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A Filipino congregation took in its own members after their Lahaina homes burned


The fire in western Maui destroyed or damaged more than 2,000 buildings. Most of those were homes. That means in the town of Lahaina, many residents are in need of shelter. NPR's Jason DeRose has this story of one congregation that took in its own members after their homes burned down.

JASON DEROSE, BYLINE: At a park and ride just south of Lahaina, Pastor Estrella Aguero (ph) is loading up her van and getting ready to drive into the burn zone.


DEROSE: She and her husband lead Koinonia Pentecostal Church, where 20 members of their Filipino congregation are sleeping in the parish hall.

ESTRELLA AGUERO: When the fire broke out, our people - we have members of our church whose houses burned down, so they came to the church.

DEROSE: When you flee with almost nothing, you need almost everything. So on this morning, her van is filled with the kinds of supplies people need when they've taken refuge in a church.

AGUERO: These are food - coolers with food - gasoline, cat food...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: We got cat food.

AGUERO: ...And then supplies. We have the bathroom supplies on the back. And then we have water in the trunk.



DEROSE: Aguero says bearing each other's burdens in this way, caring for neighbors, is the work of the church.

AGUERO: That is what we are called for, too, that we care for people. In fact, the mission of our church is we love God, and we love people.

DEROSE: In the back of the van is congregation member Magna Laguna (ph). He immigrated to the U.S. seven years ago from the Philippines and lives with his wife and sister and brother-in-law. Their home was in Lahaina. Tears roll down his cheeks as he recalls the day the fire broke out and a fierce hot wind blasted the flames toward them.

MAGNA LAGUNA: Burn - burn the house. We walk. I have no car. So one of the neighbors to...

AGUERO: Pick me up.

LAGUNA: ...Pick up - me up to help.

DEROSE: He switches to Tagalog to better explain what happened.

LAGUNA: (Speaking Tagalog).

DEROSE: A fellow congregation member in the van leans over and translates.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: They had not brought anything except their passport, which is always on the side of their bag - the white or black slipper. The other one is white.

DEROSE: Laguna's wife was so rushed she put on two different colored slippers as they scrambled to flee. Despite all that, he's lost, when I asked him what assistance he needs, he replies softly.

LAGUNA: I want to give assistance - food, shelter.

DEROSE: He wants to give assistance. Worship services at Koinonia Pentecostal Church in Lahaina are usually streamed on Facebook so anyone can watch. But last Sunday, Pastor Estrella Aguero wasn't able to go live online. She's busy caring for the congregants still living at the church. With her husband on the phone trying to get clearance to enter the burn zone to bring in supplies, Aguero says this is how she'll pray the next time she stands in front of her congregation.

AGUERO: You are a good God. We believe in you, that you are good...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: So you pass (ph)...

AGUERO: ...That you will hold our hand, that you will give us the strength, that you will supply the needs for our people whose houses and homes - everything is gone. And my prayer is that the people in our church will love him because God is with us.

DEROSE: With them in loss, with them in pain, with them in the love they show to each other through Koinonia Pentecostal Church. Jason DeRose, NPR News, Maui. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jason DeRose
Jason DeRose is the Western Bureau Chief for NPR News, based at NPR West in Culver City. He edits news coverage from Member station reporters and freelancers in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii. DeRose also edits coverage of religion and LGBTQ issues for the National Desk.
Jonaki Mehta is a producer for All Things Considered. Before ATC, she worked at Neon Hum Media where she produced a documentary series and talk show. Prior to that, Mehta was a producer at Member station KPCC and director/associate producer at Marketplace Morning Report, where she helped shape the morning's business news.