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The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames along Wainee Street on Aug. 8 in Lahaina, Hawaii.
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Photo by Matthew Thayer/The Maui News via AP

Maui church houses evacuees, helps with relief after deadly wildfires

The official death toll stands at 96, and many more victims could be found, Hawaii’s governor says.

The Maui Church of Christ in Waihee, Hawaii, is housing evacuees and helping distribute emergency supplies after deadly wildfires on the island of Maui.

“We immediately the night of the fire opened our building as a shelter,” said a church member named Ashley, who did not want her last name published.

The congregation’s preacher has worked with authorities to deliver hundreds of gallons of fuel to Lahaina, about 25 miles away. The blazes devastated that historic town and killed at least 96 people. The death toll could rise much higher, warns Hawaii Gov. Josh Green.

A handwritten sign at the Maui Church of Christ in Waihee, Hawaii, details the disaster relief services available.

A handwritten sign at the Maui Church of Christ in Waihee, Hawaii, details the disaster relief services available.

“We’re providing people with showers, places to stay,” Ashley said in a telephone interview. “We have laundry facilities on site. We’re providing people with child care so they can get things together. So it’s just kind of all hands on deck right now.”

The congregation’s average Sunday attendance ranges anywhere from 15 to 60, she said. That’s because the number of members — some of whom are only in Maui part of the year — and guests varies from week to week. 

The first evening, nine tourists stayed overnight at the church.

“We were able to get them on a flight the next evening to their family and home,” Ashley said. “They were visitors, but they were members of the Church of Christ from Texas.”

For any Christians wanting to help, monetary donations are the best way, Ashley said.

Funds can be given online via the Maui church’s Venmo account or mailed to the church at 810 Waiehu Beach Road, Waihee, HI 96793.


Related: Prayers for Maui: Houses of worship burned; people of faith organize help


“Every penny of money that comes in — 100 percent — is going back out into the community,” Ashley said.

Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort Inc. normally dispatches tractor-trailer rigs full of food and supplies to areas hit by major disasters. In the case of Hawaii, that was impossible to do, but the national ministry, based in Nashville, Tenn., immediately wired $10,000 to the Maui church, according to its Facebook page.

Disaster Assistance CoC, another nonprofit associated with Churches of Christ, sent funds to Hawaii to help provide 2,000 meals, said Mike Baumgartner, its president and CEO.

Yet another ministry, the Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team, said it is “working on how we can best help the families in Maui.”

Matt Wallin, director of promotions for House to House/Heart to Heart, a Tennessee-based evangelistic publication, spent a month working with the Maui church in 2019.

“The Maui congregation is one of the most giving, outwardly focused congregations I have seen,” Wallin said. “When I was there, I saw the food bank they maintained. I believe it was the largest, most active on the island. Their disaster relief service is just an extension of things they were already doing.”

The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames along Wainee Street on Aug. 8 in Lahaina, Hawaii.

The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames along Wainee Street on Aug. 8 in Lahaina, Hawaii.

BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

Filed under: Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort disaster relief fires Hawaii Lahaina Maui Maui Church of Christ Maui wildfires National News Top Stories

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