As Northern California still reels from the wildfire that consumed an entire town and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes, Foursquare churches have begun offering comfort and support in Jesus’s name—among other ways, by obeying His words and letting the children come.
With support from volunteers from other congregations in the area, Life Church (Chico Foursquare Church) in Chico, Calif., is running a free children’s camp for scores of youngsters among the thousands of evacuees in the city from nearby Paradise, which was swallowed up in the flames. At least 40 people are known to have died in what was dubbed the Camp Fire—the deadliest in California history—with more fatalities likely to be confirmed when the blaze is contained enough for emergency teams to get into the area.
The kids camp is just one of the ways Life Church Senior Pastor Jeff Young and his members are responding to the needs of some of the 250,000 or so people who have been forced from their homes across the state by out-of-control separate fires in northern and southern parts.
With schools closed for two weeks, Jeff says the Chico kids camp is “an opportunity to love on the kids, but the real blessing will be for the parents,” enabling some to continue working and others to begin to try to pick up the pieces of what is left of their lives. “Our facilities are not set up to be an evacuation center, but we can definitely host kids, and a lot of them,” he adds.
He also has been coordinating with other churches in the area to see how he and his members can support their efforts. With funds from Foursquare Disaster Relief (FDR), he and Life Church members have been distributing gift cards to enable evacuees to buy basic supplies and providing meals to some of the emergency shelters.
Thankful that Foursquare members were accounted for, the devastation has been “tragic,” Jeff reports. “Many people have lost literally everything; they left with just what they had on them. This is a real big opportunity for the church overall in Chico and Butte County to rise up and meet people’s needs.”
The massive scale of the destruction—almost 7,000 homes and businesses in Paradise lost, including Paradise Foursquare Church—means it will take longer than usual to complete an assessment of ministry needs and opportunities, says FDR U.S. Director Jason Reynolds. However, it is clear that the community is going to need long-term support, he adds.
Steps are already being taken to mobilize trained FDR chaplains to the area to assist with emotional and spiritual care. With the donations that have been received so far, FDR will also be sending funds to help the many Foursquare families among those who have lost their homes and belongings.
“Our church building may be gone, but our church is not gone. All of you who are still breathing are still part of our church. There are so many people in our city who still need hope and encouragement and supplies.”
—Chris Hines, senior pastor of Paradise Foursquare Church, in a Facebook post about the Camp fire
They include Chris Hines, senior pastor of Paradise Foursquare Church, who was separated from his wife and three children for six anxious hours during the evacuation before learning they were safe. He later posted a Facebook message encouraging church members to have faith and look for ways to minister to others impacted by the fire.
“Our church building may be gone, but our church is not gone,” Chris posted. “All of you who are still breathing are still part of our church. There are so many people in our city who still need hope and encouragement and supplies.”
Though overshadowed by the destruction in Paradise, serious wildfires in Southern California—the Woolsey and Hill fires—have consumed property and forced many to evacuate there.
Led by Senior Pastor Gary Dunahoo, Lighthouse Church (Newbury Park Foursquare Church) in Newbury Park, Calif., has been distributing gift cards to help evacuees get emergency supplies, Jason says. At its website, the church is also offering counseling support to those affected either by the fires or the Nov. 8 bar shooting in Thousand Oaks.
Jason appeals to Foursquare members to pray that the fires would be contained soon. “We believe in the supernatural intervention of God, and we really need the winds to die down to help the firefighters,” he states. “If the winds die down, there’s a chance to get better containment.”
Foursquare Disaster Relief can give generously to U.S. Wild Fire relief thanks to your generosity. To help FDR support local churches affected by the fires and respond to ministry opportunities in the impacted communities, visit 4sq.ca/donatefdr and select “U.S. Wild Fires.”