In the aftermath of the Maui fire, relief efforts will last for months, leaders said.
Published on: 08-18-2023
Adventist Community Services Disaster Response (ACS DR) of the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has joined the relief and recovery efforts in Hawaii, United States, and plans continue to take shape as organizations join hands to support those affected by the wildfires that recently burned through Lahaina and other parts of Maui.
Mark Tamalaa, ACS director of the Adventist Church’s Hawaii Conference, led local efforts by setting up a shelter in Maui, where the most damage has taken place.
More than 100 people perished as last week’s wildfires destroyed the historic town of Lahaina and left thousands of residents homeless. More than 270 structures were damaged or destroyed. The Maui Fire has surpassed the 2018 Camp Fire in California as the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century. Many were not able to evacuate when the main road that runs along the western coastline of Maui — also the only road in and out of Lahaina — was closed to most traffic while firefighting and emergency rescue efforts continued. That road reopened on August 16.
“We are housing just over 50 residents who have been burned out of their homes” at the Kahului Seventh-day Adventist Church, W. Derrick Lea, NAD ACS director, said. Lea has been meeting with Tamalaa, the Hawaii Conference leadership, other ACS workers, and other relief agencies. “We are uncertain how long this effort will be necessary, but the Hawaiian Conference has determined we will support those in need as appropriate. In addition to ACS offering this service, we are partnering with the Salvation Army, who is delivering hot meals and food to those being housed.” Spiritual care is also being provided to these individuals by ACS.
Lea reported that the State of Hawaii has asked Charlene Sargent, ACS DR director of the church’s Pacific Union Conference, to serve as a “subject matter expert” at the emergency operations command center (EOC) in Maui, assisting with the donations section. “This offers us an opportunity to have a representative on the inside of the operation who can provide information as to how the recovery effort is going,” Lea said. “We will stay in communication with the EOC through Charlene and plan on using some of our resources to offer distribution sites around the affected area.”
On Monday morning, August 14, ACS along with more than 150 other government and non-government groups, including the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), discussed the status of recovery in Maui,. As of that day, fires continued burning in three locations, and close to 5,000 residents were without power.
Although the Lahaina Seventh-day Adventist Church sustained some damage, the church property will likely be used as a supply distribution site as plans for how this might best be accomplished are being put into place. “Additionally, we are considering obtaining one of our shower and laundry units for service in the next few days. These efforts will have the support of the local ACS volunteers, and the Hawaii Conference is determining how this will be managed,” Lea said.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) has some supplies that could be used at a distribution site, Lea said. “Given our need, we have agreed to receive tents, shelter kits, and solar lights. These items will be used to support our operation in Hawaii and given to those in need in the affected area. We’re excited about the opportunity to partner with our friends at ADRA.”
He added, “This effort will go on for a number of months, and it is expected this historic recovery will last for more than a year. The NAD will support our local conference, and [we] appreciate all the prayers and support.”