News by email Donate


Top Stories

Most Read

Popular Videos

Hawaii picbanner.JPG
Hawaii pic.JPG
USA News

'Hope is greater than fear and hope is on the way': Salvation Army responding to Hawaii wildfires

by Donna Birrell

As aid agencies and charities rush to support people after the wildfires in Hawaii, a Salvation Army director is urging people to send monetary donations, not material goods. 

Victor Leonardi is the church’s Divisional Director of Emergency Services and Safety in Hawaii. He has just flown back to Maui after dealing with typhoon damage in Guam: “Maui is where I live, it's my home. I’ve been redeployed back home to help with the Maui. I arrived at sunset and took a picture of Lahaina in the distance – it looked like there had been a volcanic eruption as it looked as though it was covered with lava. There was definitely an atmosphere of sombreness at the airport too.”

80 per cent of Lahaina which is a major tourist destination has been destroyed.

Victor Leonardi said: “It’s a tragedy. It makes it harder because we are an island. Many generations of families grew up here and when you have a tragedy like this, there's nowhere really for you to go. You can’t get in a car and drive to the next town. You don't have that option. So many people lost their homes, their businesses, their jobs and where do they go? A lot of people are staying in their cars right now.

The Salvation Army is co-ordinating aid with its churches across Hawaii and further afield. But he fears one of its churches may have been destroyed by the fires: “Unfortunately, unofficially, one of our churches, and the Corps Officer with the Salvation Army, their home, their church and the Salvation Army thrift store are all in the same property. They had to flee as it was on fire and we believe it was destroyed. But we haven't been able to go back there to confirm.”

At least 55 people have been killed by the wildfires which started on Tuesday, however hundreds more are said to be missing on the island of Maui. Victor Leonardi says that The Salvation Army is supporting people who have lost everything: “With The Salvation Army we always say is Hope is greater than fear – and hope is on the way. This is the time where people are often in shock, not even sure what has happened. And then once the road opens for them to go back to their area, they will see the devastation as well in their real eyes, in real life. And that's going to bring in a lot of emotion and a lot of trauma. So that's where the emotional and spiritual care part comes in with The Salvation Army as well.

“Here in Hawaii we are trained to specialise in mass care feeding, feeding everyone and that’s what we're doing. We're feeding in the shelters and we have that under control. We’re trying to coordinate all the food resources.”

However he urged people not to send material donations of clothes or food as they are overwhelmed and can’t handle the influx of items. He says financial donations are the best way to support so they can purchase what's needed locally.

Tens of thousands of people, including tourists, have been evacuated

“People are just camping out in the baggage claim area sleeping on the on the floor. So they're stuck trying to get home. I believe some people might be camping out there because they have nowhere else to go.

“We know that God is the God of comfort. So we want to pray for comfort for the families in a time of just not understanding. God works in mysterious ways. At the beginning people will challenge him and ask Him why it has happened. That’s where the emotional and spiritual care comes into it. God can do amazing things through new beginnings. There is still many things to come that will be fresh and new, that we won't see right now. Pray also that God would just open up doors and give us wisdom on how to approach this so that it goes smoother than we ever think it can.”

A Monthly Gift Of $11 Makes A World Of Difference

In a world of fake news there’s never been a greater need for quality Christian journalism. Premier’s mission is to provide the Church with the most up to date and relevant news, told from a Christian perspective. But we can’t do it without you.

Unlike many websites we haven't put up a paywall — we want to keep our journalism free at the point of need and as open as we can. Premier’s news output takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. No one in the USA is sharing news like we are across radio, magazines and online so please help us to continue that today.

For a monthly gift of $11 or more we’d also be able to send you a free copy of the brand new Premier Bible, a wonderful Anglicised version of the NLT packed with exclusive bonus content, reading plan and resources to help you get the most out of scripture.

Your monthly support will make a world of difference. Thank you.

Support Us
Continue the conversation on our Facebook page

Related Articles

Sign up to our newsletter to stay informed with news from a Christian perspective.

News by email