It’s been over three weeks since there were multiple fires on the island of Maui, including a devastating fire that destroyed historic and once beautiful Lahaina town. Please continue to pray for the thousands of people who have been affected. Because of dear friends freely opening their home to us for decades, Nanci and I often vacationed on Maui, getting to know and love people who live there, and sometimes speaking in churches.
It breaks my heart to see the burnt ruins of some of Nanci’s and my favorite places in Lahaina. But that doesn’t even begin to compare with the trauma experienced by the people who actually live there, and the extent of their heartbreak. Many have lost loved ones and friends, and others lost homes and businesses. Imagine the number of people who are out of work.
The official human death toll was 115 as of Wednesday this week. Initially, roughly 1,000 people were still estimated missing by the FBI; that list has been narrowed down, and there are 110 missing person reports. It is hard to escape the conclusion that a number of these may have died. Even without counting the unknowns, this was already the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in more than a century.
Pray especially for the faithful Jesus-loving churches on Maui. The two I’m most familiar with are Hope Chapel in Kihei and Harvest Kumulani in Kapalua. Pray that they will continue to be a light to the people, a refuge and place of safety as they reach out to needy people in the midst of such loss.
Here on our campus, we have received and ministered to over 500 families through our Donation Center and Kokua Fund to help them in this time of great need. The physical supplies and financial help are accompanied with a listening ear and prayer. There have been many tears shed and prayers offered with the hundreds who have been helped and ministered to.
…God has positioned us to meet great physical and spiritual needs and respond very quickly to those in need. Hope Chapel is here and committed to be the hands and feet of Jesus until he returns. The reality is that in the not-too-distant future, the media’s attention and the support from the government and national agencies will diminish. What then is left to stand with those who need it most? It will be the churches of Maui and those who partner with us to care for our island community.
And here’s a video and update from Greg Laurie with Harvest, showing side by side footage of Lahaina before and after:
We shot these 2 videos, placed side by side to show the utter devastation of the fire here in the city of Lahaina.— Greg Laurie (@greglaurie) August 29, 2023
I knew every square inch of this little town, and I had my favorite haunts. It so sad to see it gone. Worse than that, is the loss of human life, with many still… pic.twitter.com/cneLT3toaP
Last week I received an email from Warren & Annabelle’s in Lahaina, a place Nanci and I loved. We went there four times over the years to see their illusionist and card tricks show which was always hilarious. I will never forget Nanci, as well as our friends the Keels and Norquists who went there with us once, laughing uncontrollably.
The owner wrote, “One third of our employees lost their homes, their cars and their possessions. All of them now have no job or source of income and their lives have been shattered. It is heartbreaking.”
When I sent that email with a photo after the devastation to my son-in-law Dan Stump, he said, “It’s a gut punch.” Gut punch is the right phrase. For me, it’s been a reminder of what we know as believers, and yet so easily forget: that this world as it is now, under the Curse, is not our home. Not even close. “The present form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31).
A far better world will be our eternal home, and I think we will always have precious memories of times in this world. But I realize now I had presumed that until Jesus takes me home to be with Him and Nanci, and all of God’s people, I would always be able to go to Lahaina and walk the streets and go into those shops. I thought I’d still be able to eat a cheeseburger in Paradise and Kimo’s, and look over at Warren & Annabelle’s and be flooded with precious memories of being in that town with Nanci and our daughters and their families, and dear friends we’ve vacationed with. The memories are still there, but the same physical places that stirred the memories are not and never will be again.
I would not at all be surprised if there is a New Lahaina on the New Earth, and who knows—perhaps some familiar places there will be recreated. In any case, it’s a powerful reminder to set our mind on things above, to live with one foot in this world that is passing away, and one in the world with untarnished beauty that will never pass away.
Meanwhile, God gives us glimpses of paradise. I am grateful for every glimpse I ever got with Nanci. And one day it will no longer just be glimpses. It will be our actual lives, without separation and loss and evil and pain. Eternal life, and countless new and resurrected worlds in the New Heavens no human being set eyes on in this life. That doesn’t just keep me going. It fills my heart with happiness.
Thank you, Jesus.