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Local AG and Convoy of Hope Assisting Victims in Hawaii

Hawaii Assemblies of God District Councils, AG churches, and Convoy of Hope are working to provide relief to victims and first responders.
The lava flows emanating from the 20 fissures of the volcanic Mt. Kilauea has impacted some 2,000 residents in the south central portion of Hawaii (Leilani Estates) over the last three weeks, covering more than 2,200 acres with new lava. The flows have not damaged or threatened any Assemblies of God churches, but according to Pastor John Trusdell, the Big Island presbyter and senior pastor of Living Waters Assembly of God in Hilo, AG members have been evacuated from the area and many have family or friends who have either lost their homes or cannot return to their homes.

Despite the losses, AG churches in the area are working with other relief organizations to provide food, clothing, and shelter. Trusdell says that when the eruption first began, many people were on their way home from work, and now all they have left is their vehicle, what was in their vehicle at the time, and the clothes on their backs. Some of have been permitted to return to their homes and empty out their belongings, but toxic, corrosive gases still inundate the Leilani Estates area.

“There are acres of land on which all the vegetation is now just brown and dead from the gas,” Trusdell says.

The Teen Challenge Center (Home of Hope) on the Big Island has been evacuated several times due to the gases, but is not currently being threatened by the lava. Trusdell says that the center is about three miles from the nearest fissure and is uphill from the flow.

A big concern, however, is that the wind is expected to shift and blow to the northeast, placing the city of Hilo, the location of Trusdell’s church, in its path. “We’ve already seen a 30 percent increase in people going to the hospital for respiratory problems with the wind blowing the gas the opposite direction,” he says. “People are buying filters and preparing to stay indoors for the days that the wind shifts, but I expect the respiratory problems will greatly increase.”

District Assistant Superintendent James Texeira, senior pastor of The Hub Church in Kona, confirms that many are struggling with the poor air quality in the area affected. However, he adds that AG churches are working “24-7” to help evacuees.

Solid Rock Puna AG is working closely with the Red Cross to provide food and shelter while Sure Foundation AG has a professional kitchen where about 300 meals a day are being served daily and their gym is being used as an evacuation shelter.

Convoy of Hope has been in contact with the Hawaii District Council offices and is working with Hawaii’s Emergency Management. On Thursday, Convoy of Hope shipped a container with 42,000 pounds of relief supplies to the main relief distribution center in Hilo. According to Jeff Nene, national spokesperson for Convoy, the container is filled with food, water, solar lights, face masks, hygiene kits, and tarps.

Trusdell says that many of the church families that have been impacted have been temporarily adopted by other church families, while the district is helping to support the churches involved in relief efforts. Trusdell is also working on providing transitional housing for evacuees, explaining that after a hurricane, you clean up and rebuild; but with a volcanic eruption and ongoing lava flows, the timeline for return – if ever – is uncertain at best.

Although many of those who have lost their homes or simply can’t return to their homes have insurance, Trusdell says it is still uncertain if insurance companies will cover the losses, especially on homes not in an area designated as part of a disaster area.

“Pray for the evacuees,” Trusdell says. “They are under some really unbelievable stress of losing their homes and being forced out of their community because of the gases — many are retirees and don’t have anywhere to go. Also pray that the relief organizations can work together to most effectively meet their needs.”

For those interested in assisting the Hawaii District Council in its relief efforts, see its website, click on the “Big Island Relief Fund” image, and follow the instructions.

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.