Forgotten Fire, Part 1

Author - Arlie Francis

Disciple Daily runs a one-year residential disciple-making school called The Fellowship. We believe in focused and intensive discipleship training. This year's Fellowship Team consists of three young men and two women. Following two weeks of foundational input, they arrived in Maui on September 18th. Our objective was to lend hands and hearts to the survivors of the fires on Maui that dominated national news for about a week. Since then, the fires on Maui have been largely forgotten on the mainland.

The biggest news, riveting national attention, was the fire ravaging historic Lahaina. Access to Lahaina was restricted during the ten days we were on Maui. The reasons are both practical and political. But that is another discussion. What's important is that the fire that took Lahaina is not the only fire on Maui. Dozens of hot spots continue to break out all over the island. Some still burn. They are the forgotten fires. Even in the "up country," far beyond the tourist beaches, Hurricane Dora accelerated fires that burned homes and consumed lives. The underground root systems of trees that were destroyed are still burning, breaking out on the surface daily somewhere on the island. Maui remains ablaze below the surface, physically and spiritually.  

Joel and Jess Winicki run Maui Grown Tomatoes, a family-operated business based in Olinda, in Maui's upcountry. Joel introduced us to the term "the forgotten fire." While all the attention and relief efforts have focused on Lahaina, fires continue to pop up in his area almost daily eight weeks later. Joel's home and farm sit fifty feet from a burnt-out forest. Awakening to a raging inferno racing towards his family, Joel marshaled them all in the battle to save themselves and their property. A few miles away, Maui Grown Tomatoes operates three greenhouses of tomato vines, producing 2,500 pounds a week before the hurricane and fires. Their company was the largest tomato producer on the island. Joel's greenhouses were destroyed along with most of their vines. Production is down to 500 pounds a week. It is expected that number will decline further in the months ahead.

Joel and Jess are leaders in the Maui Growers Association. When growers realized the need for food in the major population centers on the island, they started delivering what little fruit and vegetables they could still produce to distribution centers like the food pantry operated by Calvary Chapel, South Maui, run by Coleen Rishovd and her team. Opened initially during the COVID pandemic, Calvary's food pantry is an established resource center in Kehei, south of Lahaina, on the western side of Maui. Disciple Daily's Fellowship Team was where we met Joel during our first workday on Maui. Joel was delivering food that we helped distribute to victims of the fire.

The Calvary food pantry operates from 9 AM to 1 PM, four days a week. Our afternoon was open. As our initial relief contact on Maui, Coleen suggested we go "up country" to Olinda. Joel and Jess needed help cleaning and repairing one of the devastated greenhouses. Upon arrival, our team was divided in two, leaving three people at the greenhouse while the rest drove farther up to the Winicki home and terrace farm.

Everyone worked hard. There are no slackers in this Fellowship Team. By the time we finished the day, the greenhouse had been completely cleared and cleaned. At the other location, one entire terrace had been built. Much work was accomplished as the Winicki's made good use of our availability. More was accomplished than what our physical labor produced. Our team built lasting relationships with one of Maui's most influential food producers.

While The Fellowship assisted in reclaiming what the fires on Maui destroyed, a foundation for the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was established. Making disciples of Jesus is not a one-off, transactional event. As Jesus' followers are obedient to the Great Commission, to "go, make disciples of all nations," creating relationships with strategic people opens doors to a much wider audience. Our team did what Jesus commanded his first disciples in Luke 10 and Matthew 10. We believe the Winickis are our "person(s) of peace."

This article is the first half of a longer blog. Watch for "Forgotten Fires, Part 2."  

Posted in

No Comments