Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I will never forget my shock and growing horror as we witnessed those first images of the West Maui Fires. Words can never describe the magnitude of this tragedy. The historic community of Lahaina engulfed and obliterated by the flames. The harrowing stories of survivors fleeing by any means possible, including running for their lives into the ocean. While the loss of property is staggering, it is the unthinkable loss of fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, grandparents and friends that fills us with profound grief. At this moment our hearts are filled with mourning.
Yet, in this crisis moment when words fail, this amazing community has come together to love in beautiful and practical ways. I picture a line of people stretching from the shore to a single boat carrying much-needed supplies—each one passing to the next one the boxes of supplies that we take for granted but are now precious to the victims of this disaster. This scene has been multiplied in countless ways across Maui in meeting this emergency with care, kindness, and direct action in the midst of chaos.
I am so inspired and thankful for the tireless response efforts by the church family of the Hawaii Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Led by President Erik VanDenburgh and Adventist Community Services (ACS) Director Elder Mark Tamaleaa, along with a team of remarkable volunteers, they are truly the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing food, water, clothing, and shelter to those who have lost everything. But even more significantly, they are serving as the body of Christ, working amidst the fatigue, loss, and desperation of this moment. We are also so grateful for our partners from the North American Division ACS and Adventist Health Castle for their financial and logistical support in the relief efforts.
I am connecting regularly with Elder VanDenburgh to receive updates on the needs of the Hawaii Conference in this vital work. Based upon these conversations, the Pacific Union Conference is providing significant financial resources and is prepared to respond with further assistance as the situation unfolds in the coming weeks and months. At an appropriate time, I will travel to Hawaii to spend time with our Hawaii team to ensure our continued support in their rebuilding efforts.
With all these remarkable efforts going on right now, many are asking, “How can I help?” Elder VanDenburgh informs me that in addition to your daily prayers there is a great need for financial support. The Maui Fires Relief Fund has been established by the Hawaii Conference for just this purpose. Every dollar donated will directly support the work on Maui. Join me in giving; I believe this is one of the best ways we each can help our Hawaiian “Ohana.”
The work of healing and restoration from the Maui Fires will be a long process that has only just begun. We join the people of Maui in mourning the loss of their loved ones. In the face of unspeakable loss, our God offers the hope of rebirth and a future where meaning and purpose are revived. As the Psalmist says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” and “God is our refuge and strength” (Psalm 34:18 and Psalm 46:1, NIV).
So much that has been lost will never be restored. But the work that the Seventh-day Adventist church family is doing to serve the Maui community will go on. We join with our Hawaiian brothers and sisters as people of hope and faith who labor in the name of Jesus Christ. He is our Blessed Hope in every trial and travail of life. Assured by God’s great love, we will continue this journey of faith and service together.
In the love and hope of our Savior Jesus Christ,
Bradford C. Newton
President, Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists