous in enjoying being outside - THAT is simply priceless, confirming for ME that Hawaii will always, always be my home. Nothing, at this point in life, could cause me to up and leave this place that others call "paradise." God's timing is always perfect, as I had been struggling with a "situation," for the lack of a better term. We enjoyed food from the California Pizza Kitchen, which took much longer to prepare than we anticipated. Fortunately, we had the luxury of time and used it to catch up on life. My friend has exciting things going on and I was happy to learn about them. We discussed life, and any other things that great friends do when trying to "catch up."

What I took away from the afternoon, was that my friend is beyond amazing, working on MANY projects, each requiring complete "presence" and energy. There are exciting things on the horizon and I'm just grateful that this individual believes enough in me to ask me to collaborate on a "project."

In trying to be obedient and going where God needs me to be, I've tried hard, and will continue, to make the most of my current "home" - the University of Hawaii at Manoa's College of Education's (COE) Department of Special Education. "Leave a place better than it was when you arrived" has been my guiding mantra throughout my years.

A major breakthrough has taken shape, as the COE, mainly the Dean's office (Dr. Beth Pateman specifically) has been instrumental in addressing concerns of the lack of accessibility at the location of the COE Convocation. Andrews Outdoor Theater (Amphitheater) is a beautiful locale, as the visual imagery highlights all that is beautiful and special in Hawaii. However, accessibility for people with disabilities, especially people with mobility challenges, was really poor and lacking. Students and faculty sat on the grass field, which could be accessed only by navigating many steps. Thus, attendees in wheelchairs, or people who have challenges in navigating steps, are "stuck" in the lodge area at the top row of the bleachers. At the conclusion of convocation, faculty are right there to congratulate students in their cohort or those who were in their courses.

I've had students and friends participate in convocation, but had to send someone down to the grass field to request graduates to come up so I could wish them well. Additionally, family members who may have mobility challenges would need to wait for their graduating relative to finish celebrating with friends before making their way up the steps.

On Tuesday, April 19, 2016 a major development began to take shape. With an advocate in the Facilities branch of the university, the COE leadership (Dean Don Young, Associate Dean Beth Pateman, and Aaron Levine), along with beloved colleagues and a supporter in Facilities, Nicholas Metivier, Andrews Amphitheater was fitted with a ramp, so people with mobility challenges could access the stage and the grassy base of the amphitheater.

When my sister, Lori, and I participated in Convocation together in 2001, I had to navigate through a back gate, pushing away foliage and making sure I would not fall off path, in order to access the stage. All students were in chairs on the floor of this venue, while administrators and program chairs sat on stage. I appreciated participating in this ceremony, especially with my sister, but the accommodation seemed odd. "Go with the flow, Brian. Just go with it."

To see change in action is really exciting! I did nothing special to ignite this change, all I did was make people aware that this was an issue. I wanted to participate more fully, especially after emphasizing the importance of "inclusive communities" in my courses. Any change has resistance and requires time. I was really excited to see these pictures, shared by Dr. Beth Pateman from Mr. Metivier:


Upon receiving the photos, I was genuinely excited. Yes, I was excited for a ramp!

The pouring of concrete was scheduled for today, April 23, 2016 at 8:00AM. This was a tad early for me to make the trek in to campus from Kailua to watch this step of the process. But after doing errands in Honolulu in the early afternoon, I went to look at Andrews Amphitheater. This is what I saw:

I also couldn't resist taking a picture with the newly poured concrete!

I'm not excited because I'll get to enjoy COE Convocation more fully, rather I share a great excitement for all of the other individuals who will benefit from this enhanced accessibility. This is for the young child with a disability, who may have challenges with mobility, attending a concert, a convocation ceremony, or anything else that will be held in this beautiful venue; this child won't need to fight the same battles that have been fought. This was never about ME; it was about making things better for ALL. "Leave a place better than it was when you arrived."

With the gates to Andrews Outdoor Theater (Amphitheater) opening more fully, I am extremely happy and grateful I'm around to see this "door" opening. Life needs to be lived in such a way that you can truly say, "I gave it my all" in whatever you're doing. I've tried to do this throughout my time in my department. That said, there are times when you need to be brutally honest with yourself, which could entail realizing a "door" could be closing. I'm extremely grateful and fortunate knowing that I have a place in the Department of Special Education for at least another year. There are many things I'd like to accomplish, such as advocating for even greater accessibility within the COE and university. I also want to motivate students so the Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC) can flourish and become self-sustaining without a faculty advisor leading the charge. 

There are MANY things left to be completed. I can't fathom being anywhere other than the COE at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I love my colleagues and I feel blessed to have the responsibility of preparing future educators. I'll keep pouring all of my being into all I do there.

On Friday, May 13, 2016, the COE Convocation was held at Andrews Outdoor Theater (Amphitheater). I eagerly attended, walking to the venue with my friends and colleagues from the Department of Education. Upon arrival, some chose to enter through the "common" route, which had about 4 or 5 steps. Another colleague and two students from the Big Island walked with me to the entrance for the ramp.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, I'll share an e-mail I composed for Mr. Metivier and the Dean's office on Sunday, May 15, 2016:

"Hi Nick,
I wanted to thank you for being the champion needed to start positive changes with accessibility at Andrews Outdoor Theater (Amphitheater). I happily used the beautiful ramp on Friday to attend the COE Convocation.
However, when told I would be seated on the stage, I admittedly was a little befuddled, as I thought the ramp would lead to the ground-level, where the chairs for graduates and faculty were located. I enjoyed sitting under the tent with my department chair and with other esteemed chairpersons; it felt just a tad strange to not sit with my students and colleagues.
I have pictures from this momentous occasion:
Inline image 1
Even my mom and sister were excited to use the ramp!

Inline image 2
Dr. Aaron Levine, myself, and my service dog were really happy I could attend!

Inline image 3
I don't know if signage will be put up at some point, but when I got to this gate, it appeared "locked," but a colleague realized the pole just needed to be lifted.

Inline image 4
These are the four stairs/steps that are the next "hurdle" to overcome.

Inline image 6
I would have loved sitting in this spot on the ground-level, with my colleagues and students.

Inline image 5
As Convocation concluded, students and families exchange lei, take pictures, etc. I couldn't help but notice (with another colleague) that this gentleman (in white, top left of picture) had to just wait at the top of the bleachers to see/greet who he attended the event for.
With all that shared, I AM extremely grateful for what has been done at Andrews. It's a WONDERFUL first step. I hope the ramp remains until a permanent "fix" is actually scheduled. I believe an article in the KaLeo mentioned taking the ramp down during the summer.
The four remaining steps/stairs seem like a very minor problem (but I'm aware it's complex), but I'm confident that a solution can be found. By doing so, there will be even more individuals happy to use the ramp! On Friday, the A/V people from CRDG expressed great appreciation, as they used the ramp to bring their gear/equipment into Andrews. Walking out of Andrews. someone with a sore knee used the ramp to get out of Andrews, lessening the amount of stairs needed to navigate.
If there's anything I can do to help this process, I would be more than happy to assist in any way!
Thanks again to Drs. Bateman, Young, and Levine for their steadfast commitment and support. And thanks again to you, Nick!
With great gratitude,

This was a challenging message to compose, as I definitely do NOT want to come across as the radical advocate for issues related to disability, who will constantly find things to complain about. However, something HAD to be said, so people could recognize that the project to make Andrews Outdoor Theater (Amphitheater) more accessible for ALL people is not completed, yet.

Yes, I could just skip COE Convocation, but this is the "fun" part about teaching; you get to see people grow and develop into highly capable professionals; my promise to attend every Convocation once Andrews is fully accessible will remain. Let's do the right thing and make it FULLY accessible, as opposed to partially accessible!

Perhaps, one of the greatest outcomes from attending the 2016 Spring COE Convocation came in a simple message from a student, expressing happiness and gratitude that I could be there and see them finish a long, challenging journey!

Will a door close? Will a door open? Will I need to knock a door down? Only God knows. Remember not to stare too long at any door, as this wouldn't allow for great things to come to life!

I must remain obedient and trust God will place me where He needs me to be!

*As of Saturday, May 21, 2016, no reply to my e-mail has been received*

Until next time...
Read more at:
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Alexander Graham Bell
Read more at:
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Alexander Graham Bell
Read more at:
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Alexander Graham Bell
Read more at:
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Alexander Graham Bell
Read more at:
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Alexander Graham Bell
Read more at:
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Alexander Graham Bell
Read more at:

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home