As the Camp Fire in neighboring Butte County ravage everything in its sight leaving a path of destruction and countless individuals fleeing for their lives, a Friend couldn’t sit by as evacuees drove past our church. He wanted to fix them breakfast and headed to the church with a griddle and pancake mix in hand; another friend and I signed on bringing the oatmeal. We changed the marque to invite evacuees to breakfast; giving them a chance to catch their breath, receive comfort and prayer before pushing on; that was the beginning of an adventure in operating an evacuation shelter.
We didn’t have a good clue what we were getting into, we just had a big building and a heart to help. But God…God knew what we needed, contact was made with the CA State Militia who at their own expense came and set up camp, literally; their organization skills and experience was a godsend, they got us going then moved on to help elsewhere. We only had food from our homes to begin with when the miracles began. We received a call from a church offering food, then night and day the community began dropping off supplies we didn’t even know yet we needed and it did not stop there; quickly those from other areas started showing up with provisions. Jesus was asked “who is our neighbor” – we saw the answer in action. If I listed every individual and business we knew that came forward there would not be room to contain it. We witnessed pure hearts and motives with people giving who did not want to be recognized or receive tax credit; they simply identified themselves as someone who cared. There were times we had just prayed for something or mentioned it would be nice to have and it showed up; our words barely out of our mouth and the Lord provided. We put out a call requesting prayer, a very tall gentleman said he was driving by when the Lord told him to pull in and pray, he placed a very large hand on the leader, walked through the building and around it praying, then slipped away; we were left in awe wondering – was he human or an angel. Others said if we need anything just ask, we did, admittedly some I didn’t have much faith we would receive and we did. Much needed free Wi-Fi lines were dropped into the building. Hot prepared meals came from as far as Turlock, or cooked on site. Volunteers arrived in droves to help in every area. A church we didn’t know in another county took an offering and brought it. Donations came from every religion and ethnic group. We ran the gamut of emotions at the outpouring, often choking up and wanting to weep, it was overwhelming. The outpouring was not just adults and businesses, one little girl brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; her own idea and she used her own allowance to do it. In the midst of human tragedy all differences were set aside and human kindness showed up.
The expression of gratitude and notes evacuees left on how their lives were touched and changed could fill another page; they saw love and selflessness in action.