'Hungry for a message of hope': 100 make decisions for Christ in aftermath of Hawaii wildfires

Worshipers participate in a 'Hope for Lahaina' event at the Ritz Carlton in Maui, Hawaii, where Harvest Christian Fellowship Pastor Greg Laurie led two worship services that drew about 3,000 people.
Worshipers participate in a "Hope for Lahaina" event at the Ritz Carlton in Maui, Hawaii, where Harvest Christian Fellowship Pastor Greg Laurie led two worship services that drew about 3,000 people. | Harvest

Around 100 people professed faith in Jesus at worship services held in wildfire-ravaged Hawaii last week, the culmination of Harvest Christian Fellowship's "Hope for Lahaina" outreach efforts to share the hope of Christ with a community devastated by the deadliest wildfire in the United States in over a century. 

Evangelist Greg Laurie of the California-based Harvest church network held two outreach events on April 28 at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua Hotel in Lahaina, Maui County. Harvest's location in Maui County opened in 2016 when Kumulani Chapel merged with the multi-campus network. 

Considering the fires that destroyed the historic town of Lahaina last August killed over 100 and displaced over 6,000, Laurie told The Christian Post this week that "people are hungry for a message of hope." 

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"When you've had everything taken from you, when you've lost a loved one, or you've lost your home, or all of your belongings and all of your family memories … in that ash … that really impacts people," he said. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centers for Environmental Information states that the wildfires were the deadliest in the U.S. in over a century. Data from the Pacific Disaster Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency shows that more than 2,000 structures were "damaged and destroyed" in the wildfires, inflicting over $5.5 billion in damages. 

"Hope for Lahaina" consisted of two services and over 3,000 attendees. The Sunday night service featured worship led by Leeland and a performance by Danny Gokey of "American Idol" fame. 

In an X post this past Sunday featuring a three-minute video documenting highlights from the services, Laurie stated that "100 professions were made for Christ." Video footage from one of the services shows Laurie asking, "What do we do when the bottom drops out?"

"What do we do when we don't think we can make it another day?" he asked.

"We look to God," he replied. "There's a book that God has given us that has hope in it, and that book is called the Bible. This is where you're going to find the hope that you need." 

Pastor Greg Laurie speaks at a 'Hope for Lahaina' event in wildfire-ravaged Hawaii on April 28, 2024. The church services, which took place at the Ritz Carlton in Maui County, drew about 3,000 people.
Pastor Greg Laurie speaks at a "Hope for Lahaina" event in wildfire-ravaged Hawaii on April 28, 2024. The church services, which took place at the Ritz Carlton in Maui County, drew about 3,000 people. | Harvest

"Hope has a name: it's Jesus," he continued. 

Laurie told CP that the church "respond[ed] immediately to the needs of the people, which were many" after the fires last summer. 

"One person showed up at the church; … his house burned down. He didn't have any food. He didn't have clothing. He didn't have anything, so we have set up something called the Maui Relief Fund and people generously gave to that," he said.

"We were able to provide food, clothing, water, even payments for some people … having to get [a] temporary residence and other things, and so that was just one aspect of what we did."

He said the church sent Christian mental health counselors to help people process the grief of the tragedy. Harvest's Maui location held events for children and teenagers, including movie nights, focusing on faith and providing relief. Laurie described it as trying to provide an "oasis in the middle of this desert" and a "moment of calm in the middle of a storm." 

"Hope for Lahaina was something that everything was building towards. We wanted to do what we think we do best, which is proclaim the Gospel," Laurie said. 

Laurie said that the church provided people who made decisions for Christ at the event with a "New Believers Bible," which includes a New Testament with notes written with new believers in mind. 

"Then we follow up with them within 24 hours or so with a phone call," Laurie said. "We also contact them by mail, and if they're … anywhere near us, we reach out to them personally in every way we can to get them out to the church again," he added. "So … it's pretty extensive."

"We do everything short of being intrusive in our follow-up process," Laurie asserted. "What I've found is if a person really wants to continue on in their faith, they will respond to one of these things that we do. And if they don't want to, then they won't. So … we do everything we can do to integrate them in church."

With 1,000 attending the morning service and 2,000 attending the evening service, Laurie is happy with the turnout, considering the island's population. 

Comparing the island's population to the much larger population of California, Laurie remarked, "That would be as if we had an event that was attended by 287,000 people and 14,000 people responded to the Gospel."

Laurie estimated that 25% of the attendees were from out of town, while 75% were locals.

"I think [the tragedy] causes one to ask, 'What is my life really built on?' So, I think it's … caused many to reexamine their faith. I think it's caused many to reach out, realizing they need God's help," he said. "And I think that they see the Church in action. … The Church is often criticized, and the Church is not even close to perfect, and we're flawed. But no one reaches out and touches people when they're hurting like followers of Jesus Christ."

Laurie said, "A lot of people who didn't really think a lot about our church on Maui are now attending because they've seen God's love demonstrated for them in a tangible way."

Laurie said the rebuilding process in Lahaina is moving "very slowly" and will take a long time.

"There's still rubble there that needs to be cleared, and I don't think they've started any construction yet," he said. 

As for Harvest's plans to hold similar "Hope for Lahaina" events, Laurie hopes a "full-scale island-wide crusade" will take place in the near future. 

In a May 1 X post, Laurie announced that Harvest is building a new location in Maui that they hope to open later in 2024 to serve as a "light" to the community and "a place where tourists come and find Christ."

The new location has been in the works for seven months. Laurie envisions the new facility as a space that will enable the church to "accommodate more people and have a more extensive ministry to people of all ages, especially children." He estimates the average attendance at the Maui location as "anywhere from 500-800" across two services. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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