I want to give you an update on our progress in helping Camp Fire survivors and utilizing the resources NextGen and their donors have shared with us. It has truly been a privilege to serve and share God’s love with the people and churches affected by the fire. Our approach to serving has been multifaceted.
I (Luke) am the lead pastor of Lifespring Church, a small but growing NextGen church plant in Chico, our church has been very active in Camp Fire Relief. We have helped over 40 families with financial grants and through the generosity of others. In addition to financial help, we are attempting to build relationships with many of these families. We are starting a second round of reaching out to those families we have helped, checking in to see how we can support and pray for them.
Chad and I will be using some of the NextGen funds to start a Pastor Care Grant. We have been meeting one on one with pastors whose churches and or homes were affected by the fire. We have a list of about 20 pastors with which we need to connect. Some of them we know and some we are just getting to know. As we meet with these pastors, we listen to their stories, pray with them, and we also offer them a grant of $1500 to help them find ways to stay spiritually and emotionally refreshed. In return, we ask them to give us a report of how they used the funds. One example is Alfredo Romero pastor of a church plant near Paradise. Alfredo and his wife lost their home to the fire. When we me with Alfredo, he shared that 8 of the church’s elders lost their homes as well and just a few months before the fire the church lost the only other pastoral staff member to a heart attack. It has been a tough year for them. However, they are staying encouraged and focused on what God is calling them to do. When Alfredo told his wife about the Pastoral Care Grant , she burst into tears and was overwhelmed. She knew they desperately needed this. We are praying God will use this gift to help their family stay encouraged and continue to lead well. Please pray for Alfredo, his family and their church.
I (Chad) am the lead pastor of Orchard Church in Chico and with the funds from NextGen we were able to help Tyler and Dana Mack find a new place to live. Dana is the Director of the youth group at Orchard Church. The Mack’s lost their home in the Camp Fire as did Dana’s parents. Dana and her husband Tyler were on a missions trip to Mexico and returned to find their home completely burned to the ground. This was especially devastating to them because they are foster parents and need permanent housing in order to keep their adorable foster daughter Juniper. With the donations from NextGen, and after months of searching , the Mack family was able to find a house 25 minutes from Chico (A miracle). The beautiful part is the house has a garage where Dana’s parents can live. Since moving into their new home, Dana and Tyler have added four more foster kids to their family. Thank you. this house is a HUGE blessing!
Along with our pastoral duties, Chad and I have joined with four pastor from Paradise and three pastors from Oroville to form the “Camp Fire Pastors Response Team”. We are working together and praying for God’s direction in how our churches and communities can collaborate on Camp Fire recovery work. By working together, I believe we will have a greater impact than anything we could do alone. Some of the projects we are considering are work projects, events, and emotional care efforts. We are seeking God’s wisdom on which ones to pursue.
I (Luke) have taken on the role as a member of the executive board for the Camp Fire Long Term Recovery Group. I am part of a team of 10 people who are leading the community effort to collaborate on the recovery process and plan. The LTRG is a cooperative body that is made up of representatives from faith-based, non-profit government, business and router organizations working within a community to assist individuals and families as they recover from disaster. We have about 75 organizations in our group. I am interacting on a daily basis with leaders from FEMA, CalOES, American Red Cross, local businesses, other faith based groups and churches from the area. We are working on ways to assist the most vulnerable families in recovery. I personally am involved in two additional committees, Spiritual and Emotional Wellness Committee and the Donations Management Committee. To this point it has involved a lot of organization and planning, but in the near future we see real opportunities to help people in big ways.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we are just now coming into some of the most difficult seasons in the recovery process. The road ahead is so long and many people in our community are feeling discouraged. Experts tell us this is normal, but that the toughest part is the next few months. Many families face tough decisions about staying in the area or being forced to relocate. There are issues that make their decisions complicated. One issue is clean water, it is estimated that clean water will not be available in Paradise for 2 years. We want to continue to represent Christ well to our community and follow his lead We know that God is doing good things in the midst of tragedy. I met a pastor last Friday who lost his home to the fire and whose church is struggling to make it in Paradise, but they are using their building as a resource center for families to get water and clean up kits. He shared that in the last 4 months they have seen 120 people come to faith in Christ through the resource center. God is at work and we are grateful for the opportunity to serve!