A pastor at a chapel on the Hawaiian island of Maui has told Premier he believes around a thousand people are still missing after the wildfires began two weeks ago.
114 people are known to have died when fires, fanned by strong winds swept across the island.
Pastor Kirk Milhoan from Calvary Chapel in the south of the island says he fears the death toll will rise much higher:
“Our world changed dramatically. It is a small island and when catastrophe happens like this, it has a large reach. I think there are over 1000 people still unaccounted for and it’s fair to say we expect that all of those will eventually be considered dead.
“They've described this as the worst natural disaster in terms of loss of life that has happened in over 100 years.”
Pastor Kirk said everyone was ‘in the dark’ with no means of texting or phoning when the fires began. He described hearing stories of “people running for their lives and jumping into the water. The water was very rough because of the winds and we think many people were blown out to sea. The stories are horrific. One family was able to jump in the water but they couldn't get their grandfather to jump in and they watched him catch on fire. So even the survivors, what they watched, what they've experienced, is really horrific. That’s what the church is coming alongside to do.
“Survivors have lost friends and loved ones, fathers, mothers, grandparents, children that were lost in this fire. Also all the people who live on tourism, now suddenly have no income. So it's just layer after layer of difficulty. But what we have is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have the Word of God that says, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ We have a good shepherd in Jesus Christ.
“I believe is Jesus cares for us so much. This is how I find my own peace with the situation. It’s not that God doesn't care, he cares so much that He will do anything He can to get our attention. To bring us back to Him. Just like the nation of Israel, he has often allowed people to go through horrific things. So what I try to bring forward is that God has gotten our attention. And that's because God loves us so much. He wants us to return to Him. So in different ways, that's what I'm trying to walk the people through. We have to have a pause, he is trying to get our attention, and what is our response? I believe our response is to turn back towards him. In Second Chronicles it says ‘If I send pestilence, if I send famine, if I send the locusts, but if those who are called mine by my name, will humble themselves and pray that I will heal their land.’
“So when I look at all the healing that's required in our land, right now we have physical healings required, we have financial healing that's required, we have emotional healing that's required. But most importantly, we have spiritual healing that's required.”
Pastor Kirk recalled one family who had lost their life savings in the fire and all their possessions. They had also escaped into the ocean for safety. They went to the church for food and clothing and shared their worries for their young children. Then one of the church members came over and gave them their car and signed it over to them:
“The family said they had never seen anything like this. And this is God’s love. So maybe God did get their attention and now is helping them. I don't have to figure out all the things of God, I just know that I'm in this position and how I can direct them back to the Saviour. He is the only one who can heal this horrible hurt.”