Chaplains Provide Spiritual and Emotional Counseling to Survivors of Northern California Wildfires

Night long exposure photograph of the Santa Clarita wildfire in CA. The Santa Clarita Valley mountains has drawn firefighters and emergency crews in the hills toward Acton. So far, the fire has burned 38,346 acres.

California Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplaincy teams have begun providing spiritual and emotional counseling to survivors of Northern California’s Carr fire, which started on July 23 and rapidly grew over the weekend to consume more than 98,000 acres.

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.

“As of [Monday morning, July 30], no evacuation orders have been lifted,” Bivins said. “We are anticipating that shelters will remain for three-plus days.”

According to reports on Monday morning, the Carr fire has destroyed over 720 homes along with 240 other structures. The fires are only at 20 percent containment, and officials could not yet predict when firefighters could expect to reach full containment.

Bivins said California SBDR teams will deploy a laundry unit today 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.”

California SBDR is on standby with the American Red Cross to help with feeding if they are needed. 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.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press, Brandon Elrod