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Lahaina Church Finds Sanctuary in a Café

On Sunday, as congregations across the nation gathered in the comfort of their sanctuaries, the faith community of Grace Baptist Church met upstairs at the Maui Coffee Attic. Their Robin’s Egg Blue church, that sat beneath mango trees, is now gone; the trees scarred by the fire that raged across Lahaina last Tuesday. In times of crisis- tsunami warnings, hurricanes, fires- Grace Baptist Church has been a refuge for the community of Lahaina. On Tuesday morning, when high winds battered Maui and fires ignited in the hills above the town, some residents turned again to the church for shelter. But this time, the danger did not spare the sturdy sanctuary of Grace. As the members of Grace, many of them now homeless, gathered on Sunday at the café, they described daring escapes from the fire. The morning gathering should have been somber, filled with grief. But instead, they sang Amazing Grace, prayed for the healing of their community, and claimed the promise of Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble,
Therefore, we will not fear,
though the earth gives way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though the rivers surge and roar, and the mountains quake with their surging.
For the Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Since the fires, ‘Maui Strong’ has become the declaration of many. But the people of Grace recognize that our strength comes from the One who is Lord Almighty.

The blue walls of Grace Baptist Church were not the only sanctuary walls to be ravaged by the fast-moving fires that claimed over 80% of the town of Lahaina on Tuesday. Waiola Church, first established in 1823 by Queen Keopuolani, was one of the first marks of Christianity on Maui. The townspeople of Lahaina just celebrated the 200th anniversary of Wailoa as a place of meeting for the community and the burial place for royals. Kuhio Lewis, CEO of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, commented: “Wailoa Church was a staple of Lahaina. Like when you think of Seattle, you think of the Space Needle. In Lahaina, it was that church.” Now that church is listed as “permanently closed” on Google Maps, after the fires of Lahaina destroyed those sacred walls. Yet on Sunday, members of churches across Maui met in coffee shops and gathered under mango trees to declare the resilience of the people of God. Even as they grieve the loss of their homes and their historical markers, even as they are heartbroken over the loss of their neighbors, they gathered to pray. The pastor of Grace Church told reporters, “When we talk about the church, the building is not the church. The building is just where the church meets.” On Sunday, the church stood strong in the face of overwhelming devastation as a witness to the world.

I wonder what witness our community sees when they look at Lenape Valley Church. Do they see a well-appointed sanctuary on a green parcel of land, dotted by flowering trees and gardens? Or do they see the home of a preschool that creates opportunities for the underserved part of our community, where children are nurtured and protected? Do they see a faith community that stretches out into New Britain, Chalfont, Doylestown and beyond to bring hope and healing? Do they see a church committed to feeding the hungry and caring for those in need? Do they see a people who live grace-fully in an increasingly grace-less world? When they meet the people of Lenape Valley, do they meet a faith community that points people to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? What witness do our neighbors see when they look at Lenape Valley? We are just weeks away from the beginning of the Church Has Left the Building when we prepare as a community to go out beyond our walls to serve. This fall we will need ‘all hands on deck’ to answer God’s call for such a time as this.
  • Mark your calendar: 
    • Kick-Off- Sunday, September 10th 
    • Church Picnic and Concert- Sunday, September 17th 
    • Mission Projects begin Saturday, October 7th 
    • CHLB- our Church will Leave the Building on October 22nd 
    • CHLB Celebration- Sunday, October 29th 
  • Plan to participate in a mission project that you know and love. 
  • Try a new mission project this year. 
  • Invite a friend to join you in serving this fall. 
  • Create a new project where our faith community can serve with you. 
  • Discover the joy of giving yourself away for the sake of another!

May we be like the people of Maui, standing strong in the faith for the sake of our neighbors, to the praise and glory of Jesus the Christ!

With you in prayer for the people of Maui,
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