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Hawaii sees ‘incredible witness’ amid hurricane, fire

HILO, Hawaii (BP) — Though Hurricane Lane dumped more than four feet of rain on some parts of Hawaii, the state’s Baptists say the storm will be remembered for God’s protection far more than destruction or injury.

Prayers for Hawaii offered by fellow believers “have been amazing,” said Darrell McCain, disaster relief director for the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention (HPBC). “God has answered the prayer by just taking a Category 4 storm and basically destroying it before it had a chance to do anymore damage. We’re real thankful for that.”

Lane was barreling toward Hawaii as a Category 4 hurricane last week, but it downgraded to a tropical storm over the weekend and spared the islands from the damage some anticipated. Still, on the Big Island more than 50 inches of rain fell in one location between noon Wednesday and 4 a.m. Sunday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. The resultant flooding led to evacuations and water rescues along with landslides and road closures.

Mudout and chainsaw crews from the HPBC and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention are expected to begin work Aug. 29 on more than 30 flood recovery jobs on the Big Island. DR leaders also will assess whether crews are needed on Maui, where a brush fire charred some 2,000 acres stoked by Lane’s winds.

The fire caused some of the most significant damage associated with Lane as more than 50 Maui residents lost their homes, according to The Maui News.

The flames came within yards of Maui’s Lahaina Baptist Church Aug. 24, but firefighters were able to save the facility from damage, pastor Jay Wright told Baptist Press.

In the fire’s wake, about 10 Maui churches of various denominations banded together to collect donations of food and personal items, Wright said. Church members went door to door in the affected area and asked, “Can we provide you food, water, clothes or cleaning?” One church assembled a chainsaw crew to help clean up damage.

“The outpouring has been incredible,” Wright said. “… Churches that might not even agree [on all theological issues] came together in order to serve our community — an incredible witness.”

The Maui News noted the response of Lahaina Baptist and neighboring Waiola Church and quoted one local resident as stating, “It’s just astounding what happened. The community is the one taking these [evacuees] in, and the government is not doing one thing to help.”

On the Big Island, Pastor Alan Tamashiro of Puna Baptist Church said flooding prevented some church members, including the congregation’s worship leader, from attending worship Sunday. Flooding also canceled praise band rehearsal Friday. So Puna Baptist worshiped acapella Sunday and sang from hymnals.

Because of Lane and a lava flow that has caused damage on the Big Island since May, a resurgence of worshiping the Hawaiian volcano goddess has occurred among some residents. But Tamashiro said he has seen a resurgence of a different spirit: “the spirit of the Cooperative Program,” Southern Baptists’ unified method of funding missions and ministries in North America and across the globe.

“We really are thankful and grateful and very humbled by the outpouring of love from our brother and sister churches across the nation,” Tamashiro told BP.

Fellow Big Island pastor John Endriss of Engage Church in Hilo said damage “should be a lot worse,” given the 40 inches of rain that fell over three days. “God has spared us.”