by Matt Copas
Following the Maui wildfire in Lahaina, my wife Johana was ready to jump on a plane and go help those affected. I am the more practical one and told her that we need to make sure our son and everything is taken care of first. That first weekend, we had a men’s social gathering with some of the guys from church. John and Ryan Fielding were invited to talk to everyone about supporting Maui. I remember them through the Kapuna Needs Project, even though I couldn’t help due to being on deployment. They talked about supporting through donations and going to Maui to volunteer. During the talk, I felt called to go help and felt the desire my wife had to be on the ground helping. I texted Johana and got the OK from her, then called my boss to make sure I could take the days off. Everything seemed to fall into place, where I knew I was supposed to go to help.
Monday was a busy day of loading the boats, getting supplies, packing personal stuff, watching Willy while Johana went to support EPIC Windward Faith Sharing. Everyone at P&R Water Taxi was awesome and supportive. That night we got to the boat around midnight and some of the guys were already passed out on the couches. There were six of us total going: John, Ryan, Nick, Riley, Fr. Pascual, and myself. I fell asleep only to be woken up briefly by our departure around 4 am and the occasional wave hitting the boat. The surprise came the next morning as I walked on the deck to see a dozen or more jet skis coming to unload the boats and take us to shore. It was awesome to see the support and coordination of everyone involved, making sure all the supplies got ashore even with the fact of having to lower two generators off the boat.
The next couple of days were spent setting up and organizing the supplies at Sacred Heart Mission Church in Kapalua. The turnout from the parish was great, with the support of Missionary Sisters of Faith at Maria Lanakila Church, the Knights of Columbus, staff at Sacred Hearts School, and many other parishioners. It was amazing to see as people came in with needs, we would be able to send the request back to everyone on Oahu and get the specific supplies that were needed.
The first week there was such a communication issue with spotty cell service, no internet, power outages, and the main road back to Kahului being backed up or closed. Everyone on the west side felt isolated; they couldn’t leave or worried if they did, they would not be able to get back home. When we asked if they had seen this or that, they often hadn’t. Reports from state officials often said to go to this website or fill out this, but most didn’t have any access. At dinner the first night, one of the parishioners put in perspective the wide range of problems those affected, ranging from loss of power to homes, jobs, family members, and any combination. Everyone was affected differently, but everyone on the west side was affected in some way and is still being affected and needs our support as they continue to recover from this.
On a more positive note, it was great to be able to have Mass every day while we were there and see the community coming in every day. The church was open all day for those to come in and pray and just spend time with God as they healed from the effects of this wildfire. I always enjoyed every morning, seeing people walking in and being so happy to see their friends and knowing that they were OK through all of this after not seeing them for a week.
There were several other groups there that were at the Church when we arrived that I would love to give a shoutout to, but due to our limited time there after the beach before leaving to catch our flight, I didn’t get to meet everyone. I know there are so many groups and people there supporting, but we need a continued effort of donations and volunteers. The media will move on from what happened in Maui soon, but the recovery for those there will take years. As those in the Catholic Church and those who are blessed to call Hawaii home, we need to ensure we continue to support our brothers and sisters on Maui through the long haul. A lot has been done, but more will be needed, and I encourage everyone to reach out to EPIC Ministry or the Knights of Columbus to support. By reaching out, we can ensure the needed supplies get to those affected and that we have the support of volunteers to continue the recovery effort. I thank God for the ability to go serve and all the miracles I witnessed in my few days there. I continue to pray for those suffering and encourage everyone to continually pray and support Maui through all of this. God bless and thank you to everyone who has supported and continues to support!
Matt Copas is a chapter leader for the EPIC Windward Chapter. He is married to Johana, another EPIC leader, and together they have an energetic 2-year-old, Willy.