Finding Refuge from the Fire
The Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, killing at least 88 people and covering more than 150,000 acres. By the time the fire was 100 percent contained on November 25th, 18,804 structures were destroyed. Within the first day, the blaze destroyed the community of Concow and the town of Paradise. With so many homes lost and so many evacuees, many had to seek shelter in nearby communities.
The Oroville Church of the Nazarene became an emergency shelter for several weeks, operated by the Red Cross, but staffed with volunteers from the church. Below are photos of the shelter and personal reflections from one of the church’s staff, Pastor Shane Heldman.
“It’s 2:00am, and I am awakened by the reality that I have a bed, I have a home, and so many did not go home last night. Everything they had on this earth was gone in the blink of an eye. How can I rest my head? I cannot. So I am up interceding for my neighbor.”
“We opened our arms to 500 people yesterday. When I arrived at 7:00am to our church I was overwhelmed by the impact of this devastation.”
“New Life Church went to work preparing to take in more evacuees, as the need was way more than any one church could take on. And as soon as Red Cross authorized them to receive people, we began to send people there. There were many busses of people just waiting for a place to go.”
“I was so proud of our neighboring Nazarene churches. SonRise Community Fellowship in Vacaville called and offered Crisis Care Kits and water, and delivered quickly. Hope Point Nazarene in Yuba City are sending a team of people to BBQ Tri-tip Sandwiches for 600-700 people today for lunch and tomorrow. God’s hand of provision in the wake of this devastation does not go unnoticed.”
“The Lord provided new items through His people who gave generously! We packed up all of the used donations and took them down to the Hope Center. The Hope Center sent us a load of new items. And within two hours, we had enough new items to offer people what they needed. God provided!"
“Has it really been a week? Last week at this time people had no idea what would come. The Camp Fire came as if a thief in the night, leaving a path of destruction that cannot possible be measured. One week ago our community sat innocently, on the other side of this mountain of destruction. Time then was measured by what the next meal was going to be, or the next appointment, commitment, or task would be. Oh, how I wish we could turn the clock back, and be on the other side of this mountain.”
“We don’t get to choose what we will wake up to. But we do get to choose how we will respond. I have seen the church of Oroville come together in unity, each body doing its part, using the individual gifts according to the grace God has given each of us.”
“Yes! I have witnessed something so miraculous unfold this week as churches and para ministries, business owners, professionals in different fields come together as the body of Christ to share their gifts in ways that can’t be measured:
People who lost every earthly treasure they possessed, except what is in their bank account, came to our center and stocked our donation store with bags of new clothing they just purchased at Walmart.
The nurse who showed up and directed a team of saints to scrub toilets and disinfect bathrooms to keep the flu from spreading.
The pastors who were scrubbing those same toilets before help arrived.
The other churches who showed up to serve wherever they were needed.
The worshipers who showed up and played acoustic guitar while lifting their voices to the heavens.
The saints who worked so hard and long that their immune systems were compromised.
They all stood at their posts, each using the gifts that God graced them with. One is not more important than the other. We need each other, it’s how God designed us to be.”
The Oroville shelter was closed on December 1 as part of the Red Cross consolidating shelters for long term care. As they packed up to leave, one of their managers left this message for the church and community.
We are grateful to churches like Oroville, Chico, and others who stepped in selflessly to serve their neighbors in need during this disaster.