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Lahaina’s new rescue mission: Reaching Maui’s homeless and needy, one soul at a time

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Oct 31, 2019

Maui Rescue Mission has brought a new and complete mobile resource center to Lahaina and the island. The trailer visits Lahaina Baptist Church on Wednesdays.

LAHAINA – Brian Nelson, co-founder and board chair of the Maui Rescue Mission (MRM), has brought a new and complete mobile resource center to Lahaina and the island.

Having worked with over 75 rescue ministry projects across the U.S., Canada and Jamaica, Nelson has the experience of adapting the design of each facility around the special needs of the community.

MRM is a 501(c)(3) Christian nonprofit, although they welcome guests and volunteers from all beliefs.

“I understand the unique needs of rescue ministries,” said Nelson, who spent the last 30 years responding to the need to provide a new path in life for those who are homeless, lost or have broken relationships with family and faith.

“As a rescue mission, we are connected to a larger network of rescue missions and have relationships with a number of ministries that offer free rehabilitation programs on the Mainland. These relationships allow us to connect clients looking to get clean with a program. Together with the help of our financial partners, as well as some of these agencies, we are able to help clients get into rehabilitation programs, especially on the Mainland, which are otherwise difficult to get into.”

MRM is a mobile resource center. They have a hygiene trailer that is equipped with two stacked washer-dryer units and a full private bathroom. By bringing their hygiene trailer to locations with the greatest need, they are able to provide for the basic needs of a hot private shower, toilet and laundry service.

Currently, MRM has three locations that they visit every week. Saturday they are at Hope Chapel in Kihei, Wednesday they are in Lahaina at Lahaina Baptist Church, and Thursday they are at Kanaha Beach Park in Kahului.

By the end of the year, they hope to have a fourth weekly outreach location in the Happy Valley section of Wailuku, and eventually to have five locations a week.

Nelson said, “After 23 months of research involving the issues and culture around homelessness on Maui, including dialogue with nearly every agency that deals with the homeless and needy here, we have discovered that there is no one doing consistent outreach to engage those who are broken and lost, to build trust, to heal, and to build a path to a new life of faith and hope.”

Nelson added, “Some portion of Maui’s homeless are quite content in their circumstances and need to grasp that a new and better life is possible. Our outreach teams work to build trust and provide a base level of services and sundries that give reason to begin a conversation and forge a relationship.”

Once someone comes to a place of hope or hopelessness, they are ready to ask for help. Going beyond the handout and offering a hand-up often pulls them out of the desperate hole in which they find themselves. MRM’s prayerful efforts seek to earn the trust of those in need of love and guidance.

“Most clients have lost trust in people, churches or services, which are often taken for granted,” Nelson explained.

“Once an extended hand is grasped and accepted, MRM begins the process of assessment, counseling, nutrition, faith-based teaching, life coaching and the path to a new life. Once stabilized, they help their clients work to reconcile broken relationships, join a church family and contribute to society as productive citizens.”

While their mobile services unit provides showers, toilets, washer and dryers, Wi-Fi, and a change of clothing, MRM’s outreach includes friendship, counseling, the gospel, problem-solving and help finding resources. For support, they also offer Bibles, bus transportation vouchers, sunscreen, toothbrush and paste, phone cards, personal hygiene, water bottles and referrals to recovery programs.

“There are many ways by which the community can help the people MRM is called to serve,” said Nelson. “These include volunteering, administration, public speaking, teaching, counseling, donor relations, maintenance and other areas that make this ministry run. A prayer team is greatly needed, as our staff consider themselves to be merely vessels of the transformational work that God does every day.”

Scott Hansen, MRM executive director, stated, “While our guests wait for their laundry, we are able to build relationships with them, find out what their greatest needs are, try to meet those needs, or connect them with someone or some agency that can meet their need.”

Hansen continued, “Our goal at MRM is to offer dignity and hope to every person we serve with the end goal being life transformation. When someone visits our outreach for a shower or to do laundry, we want them to not only feel like an invited guest as they walk up, but to walk away with so much more than a clean body and clean clothes. We want them to walk away with a new direction and a friend to guide them. That’s what MRM has to offer.”

Recently, MRM was able to do just that with a client from one of the other homeless agencies here on Maui. They were contacted about a client who was not only asking to get into rehabilitation, but was also in need of getting away from a particularly toxic situation. After meeting with the client and reaching out to a couple of their partner rescue missions on the Mainland, they were able to help get this individual checked into a rehabilitation center and on the way to recovery. The client and the caseworker were very appreciative of the help they were able to provide them.

Another recent story concerns a couple about to have a baby. Dan and Jenny were going to MRM’s mobile ministry unit every week. “While we do our laundry, the mission staff and volunteers really get to know us,” said Jenny. “We’ve begun to trust in a deeper relationship with them. The free services and support are priceless!”

Dan said, “They got to know more of our story and offered some solutions. They pointed us toward resources with some of their partners that were a huge help with the new baby coming soon. After our baby was born, the mission helped us with clothes – both baby clothes and clothes for our other children. We’re so grateful that MRM is here!”

Abel Garcia, MRM outreach director, said, “Our team has a deep passion to do intentional, relational ministry, and that passion ties in very closely with the heart of MRM’s vision. As we are providing a sense of dignity to those that we serve, while they wait their turn for their laundry, we have an extended opportunity to engage in intentional relationships. We sit down, talk story, listen and just love people.”

“We operate by the generosity of others who value this work and the people in need,” Garcia said. “A monthly, annual or estate gift designation will help us to ensure we are there for those who need us each and every day.

“We rely on the generosity of individuals, churches and other non-government entities to provide us with the funding we need to keep our trailer going out week after week, day after day. If you would like to give a one-time gift or become a monthly supporter, please visit mauirescuemission.org or call (808) 727-9008.”

Garcia concluded, “We also need volunteers to staff each of our outreaches and help make hygiene kits to give to our clients. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact me via e-mail at abel@mauirescuemission.org.”