A pastor from fire-ravaged Paradise offers hope and healing to Lahaina

Pastor Josh Gallagher, like so many others, watched in horror as news outlets showed a deadly blaze consuming Lahaina, Maui.
Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 2:37 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2023 at 3:05 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Pastor Josh Gallagher, like so many others, watched in horror as news outlets showed a deadly blaze consuming Lahaina, Maui.

Based on what he went through an ocean away in the town of Paradise, California, he felt called to help so he made a call to the Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse.

“I reached out to them saying I’ve seen the pictures, heard some of the stories. It sounds extremely familiar and it looks the same. If you need anything from me, just let me know,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher was sent to Maui almost immediately and began meeting with local pastors who were in desperate need of advice from someone with experience.

LESSONS FROM PARADISE: As part of this special series, HNN’s Jonathan Masaki traveled to Paradise, Calif. to look at how they’re still recovering from a catastrophic fire five years ago.

“I wanted to bring the comfort that I had experienced and what my community had experienced over the past 5 years and somehow convey that comfort to them,” he said.

Gallagher said he could instantly sense the pain that so many on Maui were going through. A lot of times, he just listened, provided a warm hug, offered up a prayer and words of comfort.

“Sometimes that comfort comes as simple nugget of advice, other times, it is simply saying, ‘I understand what you’re going through, every disaster is different, but there are some similarities,’” Gallagher said.

He also wanted to minister to the people of Maui in a very gentle way. He didn’t want to be seen as an outsider just coming in, telling people what to do.

“So my posture was completely coming with a lot gentleness, respect and humility, understanding I am not the expert,” Gallagher said. “I am here just to help if you need help.”

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The clergy on Maui recognized Gallagher’s spirit of humility and because of that, offered a pule or prayer in ‘Olelo Hawaii over him and other spiritual leaders.

“So she prayed this Hawaiian prayer and I am not an emotional guy, but the prayer that she prayed completely overwhelmed me and I started tearing up in the middle of it,” Gallagher said.

The bigger acceptance, as recognized by Maui’s clergy, is that they invited Gallagher back and he has already been to Maui twice since the August fire.

“When you are invited in by the culture or by the people, it’s a humbling experience to know, I can serve in a real way,” Gallagher said.

He said he is more than happy to return to Maui if asked, and continues to keep the Valley Isle on his mind and more importantly, in his prayers.