Time and time again, we hear the refrain from progressives that conservative Christians fail to love their neighbors. And time and time again, stories emerge that reveal conservatives Christians quietly and faithfully loving and serving their neighbors. Southern Baptists in Hawaii are doing just that during this most recent eruption of Kilauea.
As the eruption of Kilauea continues, more and more people on Hawaii’s Big Island have been displaced. Geologists are now warning that a large, explosive eruption could happen soon, sending ash and rocks miles into the sky. The dangerous gases being released by one of the world’s most active volcanoes poses the greatest threat to the most people. Presently, close to 2,000 people have been evacuated. However, as the eruption event continues, it’s difficult to estimate just how many people are going to be affected by Kilauea.
Chris Martin, executive director of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press:
Congregations on Hawaii’s Big Island have banded together to pray, secure housing for some of the area’s 2,000 evacuees and, beginning next week, operate a mobile shower unit.
“The main focus of our people so far,” Martin told Baptist Press, has been ministry “to the needs that are immediate. But our history and our practice has been a long-term presence with those that have been affected by disasters.”
“Stepping in to meet needs,” Martin added, will “open great doors” for Gospel witness.
The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts have been well-documented, and the HPBC is proving to be no exception. On top of the official relief aid being provided, individual pastors and church members have been busy assisting families displaced by the volcano eruption. Using trucks and other vehicles, they have been helping move belongings out of homes threatened by the lava flow.
Members of area Baptist churches have been affected alongside their fellow community members,
At Puna Baptist Church in Pahoa, Hawaii, 10 member families have had to evacuate their homes and two of those homes have been destroyed by lava, associate pastor Rob Thommarson told BP.
“What we’ve done immediately is try to help all the families get into some immediate emergency housing,” said Thommarson, himself among the evacuees. “Everybody is staying with family, friends and church members.”
If the evacuation “continues for weeks or months,” Thommarson said, Puna will attempt to move its evacuated members into “intermediate housing” with more privacy.
The local Big Island Baptist Association’s mobile shower unit has been moved onto Puna’s parking lot and likely will begin serving residents early next week, said Thommarson, a retired International Mission Board missionary. A prayer tent nearby will be manned by volunteers available to pray with evacuees.
Local churches of various denominations will band together to provide evacuees with food and clothing, Thommarson noted. A community prayer meeting is scheduled for Friday evening.
As the eruption continues—with the possibility that the worst is yet to come—it’s great to hear stories about Christians demonstrating the love of Jesus to those who have been affected by Kilauea’s eruption.