Volunteers Hard at Work on Maui

August 18, 2023 • United States

Following our DC-8 airlift to the island, Samaritan’s Purse teams are sifting through ashes, cutting burned trees, and ministering to homeowners in Jesus' Name.

U.S. Disaster Relief

UPDATE (Aug. 18): Samaritan’s Purse teams began serving in Kula yesterday at the home of Paul and Marina, who lost the house they were renting in the blaze. During the day as volunteers worked, an additional fire popped up in the woods on the property and they extinguished the flames. The team also cut down burnt trees and assisted in debris removal.

  • Volunteers prayed with a homeowner as they worked at her property.
    Volunteers prayed with a resident as they worked at her property.

As they sifted through the ashes, volunteers found numerous pieces of pottery, including many passed down within the family for years and one Marina had made in her youth. They also found a portion of her grandmother’s coin purse and some exercise equipment—all items that blessed the couple immensely.

“We just need all the prayers we can get at this point,” said Marina. “It’s our whole community. But my husband and I feel really lucky. It’s just a house.”

Please pray for all who are suffering in the wake of this disaster. Pray also for Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham Rapid Response teams as we continue to serve the people of Maui in Jesus’ Name.

Our DC-8 cargo jet airlifted a volunteer team and 17 tons of relief supplies from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Maui, Hawaii, on Tuesday, Aug. 15. Among many other items onboard were solar lights, cooking kits, hygiene kits, and plastic tarp to provide immediate relief to survivors of the deadly wildfires. The plane also carried tools and equipment that will help our volunteers sift through ashes to recover valuables and treasured mementos for devastated homeowners.

  • Edward Graham prayed with homeowners on Maui.
    Edward Graham prayed with homeowners on Maui.

Samaritan’s Purse Chief Operating Officer Edward Graham was on the flight to Hawaii. Monday night, he spoke on TBN’s Centerpoint program, “Sifting is extremely important. We may think it’s something simple, but it helps bring healing and closure like no other way for a homeowner.”

On the ground in Hawaii, Graham and Samaritan’s Purse staff members viewed the terrible destruction in Lahaina, seeing burned out apartment complexes and praying for a homeowner. The team also met with a local pastor.

“It’s complete destruction,” Graham said. “There’s not really anything to clean up or fix. So that’s why we do sifting. There’s a complete loss of hope. No one knows really where to turn. People here not only lost their businesses, their homes, but loved ones and friends.”

Graham is especially encouraged by how churches in Hawaii are responding to the disaster. “Church members were already working and setting up and building sifting boxes even before we got here,” he said. “So, the churches are hungry. They’re ready to respond, and they’re ready to run into this fire and love their neighbor.”

  • Volunteers are already hard at work staging supplies on the Hawaiian island.
    Volunteers are already hard at work staging supplies on the Hawaiian island.

Our disaster response specialists have been on Maui since last Thursday, conducting assessments and working closely with local authorities to determine when it is safe to move into the affected areas.

After arriving in Maui, Graham spoke to our staff and volunteers, reminding them to be sensitive in the midst of terrible suffering. “We know this is a horrible situation, so much loss and destruction,” he said of the deadly fires. He then went on to encourage them: “God gives us these resources, not to stay on a shelf somewhere, but He wants us to go out and love our neighbor. We get our name from the story of the Good Samaritan. We meet the immediate needs—we clothe, we give water, we give food, we give transportation.” All of our work provides us opportunities to share the hope that is in us, he said, the Good News that Jesus Christ has paid our debt to bring us to God.

Tragically, over 110 lives have been lost and many more are still missing from wildfires that sprang up on Maui on Aug. 8. Hurricane force winds were in part responsible for stirring a contained blaze into the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century. Sadly, the blaze destroyed much of the west side of the island, along with countless homes and businesses. Search and rescue efforts continue.

  • The deadly wildfire on Maui left little besides the charred ruins of homes and property.
    The deadly wildfire on Maui left little besides the charred ruins of homes and property.

“What has happened in Hawaii is nothing short of devastating,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse. “As the death toll has risen, my heart breaks for those who have lost loved ones and for the families who must now begin the long road to recovery. Please join me in praying for them and for our Samaritan’s Purse teams who are responding in Jesus’ Name.”

To sign up to receive updates about volunteer opportunities on Maui, visit spvolunteer.org.

Samaritan’s Purse is grateful for a strong network of church partners in Hawaii, built in part by our 2018 response to catastrophic flooding on Kauai.

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is also on the ground ministering to the spiritual needs of people who have suddenly found themselves in displacement centers due to the fires. These chaplains are also assisting local law enforcement offices with a variety of duties. So far, there have been two reported salvations.

Please pray for the suffering people of Maui and for Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham Rapid Response teams as they extend the comfort and hope offered in Jesus Christ.

Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 15 and updated Aug. 16 through 18.

Our DC-8 took off the morning of August 15 en route to the fire-ravaged island of Maui.

Our DC-8 took off the morning of August 15 en route to the fire-ravaged island of Maui.

U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of disaster relief volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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