Humanitarian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse has shipped out a large amount of equipment to Northern California in a bid to help those affected by the devastating wildfires.
The faith-based organization announced that a “tractor trailer filled with equipment and supplies,” had “rolled from North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, on Sunday,” bound for Redding, California. Roughly 40,000 people have been evacuated from Shasta County, and the city of Redding is largely deserted, with thousands taking refuge in makeshift shelters at churches and town halls.
“All that matters is we’re alive,” one survivor, Ashley Myers, told the New York Times as she huddled outside CrossPointe Community Church with her fiance and 1-year-old son. “We’ve just been playing it day by day,” added her partner, Brandon Roades. “We don’t really want to think too far ahead because I think we’ll get discouraged. We’re just hoping for the best.”
Samaritan’s Purse will link up with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s chaplains, who are also headed to the disaster area to pray for victims.
“We currently have teams on the ground assessing the situation,” a Samaritan’s Purse spokeswoman told Faithwire. “The Disaster Relief Unit deployed yesterday from North Carolina and should arrive in California on Wednesday.”
She added: “Volunteers will help families recover personal items like photo albums and keepsakes from the ashes.”
Earlier this week, Samaritan Purse president Rev. Franklin Graham solicited prayers for those affected by the fierce inferno in a widely-shared Facebook post. “Please pray for those in the path of this deadly wildfire that is tearing through communities in California,” Franklin wrote. “Authorities said that winds reaching 60 mph are creating firenadoes strong enough to overturn vehicles. A bulldozer operator was killed and three firefighters injured yesterday. Especially pray for the protection of all those battling this and many blazes in several states in the west.”
Local churches have continued to step up in order to serve their community at this time of crisis.
Known for its worship music and school of ministry, the infamous, Redding-based “Bethel Church” is perfectly placed to utilize its enormous resources to help the victims of the fire in their most desperate time of need.
Bethel Communications director Aaron Tesauro told Faithwire it had been a “whirlwind last few days,” but that the church was responding to the crisis with everything they have. The church is “running on less than half staff with many out of town,” he added.
He later confirmed to Faithwire that the church buildings had survived the enormous blaze.
A post from the church, which has almost half a million followers on Facebook, detailed how exactly people can help those stranded and stricken by the inferno:
“Thank you to everyone who has reached out and prayed with us for Shasta County in the midst of the Carr Fire. We want to update you on what Bethel has been doing and what Bethel will do moving forward as we continue to support our city. On Thursday, Bethel Global Response met with the Red Cross and City officials about how we could partner with their efforts in the city and communicated that we’d love for them to use our College View campus however they saw fit.
Due to our proximity to the fire and the limited accessibility of our College View campus, we are not a primary choice as an evacuation center. We wanted to meet the need, but had to do it safely and with permission. Instead, we were asked to assist with: providing supplies and volunteers to distribute food at the Shasta College Evacuation Center, search and rescue efforts, and staying available to City officials and other agencies for any needs.Today, however, we confirmed that starting Monday, July 30th, Bethel will become an official Distribution Hub for the Salvation Army at our College View campus (933 College View Dr.). Daily from 9am-7pm, we invite anyone impacted by the Carr Fire to come and grab supplies, meals and support:
-Household & Cleaning Supplies
-Baby Food, Diapers/Wipes
-Personal Hygiene Toiletries
-Water Bottles / Gatorade
-Non-Perishable Food Items
-Emotional & Spiritual Care
-Meals provided by Mercy Chefs starting Tuesday”
The director of Bethel Global Response, Jordan Pacilio, noted that this was “the first time we have provided disaster relief efforts while also being directly impacted by the disaster ourselves.”
You can sign up to be a volunteer heading here.
Bethel also has a support group set up on Facebook which is helping those affected by the fires coordinate relief efforts and keep each other safe by reporting the current direction of the flames. Amid the practical help and advice, there are some amazing stories of heroic firefighters, posted by their proud family members.
“Just wanted to post this picture of my oldest son Adam on the Carr Fire last night in the Whiskeytown Lake area. He is in the center of picture He was on the fire from the first day. His younger brother Jared is on duty at a fire station about 70 miles south of Redding, keeping that community safe,” Mark Mack posted to the page at the weekend.
“I just wanted to “show a face” to represent all the crews out there and give an example of who you all are praying for. I am one extremely proud father!!!!”
Another staggering message posted to the group read:
“My name is Scott and I’m a marine corps veteran and offering my service in anyway I can help I am an owner operator with a Skip Loader and a 33’ trailer that can help in any way needed I live in Sacramento but have no problem traveling up to help if anyone is in need, from clearing debris to moving peoples belongings or if anyone needs any firebreaks made around their property.”
During his Sunday sermon, Bethel senior pastor Bill Johnson explained that upon returning home from a ministry trip in England, he discovered that he was unable to enter the area where his own home was located.
“I was notified that our house was probably gone,” he said. “But during one my flights I was able to get online and got a message from my wife saying it was still standing.”
Bill urged his congregation to serve those who were suffering at this time. “The big need of the hour is the pain of people around us, and to give adequate attention to that,” he said, before adding that “if your home was spared, remain thankful.”
“You don’t have to feel guilty if you have that,” he said.
One of those less fortunate was the Director of Bethel Music, Joel Taylor.
Joel took to Instagram to explain his family’s heartbreaking situation:
The Taylor Fam evacuated our home in Redding on Thursday night to prepare for living in tight quarters for a long period of time without answers. All too familiar – We took what necessities we couldn’t live without and fled at midnight, driving through the night and finally found a hotel where we crashed for a few hours that morning. Now we’re staying in my Mom’s little cottage and letting it all sit in – I’ve been working remotely to ensure that our teams back home are okay and that Bethel Music and Bethel Media are stable during this time. Our Bethel leadership team is scattered all over the state, but doing an incredible job to catalyze relief efforts and make sure our employees and their families are taken care of during this time of crisis – We’ve been through many trials and tribulations together and one thing I’m certain of: VICTORY. If God be for us, who can be against us! – The kids..well, they just think this is a fun vacation 🙂 Through it all, the knowns and the unknowns, we are blessed beyond measure ??
“We don’t want to miss the chance to just love and serve people,” Johnson noted in his powerful sermon, adding that he had “zero answers,” with regards to the spiritual reasons for the fire.
“I just know that God didn’t do it. He’s not the one who destroys,” he said.