The deadliest wildfire in California history has directly affected Free Methodist churches in Northern California, but that hasn’t stopped them from serving their communities. Donations through the Bishops’ Crisis Response Fund are helping local Free Methodists continue to assist their neighbors in need of shelter and support as they recover from the devastating blaze known as the Camp Fire.
“There are two churches near the burn zone. The Table Mountain Free Methodist Church (Pastor Jaymes Lackey) was in the evacuation zone, but the fire line was contained, and residents were permitted to return to their homes,” Sierra Pacific Conference Superintendent Mark Adams said. “The Foothill Community Church (Pastor Phil Gilmore) was near the evacuation zone. Three families of the Foothill Church lost their homes and all belongings. Both churches have stepped into immediate aid.”
The conference has offered dozens of homes to people in need of shelter, Adams said, and churches are working with aid agencies to mobilize volunteers effectively. In addition to trying to meet the needs of the three families whose homes and possessions were destroyed, Foothill Community Church has distributed at least $700 worth of water to people in emergency shelters. By this article’s deadline, six pickup trucks full of donations had been dropped off at the church where teenagers sorted and categorized the items for distribution.
Foothill Associate Pastor Jeremy Carr assisted first responders as a chaplain for the Butte County Sheriff’s Office. In a Facebook post shared more than 15,000 times, Carr discussed his work with survivors of the fire and also his time embedded with the coroner teams finding and identifying victims’ remains. He wrote, “My biggest fear is that after the urgency of this disaster fades so too will the humanity with which we have been conducting ourselves.”
The Table reported, “Our church continues to meet for worship and prayer — spiritual support — during this scary and trying time. We have coupled our worship with service to the community through making the requested hygiene kits, being a hub for non-locals to donate resources, and actively engaging in community efforts to provide for the needs of the evacuees in our community by partnering with local nonprofits doing incredible work. … Our leadership team continues to encourage and model servant leadership by volunteering in local evacuee ministries run by other local nonprofits; 10-15 Table folks are serving on a near daily basis right now — more to be expected as air quality improves (which is dangerously bad).”
Amid the devastation, God is answering prayer. One of The Table’s key volunteers had a brother who was missing in the fire, and the congregation had prayer for him. “Less than 30 minutes later during our hygiene kit project, we got word that he was found alive and well,” The Table reported. “Tears and cheers erupted. It was a great moment.”
The Bishops’ Crisis Response Fund is the first line of rapid response to aid Free Methodists affected by natural disasters, famine and persecution. It is a means for the U.S. church to provide immediate, focused assistance through our church’s local, international and missions infrastructure. The bishops are grateful for any donations.
Give at fmcusa.org/bfund or send donations to Bishops’ Crisis Response Fund, 770 N. High School Road, Indianapolis, IN 46214.1