SBC Life Articles

Reaching Hawaiian Homeless

Dave and several of his friends could not believe what was happening before their eyes, minutes after praying that God would send someone to help them in their time of need. One hundred-plus volunteers wearing yellow T-shirts with large letters proclaiming "Jesus Saves" were arriving from Valley Isle Fellowship.

Dave and his friends were among about fifty people living just off the edge of the Kahului harbor in Maui with a breathtaking view of the blue Pacific. One might think this place is a seaside national park, but instead it is an area of town where homeless people, singles, and families with children make their home in a combination of abandoned cars and tents connected with makeshift walls covered by an occasional tarp, without the luxury of electric, water, or sanitation utilities.

Valley Isle's senior pastor, Dick Smith, and Gary Hamrick, the Southern Baptist congregation's pastor of evangelism and student ministries, call the area the "Kahului Breakwater Community."

The area had been the focus of an intentional outpouring of kindness each Tuesday for the past several weeks, as a team had been prayerwalking the neighborhood and meeting the residents who, at first, were reluctant to interact with church members.

This project of compassion evolved as a recommendation from Valley Isle's mission team to the church's staff. As the congregation completed a "40 Days of Community" emphasis, the outreach became sealed in the heart of missions team leader Vince Bagoyo and his wife Jennifer during one of the Tuesday prayerwalks. At one point during the prayerwalk, Bagoyo recognized one of the homeless as a former high school classmate.

A month of intense planning and prayer preceded the outreach scheduled the day after Veteran's Day and at the conclusion of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention.

Early on Saturday morning, more than a hundred men, women, and children assembled at Valley Isle just after sunrise. Some of the volunteers bagged canned goods, fruit, vegetables, water, and soft drinks in addition to preparing hot meals to feed the homeless and the volunteers alike. Others focused on assembling and packing first aid and hygiene kits, blankets, carpet, and cooking utensils.

Reflecting on the weeks of preparation, Smith stated, "I want God to do something exponential, and we believe He will do it today." Smith noted that "this is the largest community outreach ever attempted by Valley Isle Fellowship, but the people are excited and are going with great anticipation."

Departure for the convoy of trucks loaded with supplies and cars filled with volunteers was set for just after the noon hour for the ten- to fifteen-minute ride to the homeless community.

As the volunteers arrived there and Dave and his friends joined in the mission, it was like an army had invaded, as each church member began the pre-assigned task to find every resident and invite them to lunch. Some residents recognized the group from the prayerwalks and responded quickly, but some were reluctant to leave the security of their makeshift homes out of uncertainty over the yellow wave of people moving across the barren seaside location.

While the resident children were being entertained with planned games and activities, the army of compassion began to divide into smaller groups to continue the acts of kindness, with some bagging trash, others driving trucks to carry off large items for disposal and still others carrying bedding, pots and pan kits, and fruit and vegetables to the individual living areas, always staying ready to share the blessed story about Jesus and His love. Many volunteers listened to the residents' stories, some quite incredible, about their hardships.

It is difficult to describe the scene as people gave and received acts of kindness, words of affirmation, and numerous testimonies of God's love.

In a brief closing session with the volunteers, Smith thanked his congregation for giving of themselves, allowing God to use them as individuals and a church to share compassion and the gospel to those in need.

In the crowd of onlookers was the mayor of Maui County, Alan M. Arakawa, who had stopped by during the afternoon. With Pastor Smith alongside, Arakawa thanked the many volunteers for the kindness shown to those less fortunate who reside in this makeshift community by the sea.

Concluding the afternoon, Smith announced as the volunteers rejoiced that hearts had been miraculously touched — six people had prayed to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, and others had expressed receptive hearts to future visits by the team.

As the sun began to drop on the horizon, the sunburned, tired, but jubilant crowd folded up camp and returned to their vehicles, knowing in their hearts that God had allowed them to serve this day in His name for His glory. One could only imagine the ride home for those who had seen lives changed by the gospel by serving faithfully and engaging in conversation with the residents in the often-forgotten community at the "breakwater."

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  • SBC Staff