Update on Maui Wildfires
As you know, devastating fires broke out on West Maui where our church Harvest Kumulani is located on August 8. What started off as a small brushfire quickly escalated with 50 MPH wind gusts, carrying the flames down the hills into homes and businesses. The images are devastating as we see much of Lahaina burned down. County officials are estimating billions in damages.
We are grieved and heartbroken for those affected. The images of devastation that the Maui wildfires have wrought and the report of deaths that resulted have moved our hearts with empathy and compassion for the people of Maui.
An entire community needs food, water, shelter, medicine, and help to rebuild their homes and lives. They also need to grieve and have funeral services. They need the hope of Jesus Christ.
Our own Harvest family has been deeply affected by this disaster. Harvest Kumulani is our church in the Lahaina area with roots going back over 40 years. Our staff and church members have been serving this community and proclaiming the gospel for many years. Incredibly, we have seen over 2,000 people get baptized on the island of Maui in the past seven years alone!
The majority of our congregation on Maui works and lives in and around Lahaina, meaning that many at Harvest Kumulani lost their homes, jobs, or both in one night. But our church has a great sense of ohana; that’s Hawaiian for “family.” They’re pulling together. They’re caring for each other. You can see in the video below that our friend Dave opened his pizza shop for free pizza and free prayer!
Harvest’s Mission and the Harvest Maui Relief Fund
We praise God for the initiative that our Maui church ohana has taken, and because of this, Harvest is in a unique position to make a difference during this crisis. We have set up the Harvest Maui Relief Fund to provide support for our church’s local relief efforts, and so many of you have generously responded with your financial support.
Our team on the ground has been able to meet the immediate needs of people on the island of Maui with food, water, clothing, housing, and other tangible displays of love. We have also had pastors working around the clock ministering to people, praying with them, and helping people with everything from finding housing to answering life’s toughest questions.
Now, as we pivot to looking to the future, we are working closely with organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Blessing, and others to aid in the work they are doing. In addition, we have outreach plans of our own. We want to reach people where they are with the message of Jesus and the hope He gives.
What is hope? An acronym for hope is holding on with patient expectation. We want to bring help, hope, and perspective to people. And for those that don’t know Jesus, the hope of the gospel. And for those who believe, let them know that they are loved and that we care for them and are there to help them. We want to point people to Jesus.
We can shine in times of difficulty, as you saw with Dave’s story. This is what the church does best.
All of this has been made possible thanks to your generous gifts that continue to help us address specific areas of need in this hurting community, such as support for local teachers, housing, prayer initiatives, food distribution, church-sponsored events in the community, support for first responders, support to widows, and much more!
Here’s more on what’s been happening on the ground in Maui.
Who to Turn To
I have so many memories of coming to Lahaina since the 1970s. I knew every square inch of this little town and its familiar haunts. Dinner at Kimo’s. Visiting the Stoke House. The Hurley Store. Relaxing on a bench under the world-famous banyan tree in the little city park. Meeting people on Front Street from all walks of life—and from literally all over the world.
Earlier this summer, on a gorgeous Maui evening, Cathe and I rode a Vespa down Front Street, seeing old friends and savoring the memories of some of our favorite places.
But now it’s all gone. It’s an otherworldly sight. And worst of all is the incomprehensible loss of life—of men, women, and children. As of this writing, we don’t even have a firm estimate of how many perished that terrible day. At last count, the death toll was 115. But with all the people still missing, it’s bound to go much higher.
Touring the grounds of the burn sites, I was reminded of walking the grounds of the World Trade Center one day after September 11, 2001. The rubble was still burning and you could see how the devastation affected the first responders. We set up places for people to get food and prayer, and we had an incredible response of people asking for prayer. So many would simply ask “Why?” More specifically, “Why did God allow this to happen?”
I think many people in Maui are asking the very same question. But during times of tragedy, we should be asking some different questions. We should be asking, “Who?” As in, “Who do we turn to in times of trouble?”
The local government? That national government? Yes, of course. But human leaders and human answers will always disappoint and fall short. The real answer is Jesus Christ. When a crisis hits, no matter what it is, you can turn to “the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). You are not alone in your suffering. He is the One who will get you through. Even though the people of Maui have suffered immensely, my job as a pastor isn’t complicated. It is to point them to Jesus as the answer.
Sadly, the Maui devastation has already been pushed out of the headlines and the evening news by a thousand other stories—political intrigues, the escalating crime crisis, and the ups and downs of various celebrities. Many have allowed this tragedy to fade from memory as summer winds down and the school year begins.
But we won’t do that. We have had the people of Maui on our hearts for over four decades, and that won’t change. We’re here for the long haul, and we’re here to point people to Jesus.
Although so much has been lost on the island of Maui, I believe what remains is a strong foundation. For our congregation, it’s the foundation of Jesus Christ.
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