Maui Fire Relief

Personal Message from Pastor Paul

Dear Friends,

It was just over a week ago that the Maui fires devastated people’s lives, with death and destruction. Even though just a week ago, it seems like it has been a month. We are all so tired and still reflecting on all that has been lost. But I do have to say, that the personal calls and outpouring of support does help. And it helps in ways that are hard to describe, other than saying thank you!

I first want to tell you quickly about what River of Life Mission has been able to do. We are calling it Phase 1, and then I want to tell you about what we are doing to move into Phase 2. And before I even begin, I have to say thank you Jesus, because again, just like in our last year of going mobile and our HUB model – God has worked miracles beyond our hopes and prayers. And we praise Him daily, because that is the God we know and Him just upholding His promises. So all praise first and foremost to our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ.

When the fires hit, I was receiving tons of information, and lots of ideas on how we could help. Again as in my first letter, I knew there would be major organizations doing the heavy hitting, so I decided to focus on something simple. A close friend sent over a list of ideas on how we could help, and sandwiched in the middle of her text was the idea of stuffed animals, and the incredible comfort they bring to kids who have lost so much. And I was just compelled that that was what God was calling us to do. The whole time with the idea that a “stuffy” would just be a foot in the door to sit, talk and care. Well, God showed up and we have received and delivered thousands of stuffed animals to kids and families in Maui. We have lots of pictures but the two below brought me to tears. The picture of the little boy, clutching the stuffed animal says so much – he is an older boy that usually wouldn’t hold a “stuffy” that tight, but the look on his face is the one of sorrow, and you can see him just holding onto hope – in the form of a stuffed animal. The second photo brought everything full circle for me. The hope that a stuffed animal would just bring an opportunity to care. And that care came with a hug, and a stuffed animal. With both photos, tears were flowing. 

So now onto Phase 2. Again something only God could do. We were blessed to bring a stellar young man from Bob Jones University on staff a couple years ago to help in the kitchen, and then he had a heart to lead an intern program for people to come from other states to learn how to care for the homeless. Then about 5 months ago we expanded his position to be our “teams” leader which includes interns, short term teams from other states, and weekend teams from local churches and youth groups. So he is now a “teams” pro and he will be hosting teams on Maui, and has become the guy everyone is looking to in the teams effort. How amazing is that?

So our Phase 2 is going to be having a River of Life Mission staff member on the ground in Maui, coordinating teams from Maui, Oahu and other states, in the relief efforts on Maui. And this is huge, Josue is an amazing young man, and he is one of the best I have seen at what he does.

We also are pulling from our collective leadership at River of Life Mission, who have had years of experience doing disaster response, that we will steer our teams toward a very focused outreach of leaving space to just sit and talk with people. Let me explain, and I think this personal story from my life will bring a quick understanding of the direction we are headed:

I personally started doing disaster response when the Katrina flooding happened and I was in Haiti 10 times after the 2010 earthquake that took 250,000 lives. When Katrina happened, I went on a scouting trip with a small group of pastors to see what local churches could do to help. We went with all kinds of ideas and plans. One plan was to not just do research on how to help, but to actually spend a day serving and helping. So this small group of pastors went to the store and got supplies to bleach mold on flooded walls. We got full body smocks, full face goggles, gloves, buckets of cleaning supplies, tools and bleach. Off we went to a lady’s house ready to tackle and destroy mold on every wall, and this precious little lady came up to me and said, “Pastor Paul, would you all mind taking off all your gear and just sit with me and talk with me?”. And so we did, and we talked all day. And when we left, she thanked us and told us that we had given her the one thing she really needed – someone to talk to, and hear what she had been through.

When disaster strikes, everyone wants to help with stuff, and everyone wants to sling a shovel – which is amazing. But we have to really consider what people, who have been through disaster, are needing. And they just want someone to talk with them, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to care.

So in Phase 2 we have been blessed to have some of our staff from River of Life Mission, stay on the ground in Maui and start hosting teams. We have been working with teams for years and our staff is excellent. Our team has things set up, and they will host you, and we will get stuff in people’s hands that have needs, and sling shovels – but most importantly we will focus and create space to just sit with people and talk story.

Thank you for supporting us during this tragic time, and we know that your giving will help in significant ways. So thank you and mahalo in advance!

In Him,

Pastor Paul Gates
River of Life Mission, Executive Director