Southern Baptists continue to serve, urge support for ‘devastated’ Maui

Southern Baptists are continuing to serve the “devastated” Maui community just weeks after wildfires decimated the island, leaving more than 100 dead. 

Several Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention churches are providing for immediate needs like shelter and supplies to displaced people.

In a recently released video, Send Relief President Bryant Wright spoke with Hawaii pastor Rocky Komatsu, who said three things Southern Baptists can do to support Maui are pray, give and prepare to come.

“The first is by praying for us. We are completely overwhelmed,” said Komatsu, pastor of Waiehu Community Church.

Craig Webb, executive director-treasurer for the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention, recently provided a video update featuring the state’s DR staff and volunteers.

“We feel like we have no idea even where to start, so pray for wisdom and pray for strength. Then also pray that the Spirit would go before us in all of our work, and work in the hearts of the victims who really don’t know how to process everything they’re going through right now.

“The second way is by giving. Your funds will help us to meet material needs and bring the hope of the gospel when we’re meeting these needs. The third way is by being ready with teams, when the time comes, to send teams to help us physically.”

Another Send Relief video included Jay Haynes, pastor of Kahului Baptist Church, talking about how the aftermath of the wildfires has deeply affected Maui and all of Hawaii.

“Maui’s a very small community, and every single person you talk to knows someone or has personally been impacted by the fires,” Haynes said.

“No one got away. Everyone is hurting, and we have lots of needs to meet financially, spiritually and physically.”

Wright exhorted churches to “begin to pray about what you and your church can do in giving and eventually in coming through teams to show the love of Christ.”

The ministry Southern Baptists are providing comes as information about the tragedy, as well as controversy surrounding it, continue to grow.

The latest confirmed death toll from the tragedy stands at 115, making it the deadliest wildfire in the country in more than a century. Maui County recently released the names of 388 people still missing after the wildfires. The list was compiled by the FBI. More than 100 of those have now checked in and confirmed to be OK.

Maui County also filed a lawsuit Thursday, Aug. 24, against Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) and its subsidiaries, alleging the company’s failure to shut off power despite warnings from the National Weather Service was a major cause of the wildfires. This comes in addition to a separate class-action lawsuit filed against HECO by law firm Morgan & Morgan on behalf of victims.

The lawsuits come amid allegations that HECO improperly and illegally removed damaged equipment, such as power poles, from post-fire scenes before giving national investigators the chance to examine the evidence to determine a cause for the wildfires.

Regardless of the fires’ origins, Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention staff are working to provide care for first responders and other non-profits working on the island.

In a video released by the convention, Craig Webb, newly named HPBC executive director-treasurer, said the state’s DR staff are volunteering at a facility in Maui that is housing first responders and others providing relief in the community.

After giving several examples of state convention churches ministering throughout the island, Webb ended the video by asking for continued prayer and support for Hawaii.

“We are really grateful for the support that’s being shown,” Webb said “This is going to be a long-term recovery.

“I’ve been really upbeat, but I need also for you to recognize that Maui is devastated by this, and all of Hawaii is devastated by this. It’s not only the loss of property, but also the profound loss of life. Please pray for Maui, and thank you for the support that you’re giving. Continue to pray for the pastors, they’re really weary.”

— Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.