As the people of Lahaina slowly continue to return to their neighborhoods following the horrific Hawaii wildfires, Baptist Disaster Relief workers in the area are preparing for more volunteers from the U.S. mainland to arrive in the coming weeks.
Two months ago, on Aug. 8, devastating wildfires swept through Lahaina, on the island of Maui. In a recent video update, Craig Webb, executive director-treasurer of the HPBC, reported that at least 97 fatalities have been confirmed and 2,200 buildings destroyed — 86% of the structures burned were residential.
In the video John Williams, co-director of Hawaii Baptist Disaster Relief, explained via Zoom, “We’re putting about 25 volunteers into Lahaina every day. Starting in about a week and a half, more will come from the mainland, that number will increase.” He added, “As more zones open and more people need help and support, we’re doing everything we can to be ready so that any homeowners want support and would like our help we are available to help them.”
The Environmental Protection Agency began opening selected areas of Lahaina Sept. 25, allowing residents to gradually return. Williams reported that additional zones were opening this week. “The goal is to open as many zones as quickly and safely as possible to get folks back in,” he noted.
Check out related stories on Hawaii’s wildfire here.
‘Standing with the people’
Williams explained that HPBC DR volunteers were, “very gently, very slowly reflecting the love of Jesus, standing with the people as they look at their property for the first time in their grieving. We are there to provide whatever help they need.”
Sometimes people need help locating their former homes in the rubble, Williams noted, and then they need someone to stand with them, pray with them, to be there as they absorb their loss.
Williams’ wife and co-director, Gay, explained, “We’ve sent a call out to all previously trained disaster relief volunteers in the entire state,” particularly those who participated in recent training. She noted they need administrative help to process a lot of daily paperwork.
Additionally, they need people to go into Lahaina, which is hot and potentially dangerous work. She said those going into Lahaina “wear full protective equipment from head to foot and goggles and gloves, so we need people who are healthy and can withstand that.”
The focus, she noted, is now on fully engaging the local volunteers as much as possible. Then those coming from the mainland are partnered with the locals to assist them in their activities. “The whole idea,” she said, “ is to point [the people of Lahaina] to Jesus and introduce them to a Christian who will care and continue a relationship long term, even to a local church.”
How to pray
The Williams outlined some specific ways people can pray.
For the people of Lahaina…
— Pray for patience. It’s really difficult to drive into Lahaina and see your home and not be able to go to it.
— Pray for their time of mourning. Many folks have lost not only their homes but their jobs.
— Pray for healing. People need time to absorb their loss as wounds are reopened and find their way forward.
— Pray for good rest for the volunteers.
— Pray for the Lord’s Spirit so we will know where to go and what to say.
— Pray for safe travels from wherever they are coming.
— Pray that the right people to come.
Hawaii’s Lahaina residents returning to homes after wildfires; DR efforts continue
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts continue in Maui — and will for a long time, said John Williams, co-director of Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention Disaster Relief. Displaced residents are expected to begin returning to their homes today (Sept. 25) in Lahaina in the wake of the deadly wildfires.
Craig Webb executive director-treasurer of the HPBC, recently posted a video interview with Williams providing a brief look at the current relief efforts. Located behind the two men in the video sat a special Send Relief trailer equipped with washers, dryers and showers. The trailer, Williams said, was shipped with help from Olivet Baptist Church, Honolulu.
Williams noted the trailer would be located outside of Kahului Union Church, where volunteers will be staying as they serve the people of Lahaina. The church is among those actively helping residents in the area and was the initial staging site for the FEMA disaster assistance center.
Read full story here.