from our partnerFaithwire
written byWill Maule
A Californian megachurch has offered to gift $1,000 to any family who has lost their home in the wildfires that have engulfed much of the state. Bethel Church has found itself at the heart of a rescue and relief operation these past weeks after a massive inferno broke out across the region.
Now, alongside serving as an official distribution hub in conjunction with Red Cross, Bethel is offering to help victims by providing them with financial assistance. “We are incredibly blessed as a church by people all around the world praying for us, donating and supporting our community here in Redding,” Bethel posted in an update on its website. “The generosity of gifts coming towards us is both humbling and much needed. Christians around the world are coming together and supporting a cause that is bigger than any one individual alone can carry.”
As a result of the outpouring of generosity and compassion toward those who have been affected by the blaze, the well-known church has decided to pay it forward by assisting victims in a practical way—by giving them $1,000.
“When we first made the decision to give a financial gift for the people in our city who had lost their home, the numbers being reported were 150-200 homes. Within just three days, that number had climbed to over 1000 homes, and the amount we had expected to raise and give went from $200,000 to over $1,000,000 dollars,” Bethel noted.
The church’s staggering announcement continued:
“This was a step of faith for us to say ‘yes’ to this commitment, $200,000 was a challenge, but doable in our own strength and resources. But $1,000,000 is a God-sized step of faith. We are believing Him for it, and are now in the process of reaching out to our friends around the globe to be the hands of Christ to our city in this moment. We are determined to honor this commitment, whether the generosity comes from gifts from the global community or from our own church finances.
It is our desire to offer a $1000 gift of assistance to residents who experienced the loss of both home and possessions because the home they were residing in was destroyed. We are able to give one gift per home lost (not per person), to the people that were living in the home during the Carr Fire.”
Criteria that beneficiaries must meet in order to receive the funds is simple: their home must be listed on the Housing Authority report as “50%+ destroyed” and it must be the family’s “primary residence.” The gift is not for those who were using the house as a “second home” or vacation spot.
Bethel has also been providing a massive team of volunteers to help victims complete “Ash Outs” — sifting through the rubble to recover valuable personal items.
Yesterday, Bethel Global Response volunteer teams went out to do more Ash Outs with families who lost their homes and returned with this beautiful story. They met Alyson at her home and helped her find the two sentimental items she was looking for: her grandmother’s wedding ring and her flute from the 1970’s. The ring belonged to Alyson’s mother, who passed away two weeks before her daughter was born, and had promised to pass onto her daughter when she grew up. Even though the process of sifting through the ashes can be mixed with grief and sadness, it is an honor to come alongside families who lost everything and help bring a little bit of hope to their process. #strongpeople #strongfamily #strongcity #reddingstrong
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Despite the obvious heartache of losing a home, Bethel is highlighting stories of hope and restoration.
“God is moving in Redding and bringing us glimpses of hope for rebuilding,” the church wrote on one of its social media posts which detailed a recent “Ash Out.”
With only minutes to evacuate their home as the fire erupted into their backyard, Judah and Krystal Gowan grabbed their two daughters, pets and Krystal’s parents who lived with them and rushed out the door. They did not know what would be left when they returned. Yesterday, our Bethel Global Response Ash Out teams went to see if there was anything they could find. They found wedding rings, diamonds and some family photos, but one thing that was extremely sentimental to @judahcris44 was a box of jerseys from when he coached basketball at Bethel Christian School. It brought him joy as he was reminded of how he would encourage the kids that no matter how far behind you are, you can always come back. He felt the significance of finding these jerseys, and they reminded him that no matter how down and far behind he and his family feel, they will come back– nothing is too big to hold them down. Coming alongside this amazing family is one of the most profound experiences our team has had. God is moving in Redding and bringing us glimpses of hope for rebuilding. If you or someone you know lost their home in the Carr Fire, you can request Ash Out assistance here: bethel.com/carrfire [Link in Bio] #carrfire #reddingstrong
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According to Cal Fire, the Carr Fire has devastated 177,450 acres as of Aug 9, but is now 48 percent contained. Authorities have deemed it safe enough for certain evacuation orders to be lifted, and for people to return to their homes. The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office did, however, urge caution.
“Please be vigilant and aware of current conditions,” the office noted on Twitter, advising families to go carefully as they return to their decimated communities.
#CarrFire As evacuation orders are lifted and people are returning to their homes please be vigilant and aware of current conditions. Drive slowly and yield to emergency personnel in the area. If at anytime you feel unsafe, call 9-1-1. https://t.co/YF49WNCTeP
— Shasta Co. Sheriff (@ShastaSheriff) August 9, 2018
Keep praying for this devastated community as it recovers from such a monumental natural disaster.