Chaplain Nathan Kohashi, Pali Momi Medical Center

Sometimes our calling knows our name before we ever know it. In trekking on our journeys, preconceived ideas about our destiny and purpose can create a sense of irony when life has other plans. Plans we perhaps never thought were practical or possible. This situation was indeed the case for Pacific Health Ministry’s Chaplain Nathan Kohashi serving at Pali Momi. If life had always intended for him to be a person of spiritual service, this reality escaped him growing up. As he recalls, “my hero was my grandfather. I wanted to dress like him. When my parents went to church, the pastor wore a suit and tie. He was someone I didn’t relate to.”

If the initial notion of chaplaincy as a business of polished allure and charm proved to be off-putting, a college experience would demystify this world of spirituality. When a friend decided to invite him to attend service and meet with a minister, a man named Howard who would later become a mentor of sorts, unbeknownst to Kohashi, the event would steer him on the course to becoming the man he is today. Perhaps in making such a statement, it is most beneficial to describe the type of person he is. A sense of familiarity and comfort defines one’s interaction with him, even upon a first meeting. The gleefulness of his laugh proves to be infectious, while his exuberant personality and humor allude to his youthful spirit.

While seemingly minuscule details to include, Kohasi’s mannerisms make him most personable. The insight gained from a life experienced is peppered throughout jokes and lighthearted fun. His ability to make you feel important is most noteworthy, as he often sits silently throughout the conversation rummaging through the small details you reveal. His silent passivity and willingness to let others lead is a strategy he later reveals to be the key to his success as a Chaplain. 

“I deal in the simple things. Once you touch on enough small things, you make a profound impact. I know I am there to get the ball rolling, following the patient’s lead to form relationships. That is the secret . . . asking the right questions. As Chaplains, we try to figure out what is holding the patient back, allowing stories to flow naturally.”

In this way, trust is gained through individual agency, or more specifically, the patient’s choice to reveal intimate bits and pieces about their life, no matter how small. It is the business of humanity and interpersonal relationships–one that cannot possibly exist without trust and connection.

“How do you make someone a mother diagnosed with cancer feel better? I had a sit-down with God because I had no idea what to do in situations like that . . . What I realized during that conversation was that He wielded the power, and it was about me showing up and attempting to get out of God’s way and allowing him to work.”

While these nuggets of wisdom are brief examples of his profound knowledge, the man he describes in his early days is reminiscent of any young adult attempting to figure their life out– and please their parents. While initially going to school for accounting (his dad was a CPA at the time and had hopes that his son would take over the business), ministry’s appeal would grow stronger after seeing his mentor, aloha shirt and all, leading a church. Something about it all finally seemed to click and make sense to him. Ministry had a space he could comfortably occupy as himself.

His life to becoming a chaplain is best described as a slow and gradual flame. A passion ignited during the small everyday interactions and happenings of his life. All these years later, he demonstrates profound gratitude for the career that chose him. So perhaps it is true– what is meant for you will always find its way.