Some of our ReachGlobal Crisis Response staff recently returned to Maui, this time to offer trauma care trainings and pastoral consulting to churches who expressed interest in responding last time staff were there. Most of these churches are about an hour away from Lahaina, but some are quite close to the neighborhood in Kula that burned too.
There were three trauma care sessions offered, and we had about 60 people show up all together. Some of the people attending just wanted to learn how to support the people affected by the fires, some had family and friends who had been directly impacted, and a few even lost their homes in the fire. It was a very emotional time for several of the participants, and our staff were happy to allow them the time and space to share their stories.
Between the first and second sessions, one of our staff members, Steve, went on a prayer walk in Kula and met Ross whose home was burned completely to the ground a few weeks ago. Ross was born on Oahu and had moved to Maui 30 years ago where he built his home and raised his children. Steve introduced himself and asked Ross if he wanted to share a little of his story.
Ross’ home is on the side of the mountain and has a ravine that runs behind it. The fire started up the mountain and was coming down the ravine fed by 80 mph winds. Ross and his neighbors gather water hoses and stood at the top of the ravine trying to keep the fire from spreading to homes in the neighborhood. The winds drove cinders up over the heads of the men and women of the neighborhood that were fighting the fire. There were also a couple of small fire trucks helping, but the larger trucks had been sent to help fight the larger fire in Lahaina.
The people in the community fought the fire for hours. Ross said at one time he looked up at the cinders flying above his head and it was like looking at a million red stars. He said, “It was beautiful, but also frightening”. Some of the neighbors were stationed at the top of the ravine and others went around the neighborhood putting out the spot fires caused by the falling embers.
A large tree came down on the far side of the ravine and knocked down the utility line which ignited more of the ravine. Then, after fighting the fire for hours, the water stopped. With no ability to continue the fight they had to flee. Ross and the other neighbors got into their vehicles and headed down the hill. As Ross looked into his rearview mirror, he saw his home begin to burn.
Steve told Ross that he could not imagine what that experience was like, and then asked him what was going on inside his head. Ross told him that throughout the fight with the fire, he was praying and asking God to help him and his community. He told him that they had a good neighborhood where people cared for one another, and many have known each other for years.
Ross also told Steve that news organizations and other relief groups had come by and asked him about what had happened. He had shared his story several times and even through this terrible experience, as he told his story, he felt God had given him joy, “pressed down, shaken together and overflowing”.
He knows he has lost material things, some which are irreplaceable. But he said that he and his wife Gail will be all right. It is hard now, but he and Gail are both safe, and they have a place to live nearby as they look forward to rebuilding.
The fire also impacted many of Ross’ neighbors, several of which also lost their homes. A couple of days after the fire he was talking to two of his neighbors and presented the gospel to them. They both accepted Christ. Amen!! Out of ashes God has brought forth new life.
Steve was able to share Ross' story with the second and third trauma care sessions as an encouragement to prayer walk and to invite those who experienced the fire to share their stories. We pray that many of the church members who heard the training will be able to use those tools to help others process their experiences the fire. God can use those moments to change lives eternally.
Please keep praying for Ross, and the others like him, who are facing a long road to be able to rebuild their homes and communities. Please pray for the churches to come alongside them and support them with real help and the hope of the gospel. We will continue to support churches on Maui as they consider how and where to respond to the fires, by offering additional training, consulting and resources. If your church is able to give, please consider supporting the long-term efforts there by giving to the Maui Wildfire Response.
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