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'Hands and Feet of Christ': Christian Response to Hawaiian Volcano Disaster


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Christians are responding to Hawaii's volcanic disaster by meeting physical and spiritual needs of the victims. The Kilauea volcano erupted Thursday following two weeks of volcanic activity.

Makana Delovio pastors New Hope Legacy Church on Hawaii's Big Island where the volcano erupted yesterday. He told CBN News church leaders from all denominations are banding together to coordinate and carry-out a plan of action to help the thousands of people affected by the volcano.

"It's been really cool," he said, "We have a really unique Christian community on the island. The fact that you can't get in a car and drive out of state brings us closer to one another. We pull together."

Pastor Delovio said "as soon as the volcano broke" a group of pastors from many different denominations that "don't agree on everything, except that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and Jesus is how you get to heaven" met to pray.

They also developed a plan for the network of churches, coordinating numerous services.  "There are two things going on here," Pastor Delovio explained, "Meeting the short-term needs, then not forgetting about the long-term ones."  He said despite the fact that the volcanic eruption is a disaster, the good news is it's a great opportunity to win people to Jesus. 

"We share the gospel," he said, adding, "When people are in the greatest need is when they're looking for God."

Pastor Delovio said some native Hawaiians refer to the volcano as Pele, a goddess to be worshipped. He said ancient, multi-theistic Hawaiian cultures offered sacrifices to the volcano goddess Pele, even human sacrifices.  

References to Pele as deity allow Christians to point out there is only one true God, "the creator of heaven and earth" and that the Bible instructs us to "put away false gods and take Jesus as Lord." 

Pastor Delovio said while ministering during a crisis sometime actions speak volumes. "During these times we don't have to use words. We get to be the hands and feet of Jesus."

He said pastors such as himself are encouraging their congregations to first and foremost pray; specifically that no one will be injured or killed and that the volcanic activity will cease. 

He said Big Island churches are not only partnering with each other, but also with the Red Cross. They're volunteering at several shelters. Workers are needed 24 hours a day, with two people needed to staff four-hour shifts. Churches that have kitchens are providing hot meals to shelters. 

Churches are also donating non-perishable food, water, paper goods, bedding and thousands of N95 Masks, also called "ash masks,"  to mitigate the effects of toxic gasses and ash in the air. Cash donations are also being given.

Pastor Delovio said long-term, victims will need a new place to live. So far about two-thousand people have been evacuated and nearly 40 homes have been destroyed.  "These people will not be getting checks from their insurance company," he said, adding he doesn't believe any of the homes were insured.  

Insurance companies will not insure homes near an active volcano, and as a result, the property there is inexpensive, with lots going for as little as $8,000.  Residents who earn an average of only 30-thousand dollars a year, typically pay cash for modest homes since a mortgage company will not issue loans for homes that aren't insured. Oftentimes the home purchase drains the residents' bank accounts.

Meanwhile, housing is hard to come by on the Big Island, especially affordable places.  

That's why pastors are issuing a plea to congregants who might have homes to rent. "We're asking people if they hear of a tenant who's put in their notice to leave soon, to offer the property to a volcano victim." 

Hawaiian Christians aren't the only ones helping volcano victims.  Franklin Graham says his Samaritan's Purse ministry is supplying respirators and has chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association ministering to shelters.


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