Hawai‘i bishop thanks supporters for Maui wildfires relief effort contributions

By Shireen Korkzan
Posted Jan 3, 2024

A view of damage cause by wildfires in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, U.S., in this undated picture posted on Aug. 11, 2023. Photo: Office of the Governor Hawaii Josh Green/Handout via Reuters

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of Hawai‘i has received $942,812.00 in donations since a series of deadly wildfires killed 100 people and destroyed Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Lahaina, Maui, along with hundreds of other buildings, according to a letter from the bishop.

“I have been moved to tears by all of the love and generosity,” Hawai‘i Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick said in a Dec. 28 thank you to donors.

Donations to the Bishop’s Pastoral Fund, A Cup of Cold Water or Holy Innocents’ Episcopal church ministry came in from all over the world.

The Bishop’s Pastoral Fund, which provides direct response to individuals and local organizations in need of financial assistance, has received $538,320.00, $285,091.00 of which has already been spent or used. A Cup of Cold Water, the diocese’s Maui-based community outreach program operated by the island’s four churches, has received $237,806.00. Holy Innocents’ Episcopal church ministry, which supports the congregation as parishioners continue to meet at a United Methodist Church in nearby Napili for Sunday worship, has received $166,686.00.

“The rebuilding of Holy Innocents’ Church in Lahaina is likely years away. The reclamation of the land and the required civic planning will take some time. The entire town was decimated,” Fitzpatrick said in the letter.

Fitzpatrick said the current foci of the diocese’s ministries are on assisting Maui residents and the island’s four Episcopal parishes: Church of the Good Shepherd in Wailuku, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kula, Trinity Episcopal Church By-the-Sea in Kihei and Holy Innocents.

“The greatest gift has been your solidarity and your prayers, thank you,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “These months have reminded us in Hawai‘i of our need for one another and to trust in God’s Love.”

The Rev. Heather Mueller, who was ordained at Holy Innocents in 1981, occasionally assists A Cup of Cold Water with distributing necessities to unhoused people throughout Maui. She told Episcopal News Service that money donated to the diocese will continue to fund basic living needs, but now the next step is to also help provide financial access to mental health resources.

“If you know anything about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs … you start out with the basic needs of security, clothing, food, shelter, etc., and then the next needs are emotional,” Mueller said. “That’s where we are with a lot of people now.”

Between Aug. 8 and 11, separate wildfires across Maui prompted the evacuation of more than 32,000 residents and tourists. The worst of the damage was experienced by Maui’s western community of Lahaina, population 12,700, where Holy Innocents had stood since 1927. One of the victims who died in the wildfires was a parishioner of Holy Innocents.

The Maui wildfires are the deadliest in U.S. history since the 1918 Cloquet fire that killed 453 people in northern Minnesota and the deadliest natural disaster in Hawai‘i since the 1946 tsunami that killed more than 150 people.

-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at skorkzan@episcopalchurch.org.