MAUI — The deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century has stunned Hawaii and the nation. The wind-propelled blaze leveled the historic town of Lahaina on the island of Maui, with a death toll of over a hundred and many more still missing, and the wildfire relief work is moving into a new phase.
Many of those who escaped the Maui wildfires have nothing to return to. Government and different aid groups are hard at work, but it’s the response of the Hawaiian people themselves that is surprised even veteran crisis responders like Sean Malone, founder of Crisis Response International.
Sean Malone – Founder of Crisis Response International:
People rose up. The local response of the Hawaiian people, the Hawaiian church, and people from surrounding islands was so great. It really elongated what we call the heroic phase. So after that initial shock phase, you have this heroic phase. Some people say it’s the honeymoon phase. And what that means is, hey, we’re going to get this done. We’re going to fix this. And we’re going to be back to normal as soon as possible. And all of this adrenaline and compassion, which is really good.
But as the weeks go on, some of the local response is slowing down.
They’re exhausted. They begin to hit the wall. And now, you know, the local church response and then, you know, relief groups staying longer term is really important.
Malone noticed one need that was overlooked.
And what we didn’t see is we didn’t see people getting debriefed or letting people just tell their story. And so we set up a talk story tent and really that’s full of our chaplains who are trained to be able to just listen and give appropriate feedback and say the right things. And so we’ve done a lot of that. We’re doing haircuts as well. You know, you wouldn’t think like that’s a top of the list need, but it’s a way to engage with people. People become vulnerable when they’re sitting in a chair getting their haircut and they open up their heart and we begin to talk story with them. We’ve seen that to be very fruitful. We’re debriefing first responders and the police, you know, they’re overwhelmed and they need ministry too. And you can imagine the stress and the burden upon them.
For the global church community, Malone has this request.
I would say this to anybody who’s praying for this response, that the church and the responders and the people who are coming in to assist would be attuned not only to God’s heart and God’s plans and purposes for the land, but that they would be attuned to the heart cry of the Hawaiian people.
And as more deaths are confirmed in the days ahead.
That’s going to be a really critical time for the church to be praying, even as it drifts out of the news, and really a time for the local church and believers to be able to walk alongside this community.
Their support will undoubtedly be needed in this devastated Hawaiian community for a long time.