Utah couple heartbroken over community, church losses in Lahaina

Aug 14, 2023, 6:24 PM | Updated: Aug 15, 2023, 8:31 am

Burnt out buildings from Lahaina...

FILE - Wildfire wreckage is visible on Aug. 9, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. Experts say the fires are likely to transform the landscape in unwanted ways, hasten erosion, send sediment into waterways and degrade coral that’s critically important to the islands, marine life and people who live near it. (Tiffany Kidder Winn via AP, File)

(Tiffany Kidder Winn via AP, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — A South Jordan couple who considers Lahaina, Hawaii, their second home is devastated and heartbroken over the images of destruction from the fires.

“Just so hard to see this beautiful quaint little town destroyed. There are 10,000 memories there for us. It’s a beautiful paradise,” David Swenson told KSL TV.

Nearly six months out of the year, David Swenson and his wife Shelly Swenson serve as ward missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Lahaina 1st Ward. They have been doing this for about 10 years and have come to love the people of Lahaina and consider them family.

They said one of the members of the ward, Leroy Wagner, 69, died in the fire.

“Just a sweet single man,” Shelly Swenson said. “His mom just passed away this year so it’s a lot on his family.”

They said about 40 members in the ward completely lost everything. Their homes burned to the ground. They had only the clothes on their back.

“They are in a state of shock. They don’t know what to do next. They are worried about their immediate needs of food and shelter but if you ask what are your plans they don’t know,” Shelly Swenson said.

But amazingly their chapel was untouched. A picture of it they shared with KSL TV shows the building standing untouched with ash all around it.

“It was just a miracle from heaven,” David Swenson said. “All around the building, behind it, on the sides of it, in front of it. Everything was destroyed and burned to the ground but the church was untouched.”

The Swensons have been in constant contact with members in Lahaina. Members are telling them the government is hindering the problem rather than helping it. All the red tape, approvals and road closure are not allowing help to get to the people as they need, the Swensons said.

“The biggest problem right now — it is the government. If the government would just get out of the way and let people bring supplies in,” David Swenson said.

Despite all that has been destroyed, the Swensons really do believe in “Maui Strong.”

“Lahaina is strong. These Hawaiian people are unlike any others; they are strong. They dealt with trials and these people will rise above this,” David Swenson said.

You can help those in need in Maui by going to our website where we have set up a donation drive where 100% of the money we receive will go to those on Maui.

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Utah couple heartbroken over community, church losses in Lahaina