An astonishing photo taken outside a local church has emerged as one of the most hopeful images in the wake of California’s deadly Camp Fire. Despite the enormous destruction, with some 95 percent of the town of Paradise being wiped away by the flames, one humble wooden cross was captured standing firm outside a local town church as the inferno raged in the background.
Our Savior Lutheran Church Pastor Brandon Merrick posted the staggering image to Facebook just 48 hours after the the flames had ripped through the town, destroying everything in its path, including the 54-year-old church building.
To my brothers and sisters of Our Savior Lutheran Church, This is a picture taken of our church home at 6404 Pentz Rd….
“I told our church I really hope that that picture can be used as the picture for the fire, because, as the church, everything that man builds with our hands is perishable, but what God does for us through the cross is imperishable and cannot be taken away or burned up,” Merrick told Fox News of the inspiring image. “And that’s what I love about the picture.”
As the flames began to spread across Paradise, Merrick noted on Facebook that he “hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst.”
But after the extent of the damage became clear, the picture took on an even more powerful meaning to the pastor.
“For me, this picture is not just a heartbreaking reminder of what can happen to the things and people of this world, this is our one true hope in the midst of tragedy that cannot be destroyed by anything,” he wrote. “God is with us. God is holding you right now as you read this note and He wants nothing more than for you to see Him through the cross where He draws us to the only place His mercy and forgiveness are found. In this picture I understand how in the cross we see both the ultimate consequence of our sin is death and the new life we have with Jesus.”
— HolyTrinity Stirling (@HTStirling) December 5, 2018
The town of Paradise continues to rebuild after experiencing the biggest natural disaster in its history, the fury of which left at least 88 people dead. On Monday, several schools reopened, with hoards of nervous children being ushered back into a sense of normal routine following the traumatic experience. Despite over 30,000 kids returning to their desks, almost 5,000 will be taught in makeshift classrooms as a result of the fire.
Schoolwork, however, will come second to the ensured emotional wellbeing of the children. Indeed, simply having them return to school will be something a confidence booster for those who are reluctant to get back into regular habits following the horrific blaze.
“They don’t have their church, they don’t have their school, they don’t have their work, they don’t have their friends. They don’t have any of that stuff and we’re asking them to write five-paragraph essays?” said Paradise High Principal Loren Lighthall, according to CBS News. “It’s just unreasonable at this point. We’re going to do it, but we’re going to be super flexible with what we require.”
English teacher Jori Krulder told KOVR-TV that she had received more hugs from students on the first day back than the entire last year combined.
“We want to get them excited about being back with their friends, being back with their teachers,” she added.
This picture from the #ParadiseFire is crazy. Not only are the tree crowns green and healthy, there is a small shed that appears to be protected from the fire and embers by…. trees. Seriously, how did this shed survive? #CaliforniaWildfires pic.twitter.com/MFHIBReGsJ
— Dustin Mulvaney (@DustinMulvaney) November 30, 2018
Though the fire is now completely contained, the immense task of rebuilding the region’s infrastructure has only just begun. According to officials, the number one priority is to get the electricity up and running again.
“Nothing can be run until we get the power back on,” said Fire Mitigation Specialist Wade Ward, as reported by KSAZ-TV.
Crew members, many of whom have been drafted in from Arizona, continue to work tirelessly with the sole aim of welcoming residents back to their hometown.
“Their intention is to come back and rebuild,” Ward added.
Join us in supporting @Chicostart530 and their efforts to rebuild Paradise's businesses following the #CampFire. The Capital Region business community can help by donating equipment, office space and more.
— Metro_Chamber (@Metro_Chamber) November 30, 2018
“We have about 3,000 employees, contractors and mutual assistant utility worker,” explained Paul Moreno, a PG & E spokesman in Butte County, according to KGO-TV.
“We are in the rebuilding phase,” Moreno said. “We have restored many customers, especially on the fringes of the fire area and we are working closely with officials in the town area about prioritizing repowering key buildings within the town of Paradise.”