Church members minister to wildfire evacuees in Clovis

Published Sep 10, 2020

CLOVIS, Calif.—When Pastor Shawn Beaty and his congregation began helping evacuees of the Creek Fire near Fresno, he had no idea it would “grow and spin bigger” than he could have ever imagined by serving as many as 2,000 families in one week.

His congregation, Clovis Hills Community Church in Clovis, is strategically located across the street from a high school being used as an American Red Cross Evacuation Center and has been operating as many as 12-hours each day since Monday, Sept. 7.

Beaty said the response from Fresno/Clovis churches and community at large to provide for disaster victims has been “tremendous.”

Another local church distributing gift cards outside the Red Cross center began directing those in need from adjacent mountain communities north of Fresno, to Clovis Hills for basic goods and essentials such as water, food staples, new clothes, diapers and personal care items.

Clovis Hills also provides the families three, $25 gift cards to help with gas, groceries and eating out. He noted about $6,000 in gift cards has been distributed each day this week.

Noting the generosity of the community, Beaty said at least twice during the week a food truck came to the church and provided meals for everyone on campus without charge. “We have no idea who provided those meals for evacuees and church volunteers. That’s what God is doing.”

More than 300 homes have been destroyed because of the Creek Fire which has grown to more than 175,000 acres. About 5,000 homes are at jeopardy, but firefighters have been able to subvert the flames from communities to this point. Officials anticipate that evacuees may be away from their homes for as many as three weeks.

The Alec family – Rod, Shylynn, Akaidian and Persayus – from Tollhouse is one family finding its way to the Clovis church associated with California Southern Baptist Convention.

“Once I saw the fires coming over the ridge, I said it’s time to go,” Rod Alec commented. “I didn’t want to take a chance with my family.”

His wife, Shylynn, said, “It felt like a scene from a movie as we left our home. The sky was orange from the fires. We didn’t have time to grab much stuff, so places like Clovis Hills are a true blessing.”

In response to seeing all the supplies and people at the church, Shylynn said, “It’s overwhelming to see the love and support from the church and community.”

Chanelle Parker, another evacuee from Bass Lake and at the church for supplies, said, “I am so grateful for all the help we’ve been getting. I’ve lost my job and potentially my house, so seeing all these people out here helping is amazing. This is truly a blessing”.

Beaty, who serves as CSBC president, said, “God opened a door and we walked through it. This has been tons of work and money, but the ministry is worth it and has been amazing.”

He noted his congregation has been able to “share Jesus with people to make Him known.”

The ministry is “raw and authentic” according to Beaty, who said Clovis Hills church members “are making Jesus look beautiful to those who have fled their homes.”