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All About Keneke's

Keith WardI opened my first restaurant in Waimanalo in 1983 in the Waimanalo shopping center and it did well. So, when four years later the lease for Keneke's current site in Waimanalo became available I immediately secured it. This expanded operation, however, brought with it a myriad of additional trials, including a massive flood that inundated the new location. The floodwaters,i though, only strengthened my resolve to build Keneke’s reputation as the finest plate lunch restaurant on Oahu—the overwhelming choice of plate lunch connoisseurs.

In 1989, I sold my original Waimanalo restaurant and focused exclusively on operating and managing Keneke's. During the grind of daily operations, however, I sometimes found myself in need of stimulating Christian conversation so I started putting a few tracks on the tables to create discussion. Once in a while someone would respond and say, “Oh, I see you’re a Christian. So are we!” Then they'd ask where my church was and we would talk story. It accented my day. I soon realized, however, that a lot of folks who didn't yet believe in Christ were just throwing the tracks away, and on windy days they would simply disappear. Then while pondering a solution to this problem, those four white walls in the eating area suddenly became blank canvases waiting for an artist. A short time later, several of my favorite scriptures adorned the bulwark. In addition, I had Ron Artis paint BC/AC in a prominent spot. This acronym for “Before Christ” and “After Death,” has always been an inspiration to me because there is only one event in human history that had the power to split time—the birth of Christ! I also chose verses that best represented Keneke’s “Fear God” power lifting team which I had initiated for neighborhood youth several years earlier. They include my favorite verse, Luke 12:5—“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.”

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This team began most unexpectedly on an Easter morning in 1998 at the First Baptist church of Waimanalo. An animated group of raucous 8th grade boys were eagerly planning a football practice the following week. However, eying their meager frames, I could see they were all in desperate need of weight training just to survive the sport, and I had a gym at my house. I offered to pick them up two days a week, bring them to my house for training, and take them home if they were interested. They jumped at the chance and “Fear God” power lifting was born.

Workouts began with a prayer and a short Bible study. Then we lifted for a few hours and prayed together before I drove the boy’s home. But the ride home proved difficult for the kids when it rained because my only vehicle was a pickup truck. This problem was solved by classifying power lifting as a special ministry to gain access to the church van. The church approved this plan and that summer our “special ministry” grew to about 30 kids. They were all over my house but we were all having fun!

When school started that year the kids committed to maintaining their lifting regimens. The Hawaii State Power Lifting Championships were being held on the Big Island that year, so I decided to take three kids to the state championship. They all won first place and set state records. Then, a few months later I noticed an announcement for a National Bench Press Championship in Southern California. I entered three of our best lifters and, once again, all three took first place and set national records.

By the second year we were at the World Championships setting world records and winning world championships. It became an inspiration to other Christians at these meets to see us in our “Fear God” shirts proclaiming the power and love of the Lord. People attending the meets would often invite us to visit their churches to tell about our “special ministry” and have the kids present their testimonies. In 2001 our number grew to 70 teenagers hungry for the positive effects of self-discipline and perseverance, and in 2002 I was selected by Governor Ben Cayetano as Child Advocate of the Year for Athleticism.

Currently, we are training young men and women at three locations. We also host regional tournaments here in Hawaii, flying in national judges, which benefits all the lifters of Hawaii. Kalama Valley Assembly of GOD, Hope Chapel Olomana and Hope Chapel Waimanalo have also supported us at the tournaments with much needed man power.

Over the years we've developed a reputation for conducting well organized, clean and fun family-oriented meets which provides opportunities to witness to the lifters and their families. But I think the most important thing we do is just show everybody love.

I would like to personally thank Mr. George Escher, Deacon of the first Baptist Church Waimanalo for mentoring me spiritually, and Mr. Stewart Wade, Coldwell Banker Kailua Office, for sharing his invaluable business acumen. Jeremy Harvey for building KENEKES.NET which launched the catering side of Kenekes.


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