In the wake of the devastating fire that swept through Lahaina, Maui, on August 8, leaving unimaginable destruction and heartache, Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) has extended its compassionate hand to the resilient Hawaiian community’s children.
This fire has been recorded as the fifth worst fire in U.S. history and the most devastating in over a century, claiming the lives of over 115 individuals while many others remain unaccounted for.
“We are delivering hundreds of our booklets on tragedy, ‘Do You Wonder Why?’ to enable believers on the ground in Maui to comfort children,” says CEF’s Executive Vice President, Moises Esteves. “It points them and their families toward Jesus during this traumatic time.”
CEF, which was established in 1937, says its goal is to see every child reached with the, discipled, and established in a local church since 1937. The organization is active in all 50 states and in most countries around the world, with 3,500 paid staff and tens of thousands of volunteers.
It is that experience that helps CEF respond to unique situations like Maui where many organizations and volunteers have been discouraged from coming to avoid overwhelming the island further, CEF has opted to empower local believers to be the “hands and feet of Christ.” The organization is providing these local individuals with booklets designed to aid children in coping with the aftermath of disasters.
Matt Walton, CEF’s Hawaii state director, says the booklet deals with extremely difficult topics from a biblical perspective, “but it gives clear answers and hope for kids who are dealing with this stuff.” Walton goes on to explain the purpose is “specifically to help children who are going through natural disasters or traumatic events that have those questions about, ‘Where is God in this? Why did God allow my house to be destroyed or loved ones to lose their life?’
“‘Do You Wonder Why?’ tackles the toughest questions children and adults have, such as ‘Why do so many bad things happen in the world?’ and ‘Why does God allow this to happen?'” Esteves adds. “The booklet was created shortly after the attacks on 9/11 in response to the grief children were wrestling with. The booklets explain the role of sin, the fact that we can’t always know why bad things happen, our need for salvation, and the good news that, no matter what, Jesus will never leave us when we accept Him as our Savior.”
Each booklet, available in video format and in print online in multiple languages, offers a clear presentation of the Gospel. Children are also given the opportunity to write their names and the date on which they became “part of God’s family.”
These booklets have proven to be invaluable resources not only in times of disaster but also in various other parts of the world. To aid the children of war-torn Ukraine, CEF has printed five million copies of the booklet in Ukrainian, Russian, and other languages. They are being used to provide comfort and guidance to displaced children in Estonia, Romania, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and other countries hosting Ukrainian refugees.
In Maui, Matt Walton has engaged with churches that CEF already collaborates with for 5-Day Clubs and is facilitating the direct shipment of these materials to them. He asks for prayer, saying, “Please pray for the children of Maui — and all Hawaiians — to fix their eyes on Jesus for comfort and hope.”
The organization continues to establish Good News Clubs in countries around the word and says they’re thriving in Australia, Cambodia, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Uganda.
In the past year, through CEF’s combined ministries, more than 19.5 million children across the globe have heard the Good News. In 2022 alone, over 439,000 teachers were trained worldwide.