Hawaii church provides disaster relief during hurricane, wildfire

Kahului, Hawaii

As Hurricane Lane charged toward Hawaii, one local church knew they had to do something for their community.

Tim Cruz, lead pastor of Kahului Church of the Nazarene, shared his experience during the early stages of the hurricane.

“We saw on the news a twirling storm mass 10 times the size of our island heading towards us,” Cruz said. “I witnessed panic in our Maui community as water and batteries went flying off the shelf.” 

Wednesday, 22 August, the day before the hurricane was expected to hit the island, the Kahului church was serving at Harbor Lights — a local condominium complex where the church has an outreach ministry — when they decided to partner with the local Red Cross to establish a shelter for families who lived in storm surge areas, the homeless community, and tourists who were trapped on the island. 

“On top of [providing resources to Harbor Lights], we also got a phone call that the Maui High School gym was being turned into an evacuation shelter, and the Red Cross needed help preparing it,” Cruz said. “So, our church helped serve there along with other Christian churches.” 

They provided clothing, bedding, water, food, and even coloring books and crayons for those who needed them.

“I was scared,” Cruz said. “Between taking care of my own family, our church families, [the families at the shelter], and also the families in the condominium three blocks from our church, it was just exhausting.” 

Local authorities announced Thursday evening that the hurricane had de-escalated to a tropical storm, but it still dumped nearly 60 inches of rain on the island. That is when Kahului residents heard news of a fire 30 minutes away in Lahaina.

“Then fire broke out on the other side of the island,” Cruz said. “We partnered with other churches to love on the community there. And I was wondering what God was doing in all this — why is He allowing this to happen?” 

More than 20 homes and 30 vehicles were damaged or destroyed in Lahaina and Kaanapali, and Lahaina was completely without electricity.  

Cruz and the rest of the church immediately shifted their focus from hurricane relief to the new disaster at hand. 

The Kahului church partnered with nearly 10 churches to provide relief — donating items and food for the fire victims. After the fire was completely contained, the churches cleaned up the local Lahaina Baptist church so they could use the building as a distribution center for the donated items.

Several Red Cross workers were so moved by the grace and love the church members exhibited that they attended service at the Kahului church the following Sunday.

“I had to come check out this church,” said the husband of one Red Cross volunteer. “My wife kept telling me about these church people that would come every day and donate to the shelter and even spend the night. So, I had to see for myself what you guys were about.”

Cruz received a sense of peace from what he witnessed amidst the disaster.

“I was reassured of His presence among His people,” Cruz said. “His face was evident and His movement was faster than the storm among the servant nature of His children.”

The Kahului church will continue serving their neighbors over the next week in Lahaina and neighboring areas.

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