Hawaii volcano eruption brings Christian communities together in evacuation efforts

Christians are coming together to respond to the evacuation efforts in Hawaii's Big Island. Kilauea volcano has been spewing lava and causing earthquakes since the beginning of May, which has led to the destruction of houses and properties in the nearby towns.

(Reuters/Terray Sylvester)Lava erupts from a fissure east of the Leilani Estates subdivision during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 13, 2018.

Families from the Churches of Christ have moved out of Leilani Estates as molten rocks have burned houses, cars and trees, while ashes have thickened the air all around. They are currently staying at the shelters the local government has prepared for the evacuees, but once this is over, these families have to find new permanent homes.

"Right now, prayers are solicited for those affected," church minister Gary Lyons told The Christian Chronicle. "At this point in time, immediate needs seem to be taken care of," he added, "But long-term needs may surface pretty soon," he added.

Pastor Makana Delovio of the New Hope Legacy Church told CBS News that churches leaders from different denominations quickly coordinated together to help the evacuees "as soon as the volcano broke." He claimed that while they don't always agree on everything, people have been cooperative in the midst of the destruction and disaster.

Delovio said that the eruption has been an opportunity to speak about the grace of Jesus. For instance, he has been encouraging his congregation to continue to pray for everyone's safety amid the belief of some natives that the eruption is a message from the goddess Pele. In the ancient days, natives make human sacrifices to the goddess that apparently lives within the island's most active volcanoes.

The pastor has also tasked members of the church to work together with the Red Cross. Church volunteers have been sharing their time in the relief efforts at church kitchens by providing food for the evacuees and rescuers.

"During these times we don't have to use words. We get to be the hands and feet of Jesus," Delovio said.

As of Saturday, the lava flow from Kilauea has crossed over to the Pacific Ocean via Highway 137. Officials implored people to stay away as sulfur dioxide emissions could sting the eyes and cause lung problems. Residents have also been told to brace themselves, as there will still be more eruptions and earthquakes.