Pastor Kawi of Kings Cathedral Church Maui, the primary distribution point for CityServe emergency relief, spoke with ABC News about the destruction and his ability to flee to safety

Pastor and wife recounting Maui Fire.

Press Release: JDA Worldwide for CityServe International
Aug. 14, 2023

Bakersfield, CA – “Help and hope are on the way,” declared Dave Donaldson, co-founder and CEO of the CityServe disaster-relief network of churches that is assembling and delivering over a quarter-million meals to Maui in collaboration with No Child Hungry.

Donaldson’s reassurance on behalf of the nation’s leading faith-based church network came as officials declared the disaster the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century. As of Monday morning the death toll reached 96, with more bodies being discovered in the charred rubble of the resort city of Lahaina every day.

CityServe Vice-President for Governmental Affairs Todd Lamphere arrived in Maui on Saturday to coordinate the relief efforts in Lahaina. In addition to the 250,000 meals, Lamphere will oversee CityServe’s distribution of 250 “blessing buckets” containing emergency supplies. Local churches will distribute the meals and supplies to families in need.

Firefighters continue to battle around the clock to put out the raging wildfires that decimated the historic resort town of Lahaina in Maui. Residents said the wind-swept flames blew in so quickly, they barely had time to grab their loved ones and flee.

Pastor Kawi of Kings Cathedral Church Maui told ABC News that a neighbor alerted them to the danger. He was able to get his family in the car to evacuate Lahaina, but saw the fire had already swept across the road in front of him. He was about to turn, but at the last minute his wife redirected him to turn left to escape the encroaching wildfires. Had they continued in the other direction, he said, they would have been cut off by flaming debris they saw fall into the streets from burning buildings.

“I was able to get out with my family,” said Pastor Kawi. “…I left with what I value most and that’s my family. It breaks my heart that a lot of people didn’t have that opportunity to leave with their family.

“They died with their family,” he said, fighting back tears. “My heart just breaks for them.”

Meteorologists say the fast-moving, dry winds generated from Hurricane Dora triggered the firestorm that has reached historic proportions. First responders report the bodies discovered so far have been so badly charred they’re having trouble identifying the deceased. With each passing day, additional bodies are being uncovered beneath the ashes, rubble, and debris. A state of emergency has been declared and over 11,000 have been evacuated.

CityServe is a national and international network of churches whose mission includes a broad range of services including disaster relief, including partnering with No Child Hungry to provide disaster relief in Maui. Kings Cathedral Church Maui has been named the primary distribution point, but other local churches are involved as well to help families that survived the raging fires with little more than the clothes on their backs.

The California-based CityServe’s recent disaster-relief campaigns include aiding victims of the tornadoes that ripped through Mississippi and Alabama earlier this year, as well responding to Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Southwest Florida last year. Its international branch is providing safe houses and meals for refugees from the war in Ukraine.

Mr. Lamphere is available to speak with the press for more insight into CityServe’s efforts to help in Maui, and Donaldson encouraged those interested in contributing to the relief effort to visit