Departing Foltz left mark on his church, community

WAILUKU – As their Sunday service concluded, churchgoers filled the outside lawn of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church to honor their departing pastor.

Marvin Lee Foltz served 15 years as rector of the Wailuku church and will be heading to St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Creve Coeur, Mo., with his wife and youngest son on Aug. 1. The church community celebrated his upcoming departure with food, music and a few fond memories from longtime members.

“He’s just been a friend whenever you need him,” said Rheena Acidera Campbell, who has been with the church for about 15 years. “It didn’t matter who you were, he would just join in.

“We’re going to miss his presence, especially on these grounds and around the church.”

Since his arrival March 31, 1998, Foltz has been a volunteer involved with various groups, including the Maui Food Bank and the Maui Chapter of the American Cancer Society.

“Our time on Maui was wonderful and the church was wonderful,” Foltz said prior to Sunday’s events. “We were blessed.”

During his time with the church, Foltz established the Ka ‘Ohana Kitchen, a Sunday meal program that has provided food for those in need for the past 12 years. He also heavily supported the creation of the Queen Emma Athletic Club, which provides teens with Olympic-style weightlifting training taught by five-time national champion Brian Okada and assistant coach Lawrence Kauhaahaa.

“I was just in the background supporting it, but it was very exciting to be there as it started,” Foltz said of the athletic club, which began in 2003 and uses donated space inside the church’s Sunday School classroom area. “We had some really good breakthroughs with kids who had been in trouble with the law or had difficult personal lives. They made some good solid relationships with the leaders of the club and gave them support to help them get through their teen years.”

Foltz also served as a chaplain for the Maui Police Department from 1999 to 2008, helping officers and their families as well as members of the public dealing with traumatic events. He assisted at Maui Memorial Medical Center until it hired a chaplain of its own in 2008.

In recent years, Foltz has continued his community service and has been looking to start an islandwide outreach program, A Cup of Cold Water, to aid homeless people. Parishioners with the church are hoping to launch the program by the end of the year.

“I met a lot of wonderful people in the community that I really admire and enjoy,” Foltz said.

Assisting Priest Linda Decker, who has been with the church for about 30 years, believes Foltz has served the longest of any pastor at the church in the past century.

She credits him especially for strengthening the church youth group.

“One of the things I particularly liked with all the kids, there’s a little smile that goes ‘whoosh’ across their face when they see him,” she said. “He would always kneel for the young kids taking Communion, and he’s always been interested and proud of them.”

Decker said some of the younger members that have grown with the church have been encouraged by Foltz to attend seminary school, and two have already been ordained as priests and deacons.

“He even encouraged me to be ordained,” she said of her recent appointment. “But it was a very gentle encouragement.”

Although Decker acknowledged Foltz’s success at the church, she said his interview for the Maui job years ago was inauspicious.

“I was on the search committee with the church, and we reviewed about 90 profiles,” she said of the potential pastors that were dwindled down. “We asked the short list to send us a video about themselves.”

Decker said Foltz had to borrow a camera from a friend, and when the committee watched the video it was shaky and he appeared pink on the screen.

“I had no reason to believe I would be selected,” said Foltz, who originally is from Kansas City, Mo.

“He was in the video . . . most of the time,” Decker said with a smile. “We were not impressed, but as we listened to it – after the first few minutes we realized that this is a person that we wanted to take seriously.”

Decker also remembered that after Foltz had arrived on Maui for an in-person interview with the search committee, he could not be located one Sunday because he already had been invited to go fishing with one of the families at the church.

Foltz said that after he was selected to lead the church and relocated to the Valley Isle, his wife and two sons were “very happy, so making the move wasn’t about ‘how much it paid,’ it was ‘Maui is wonderful.’ “

Foltz’s wife, Cindy, who has been a registered nurse for about 30 years and originally is from Chicago, remembered the move being a “culture shock,” but enjoyed raising a family on the island.

“Our children were very young, and they were raised with all the kids at the church,” she said of their sons, who have since graduated from college. “I think it was a great experience to be raised on Maui for them; they learned different cultures and different foods, so it was a very positive experience. But now our parents are getting older, and we have an empty nest, so it’s time for us to move back.”

Marvin Foltz, who finished packing up on Friday, agreed with his wife.

“When you’re making a move you don’t do it unless you’re thinking about everything,” he said. “In terms of my career choice, it’s the right time for me, and I think it’s the right time for Good Shepherd to look at a different direction too.”

The selection process for the next pastor will take about one year, Decker said, with Saturday and Sunday services to be led by interim clergy.

“Our families have grown together . . . but there’s nothing wrong with change,” Foltz said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at