Maui church houses evacuees, helps with relief after deadly wildfires
The Maui Church of Christ in Waihee, Hawaii, is housing…
Frank and Susie Splann were among those fortunate enough to escape the rapidly moving wildfires on the western shore of Maui, the Hawaiian island where the death toll now stands at 111.
They called Stan Frank, preacher for the Aloha Church of Christ, as they were evacuating Lahaina on the night of Aug. 8.
Frank and his wife, Lindy, invited them to stay at the yurt in the backyard of their home in the Waihee-Waiehu area, about 25 miles east.
“So they did and came with, I think, two pillows and a blanket and not much anything else,” Frank recalled, “because they thought maybe they would have to spend the night in the car and go back the next day.”
But they couldn’t go back.
The Splanns’ house was completely destroyed by the fires.
Of the Aloha church’s 20 or so members, they were the only ones directly affected.
The church has put outsized effort into helping its neighbors in the wake of the wildfires, which still have not been fully contained in some areas.
It was forced to cancel the following Wednesday night service in Kihei, a southern shore community that was also affected by wildfires. The Aloha church does not have a building and meets at two parks on the island.
But Frank said members had a brainstorming session Sunday, when they meet in the northern community of Kahului, to figure out what they could do.
“I’ve been teaching characteristics of the church the last four weeks and talked about, we’re really Christ on Earth and we’re ministers of reconciliation, so we need to be getting out there and doing things,” he told The Christian Chronicle.
The church allocated a few thousand dollars to relief efforts and has been buying supplies wherever it can find them.
“It’s funny, sometimes the shelves are empty and sometimes they seem to be full again,” Frank said. “My wife went almost immediately to Walmart and Costco and found quite a bit of supplies — everything from food items to medical, everything they listed — and took them to a distribution point from where they’re giving them directly to the families in Lahaina.”
The church has taken donations there a few more times, as well as to a nearby shelter. It’s also donated water bottles to an elementary school in Kula, where water has been contaminated by the upcountry wildfires.
As he visits these places — and helps at the local Chick-fil-A, which has been giving out free sandwiches to first responders — Frank said he continues to hear terrible tales of suffering:
“You hear all these stories of people coming in, and it’s just heartbreaking — especially Lahaina stories, where the fire was just so quick, and they’re actually finding … bodies in cars, and kids — it’s just awful.”
Frank said one of the older Hawaiian members of the Aloha church told him, “All the years I’ve been here, all my life, we’ve had hurricanes and water problems and disasters — but nothing like this one.”
The church has not asked for donations, but Frank reckons he’s had more than 300 calls from people offering to send support — from as far as Zimbabwe, his wife’s native country, and England.
“There’s just been an amazing outpouring of love and concern from folks all over,” he said.
And while many of the local shelters, food banks and disaster relief organizations currently have more volunteers than they can use, Frank said there will be more need in the coming days, and the church will continue its efforts to deliver supplies directly to the people affected.
Monetary donations can be sent to the Aloha Church of Christ, Maui, at 2035 Kahekili Highway, Wailuku, HI 96793.
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