I thought I would be ready for what I saw today. I wasn't. Not by a long shot. I'm not sure I could ever be. I'm not sure I should ever be. Donice and I were back in Chico Sunday for the combined service of the Chico and Paradise churches, joined by Terry Smith, C&MA Vice President. At one point all the people were asked to stand that had lost homes so we could pray for them. As hundreds of people stood all around this large auditorium, the gasp was audible as we experienced a new depth of grief for those affected by this disaster. It was another service where tears flowed freely.
C&MA Vice President Terry Smith flew in just to be with the congregations today - to express condolences, as well as to assure those who have lost so much of our support and prayers as a C&MA family; while Donice and I shared briefly in the combined Chico and Paradise Hispanic services and assured them that when the news crews leave, we will still be here as the CPD.
Chico and Paradise pastors Andrew and Josh shared the stage as they had a "Biblical conversation" about the grief that we are all experiencing.
Josh shared that Job's friends got it right at first when they were present for 7 days and not even saying anything. When Job's friends started talking is when things went down hill. He talked about how we are in a season of grief. There is not a time frame on this so we should be patient and not rush through it - grieve well now, or grieve badly later. Both Josh and Andrew shared that they have cried more in the past week than in the last few years - so have I - And I'm sure many of you have too. And that's OK.
Josh continued by saying we need to embrace hope because God is working, and there will be joy after, and even amidst the grief and the tears. Andrew expressed, "This is our finest hour, Chico! As we step up to be a covering and a help to our sister congregation! We are part of this!" I could not agree more! As I'm hearing from you across the CPD, that sentiment runs deep among our family of churches. This is a family that I am honored and proud to be part of - more than ever before.
Josh ended the day with a meeting of the Paradise congregation, casting vision for and giving hope for their future. One of the most powerful scenes of the day was when they joined hands around the Chico dome to pray together.
I am reminded that in the Beatitudes Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." As we move into Thanksgiving week, we have much to be thankful for. But this year, we also have much to grieve, as many in our community of faith are hurting. Don't overlook or minimize that - use that grief as a reminder to pray for our sisters and brothers.
How You Can Help
There are a lot of volunteers coming to the NC Chico evacuation center right now. While they do need help, if you want to come and volunteer, please sign up on this Google Doc.
- You can click here to view the volunteer schedule and add your name.
- The Google Doc is also posted on the Neighborhood Church of Chico Facebook Page.
- Go to the "Posts" tab to the left, and you can open the Google Doc to see when help is needed most.
- You can also get to it from their website, www.ncchico.org, as the home screen scrolls, you will see a button "Evacuation Center Volunteer Signup Click Here."
Since there is essentially no town to go back to, we really have no idea how long this will go on.
As we have shared, of course they need your financial help. You can give directly to either church, sending it straight to:
Neighborhood Church of Chico
2801 Notre Dame Blvd
Chico, CA 95928
Central Pacific District Office
715 Lincoln Ave
Woodland, CA 95695
You can also give online through Push Pay. After you login, just search for Neighborhood Church of Chico and there will be a category for Benevolence or Camp Fire- both categories will be used for families of PAC and NC Chico who have lost their homes.
CAMP FIRE: LATEST UPDATE (6AM NOVEMBER 19, 2018)
Acreage burned: 151,000
Death Toll: 77
Reported missing persons: 993
Structures Destroyed: 12,974
Full containment expected: Nov. 30