Calif. wildfires: Chaplains become first phase of Disaster Relief

Published Jul 30, 2018

REDDING, Calif. (BP) — California Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplaincy teams are providing spiritual and emotional counseling to survivors of Northern California’s Carr fire.

Mike Bivins, director of California’s SBDR efforts who has been on site visiting shelters, reported that between 800 and 1,000 survivors have been in and out of shelters in the Redding area. On Tuesday, July 31, Bivins reported “many of the mandatory evacuations were lifted as firefighters strengthened containment lines near neighborhoods.”

Bivins said California SBDR deployed a laundry unit Monday and have engaged local churches to help with laundry and showers for those in their communities. Southern Baptist volunteers and churches also have been able to provide pet care for survivors whose shelters do not allow pets.

“For us, one of the big things is continuing to partner with the local church to provide assistance and help them,” Bivins said. “In some cases, it’s about providing for the local church and enabling them to minister rather than rolling in and taking control.”

According to reports on Tuesday, the Carr fire has destroyed almost 900 homes and about 350 other structures. The fire, which is only 27 percent contained, has consumed more than 110,000 acres, or 172 square miles which is 3.5 times larger than San Francisco. The expected to burn until mid-August.

California SBDR is on standby with the American Red Cross to help in any way possible with two fires that have exploded in Lake County. They are also prepared to provide ash-out services for homeowners whenever asked. In mid-July, California SBDR teams completed ash-out work on nine mobile homes that burned during the West fire in San Diego county.

“Mike really has done an outstanding job,” said Sam Porter, national executive director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief for the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief compassion ministry. “His strength is in men’s ministry, in strengthening their grip on Christianity and how it affects their lives as men. As a result, he has a great chaplaincy team.”

Reporting also by Terry Barone, CSBC Communications Team leader.