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Hawaii Baptists offer help to volcano victims

PAHOA, Hawaii (BP) — With a volcanic eruption on Hawaii’s Big Island in its third week, the state’s Baptists are preparing to feed evacuees at area shelters and requesting prayer for the region’s tourism industry.

“It’s a very complex situation out here,” Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention (HPBC) disaster relief director Darrell McCain told Baptist Press. “The media” wrongly “makes it sound like the whole state” is affected. “But it’s a very small area” on the Big Island. Still, to those in the lava flow’s way, “it’s devastating.”

The Kilauea volcano has destroyed at least 40 structures since it began its latest eruption May 3, according to media reports. In addition to lava damage, the Big Island’s eastern edge has been threatened by acid rain and toxic gas plumes stemming from the eruption.

More than 2,000 residents have been evacuated from their homes, and this past weekend the first serious injury from the eruption was reported when a man sitting on his porch was hit in the leg by a “lava bomb,” according to CNN.

Disaster relief units with the HPBC have been asked by the Salvation Army to feed two meals daily to 300-350 evacuees dispersed over three shelters in Pahoa and Kea’au, McCain said. That feeding operation is scheduled to begin early next week.

Last week, a shower trailer was stationed at Puna Baptist Church in Pahoa and served several families each day, McCain said. Nine member families at Puna have been evacuated from their homes, and two have lost their homes to lava.

In addition to HPBC relief efforts, local churches have ministered to evacuees, including efforts by Ohana Church in Hilo to help families evacuate their belongings and a prayer tent set up outside a shelter by Kohala Baptist Church in Kapaau.

Craig Webb, HPBC assistant executive director, requested prayer for Hawaiians on the Big Island who work in the tourism industry and are worried “sensationalist” media coverage will drive away business.

“A lot of” tourist areas on the Big Island “are fine,” Webb told BP. “But folks are canceling trips. I was there yesterday preaching in one of the churches and prayed for a couple who are … very concerned because their income is commission-based income from tourists.”

In a May 21 update, the U.S. Geological Survey stated, “Additional explosive events that could produce minor amounts of ashfall downwind are possible at any time.”

For more information on Hawaii Baptists’ response, visit www.hpbaptist.net.