Amidst serious concerns as to whether government agencies appropriately handled the aftermath of a firestorm in West Maui, Hawaii, that killed 106 people with a death toll expected to rise, one thing is certain – local Hawaii, and mainland U.S. churches and ministries, have already activated relief efforts.
Samaritan’s Purse, which is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization “providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world,” landed a DC-8 cargo jet with a volunteer team and 17 tons of relief supplies from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Maui on Tuesday, Aug. 15.
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Less than a week after the devastation, Harvest Kumulani Chapel, about 10 miles from the town of Lahaina, asked those in attendance at its two Sunday services, whether anyone needed housing or other assistance. Members of the church were not only ready to help fulfill the requests but stayed after both services to pray for those needing help. This is the same church that recently celebrated 2,000 baptisms since forming seven years ago.
Harvest Kumulani Chapel is a part of evangelist Greg Laurie’s Harvest Churches in Southern California. Joshua Morris, who is executive director of strategy and advancement at Harvest, told the Washington Times that sharing the Gospel and prayer is essential during this time on Maui.
“Coming into the weekend, we didn’t have power. There was still no telecommunications so there was no way to get the word out,” Mr. Morris said. “Thankfully, we were able to talk to some of our teams that were on the ground. We told them that one of the most important things that we can do right now is get the word out, going from house to house and letting people know that the church is still open.”
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In an email to the Washington Times, Mr. Laurie shared that many of Harvest Kumulani’s congregants and staff have been deeply affected by the fires, with some losing their homes and many with their jobs hanging in the balance.
“There are very real needs right now, like basic supplies, housing, and employment,” he stated. “We are so grateful for the humanitarian organizations like Samaritan’s Purse that have come to support those needs. We believe, however, that our mission is to address the spiritual needs of the people of West Maui. The Church, and more specifically, our church at Harvest Kumulani Chapel has the mission to go and preach the Gospel like never before. Many people are asking spiritual questions. They are looking for hope and we want to be where the people are, there to help point them to Jesus, the one who is able to comfort them in this time of need.”
Mr. Laurie states that he believes the death toll will rise dramatically.
“Our church is mobilizing like never before. We are planning outreaches, prayer booths, worship services, and most importantly, a regular gathering every Sunday morning for people to come together and listen to a message of hope,” he said. “As Christians, we acknowledge that bad things happen in this world. The fires on Maui last week were just that; bad things. But, as Christians, we look to God in the middle of our pain, because He can heal wounds, mend broken hearts, and comfort us when all else fails. And through Jesus, and the sacrifice He made on the cross, we have access to that loving God. That is the message we are proclaiming on West Maui.”
In his email, he adds, “If you or anyone would like to stand beside us as we minister to the Maui community, you can go to [visit Harvest Maui Relief Fund] for more info.”
Although Pastor Mike Kai’s congregation at Inspire Church is in Oahu, many of his members are ready to take the 40-minute flight to the island to help in any way needed. They are only waiting for an approval from any one of the six Maui churches their church is supporting during this time.
The Hawaii-born pastor told the Washington Times he believes the people of Hawaii are “the most unique people in the United States of America…. Separated by bodies of water between eight different islands. And when anybody in our community hurts, that’s how we are. It’s called ‘malama.’ That means help. That means care and protection. A lot of the nature of God is in the Hawaiian language… The people are super resilient, but they’re also hospitable and loving, and that’s why they’re going to be okay.”
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