by Jim Thomas
California has been hit with fires throughout the state. The most severe ones, Camp Fire, Hills Fire, and Woolsey Fire, have devastated entire communities. Dozens upon dozens have died and thousands have been uprooted from their homes. At the time of this writing, rain has come and is expected to bring as many complications as it will relief. While helping to clear the air of smoke particles, the rain is expected to mix with the ash and may cause mud slides, which will impede search and rescue efforts of the 600+ missing people and create a dangerous environment for those living in tents.
First responders are working hard in an untenable situation, and the Federal government has been slow to respond. Meanwhile, grassroots efforts have been growing and a lot of people have stepped up. I receive many calls at the Regional Office of people wanting to help. Donations to our church marked “OGHS/Week of Compassion” during November and December will be used for Camp Fire relief.
First Christian Church of Chico has established itself as the focal point for relief through the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). They are sharing their sanctuary and offices to the displaced congregation of First Christian Church of Paradise. Their parking lot has become a place for people to camp at night when they have no other place to go.
FCC-Chico is not the only faith community that’s responding. I heard on the radio that several churches have opened their property to assist the victims in the same fashion. What I find remarkable about this is that when faced with a disaster, people, even those who are not active in their religion inherently know to turn to faith organizations for help and guidance.
So, let us not despair. Let us not be overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of these disasters. Instead, let us band together as one to make the load easier to bear. Pray for those who suffered losses due to the fires and pray for the first responders who are working diligently with their relief and recovery efforts. May we continue, as a church, to be a beacon of hope during times of intense struggle.