On August 8, the people of Hawaii woke to high winds from Hurricane Dora blowing across their islands. Little did anyone know that within hours those winds would turn deadly, fanning wildfires among the islands, leaving behind smoldering buildings and lost lives. As I write to you, the death toll is up to 99 and still rising.
The United Church of Christ holds all who are affected in prayer. Through Wider Church Ministries, the UCC also has issued a special appeal to provide essential items and long-term support to those impacted by the fires.
The island of Maui was hardest hit, where the fires quickly consumed the historic city of Lahaina. Located on northwestern Maui, the once whaling center is home to 13,000 people and attracts 2 million tourists yearly. What is left now is more than 2,170 charred acres and the ruins of more than 2,200 homes, businesses, schools, and churches. If you have seen any of the news footage, you will agree with me that the destruction is unbelievable and heartbreaking.
I am reminded of a time when Elijah had an encounter with the Holy in the wilderness (1 Kings 19). Winds roared, the earth shook, fire raged – and in the aftermath, God was present. God came to Elijah in what is variously translated as the sheer silence or gentle whisper that followed. Friends, we have an opportunity to share the presence of the Holy in the aftermath of these destructive forces.
Already, local congregations are providing resources including clothing, food, and shelter. The Hawaii Conference is active, and the United Church of Christ’s Global H.O.P.E. team is working with Hawaii Conference Disaster Coordinator Danny Tengan, in consultation with Hawaii Conference Minister Rev. Dr. David Popham and other leaders, to assess the situation and walk alongside them.
You can help as well. Your donation to the Hawaii wildfires appeal helps the United Church of Christ increase support to immediate relief efforts and enables us to be present for the journey ahead, assuring long-term aid for persons who require assistance with their recovery.
Blessings and peace,
Rev. Josh Baird
Team Leader, Global H.O.P.E.