Samaritan's Purse teams busy preparing response to Maui wildfires

Samaritan's Purse teams busy preparing response to Maui wildfires

Wildfire wreckage is seen Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. The search of the wildfire wreckage on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Thursday revealed a wasteland of burned out homes and obliterated communities as firefighters battled the deadliest blaze in the U.S. in recent years. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Samaritan's Purse teams busy preparing response to Maui wildfires

A ministry known worldwide for getting physical, emotional, and spiritual aid quickly to the scene of disasters already has its assessment teams on the ground in Hawaii.

Pictures of devastation from Hawaii's second largest island are rolling through phones and televisions in mainland America right now. The fires on Maui have been mostly contained, according to NBC News, but the death toll of 55 is expected to rise. AccuWeather estimates economic loss of $8-$10 billion.

Christian organizations like Samaritan's Purse are preparing their response but are in that time of anticipation, waiting for clearance from local leaders, before they can arrive and begin work.

"This is just horrific. The loss is just incredible, not just in property but in human loss, just the panic. We've heard stories of people running to the water to get away from this,” Samaritan's Purse CEO Edward Graham said on Washington Watch Thursday.

Samaritan's Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to victims of war, natural disasters, disease, famine, poverty and persecution in more than 100 countries.

They coordinate with local churches to target needs. The work varies depending on the disaster. In Maui, much of it will be just helping homeowners find something, any type of personal belongings that might help bring closure and move ahead.

Graham, Edward (Samaritan's Purse) Graham

"We've been talking to our church partners, we have a lot of churches there, and Samaritan's Purse has also responded to Hawaii in the past for flooding, so we do have trained volunteers there in the area who have worked with us and know how to assess,” Graham told show host Jody Hice.

Samaritan's Purse has some assessment teams already on the ground. Hospitals have reached bed capacity, but there's also the sense that the worst of the fires has passed.

"They're asking what we can do after fires. They're also asking about medical capabilities. Their hospitals are at 100% capacity. They're working and doing well. They can't take anymore, but they're okay. That will slowly start to come down as this fire is contained,” Graham said.

With flooding or storm damage, volunteers will often be tasked to go in and "muck out a home.” Many of the homes on the island have been completely destroyed.

"In this case with a fire, once we get the all-clear we'll go and start sifting for these lost home items, these wedding rings, and look for them for the homeowners. While our orange shirt volunteers are doing that, the homeowner's going to come out and ask 'Why are you here?' or they're going to ask us 'Has Jesus forsaken me?'" Graham said.

Samaritan's Purse can answer those questions to a degree, but the partnership with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is how emotional and spiritual needs are met.

"We also deploy with our rapid response chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. These are chaplains who are credentialed to be able to go during a time of crisis. They're allowed to go in and work with law enforcement and the first responders. They're trained on how to share the hope of Jesus Christ to those who have lost so much,” Graham said.

The ministry's website will have information when the response teams actually deploy.