Christmas Eve was a historic day in Paradise, CA as they had the first large-scale public gathering since the Camp Fire with the theme, "I'll be Home for Christmas." Paradise Alliance Church received special permission to open up the church for the three services which ended up totaling about 4,000 people in attendance, with pastors from numerous churches in the community, all representing the whole "church" of Paradise. The water is still not potable, and PG&E brought in special gas tanks to heat the building, but the services went on as a tribute to the HOPE God is inspiring in Pastor Josh Gallagher and our church family there.
Josh stated that life went from fairly simple to complex for the people of Paradise - and to realize that life went from being fairly simple to very complex for Mary and Joseph as well. But then as now, we are all serving within the will of God. All the churches of Paradise came together to put on these services as the celebration of the birth and life of our Savior, and the hope that He brings for new life.
Samaritan's Purse, in conjunction with Panera Bread, provided 4,500 box lunches so that every person attending could have one. The "My Pillow" company provided $100,000 worth of pillows to Paradise residents. And Christmas gifts for children came from everywhere, including our district churches.
We have also included a Facebook video link of an interview Josh recently did with CNN. The segment is Religion 2018 and entitled, "In times of trauma, how do we find light and faith?" In it Josh states, "This is why we moved here. This is why God brought us here at this time. It is for such a time as this."
Here is part of the transcript from Pastor Josh's interview on CNN:
CAMEROTA: You are so right. Grief can be a roller coaster ride. You're never fully over it. It comes and goes. There are highs and lows, and I think it's important for people out there to know that with whatever they're struggling with.
And so Father Josh, you perhaps have had your recent trauma in Paradise, and I don't like that it's trauma that binds all of us here together, but you all are just great voices to talk to for people who may be struggling out there. So since yours is so recent with the wildfires, how are you coping?
PASTOR JOSH GALLAGHER, PARADISE ALLIANCE CHURCH, CALIFORNIA: I have been amazed at how God enters into our grief with us. Many times, when we have to go through things, like, I can't question God, and if I question God he's not going to like me. I've noticed in the middle of grief in talking with many people in my congregation and my community of letting lets them know, it's OK to be angry with God. You can still love him. It's OK to question him and still have faith at the exact same time. It's OK to be mad at God and tell him what you think, and he's still going to love you.
[08:10:09] Letting people know that message brings a lot of hope and encouragement because, wow, God can really relate with the situation that I'm in, the real emotions that I have, and what I'm feeling. I simply tell our people, if you want a real relationship with God you need to be real with God, and that has given people a lot of hope and encouragement. And instead of destroying their faith I think it's actually defined their faith.
BERMAN: And of course, your own personal experience you could look at it two ways, glass half empty, or glass half full. You got to Paradise, you moved to Paradise three months before the fire. And you can look at that say, oh, my goodness, I'm moving there just before the whole thing burns up. But the flipside to that is you got there just in the nick of time to do your job.
GALLAGHER: I couldn't think of anytime, anywhere else I would rather be serving than right now in Paradise, California, in the midst of all of this. A lot of people were worried because they're like, you just moved here, how can you do this? I thought, no, this is why I moved here. God has brought me to this community, to this church, to these group of people for such a time as this. And it's not easy. It is difficult, but when there's a sense of calling and a greater purpose behind what's going on, those are the things that get you out of bed in the morning and, say, OK, let's see what are the challenges today, tackle those one at a time.