October 12, 2017
Brothers and Sisters,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Christ Jesus.
Our area has been devastated by wildfires, but our United Methodist leaders have held steady in the confidence that God with us. I hold up the example of Rev. Blake Busick, Senior Pastor at First UMC in Santa Rosa, who even while he and his family were evacuated and have possibly lost their home, led God’s people to open the doors of their church to provide refuge for those escaping the deadly fires.
Our churches in Santa Rosa, Napa, Sonoma, Petaluma and Novato are serving as shelters. Our San Rafael and Terra Linda churches are assisting with the Novato shelter and as of yesterday were standing by, ready to serve as shelters as well if needed. Clear Lake UMC who knows what it is like to be in the pathway of wildfires has been serving as a rest area for firefighters. The need has been so great that even our Waller Center in San Francisco has become a shelter. Los Altos UMC has sent forth health kits for those in shelters. I have also learned that there was a wildfire in the Sutter Creek area and that Lodestar Camp served as a staging site for firefighters. By God’s grace this fire has been contained.
Last night we received the following email from this United Methodist:
I’m a member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, IN.
I work with a memory care community in Petaluma, CA and you were my first thought.
I’m looking for a church in the San Fran area where we could have potential evacuation
of 50 Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients—and caregivers (with meds and essential supplies).
We have buses headed to the community now, as the fire department has told us to prepare for potential evacuation.
The United Methodist who contacted us reached out this morning with a follow-up:
I cannot tell you how much your attention means to our team right now.
I am so grateful for the strength of our connectional church! We are in contact with our United Methodist Committee on Relief. They have always been a ready help to us in situations like the one we are presently facing. It continues to be true that after many others leave, UMCOR stays for the long-term rebuilding of communities affected by natural disasters.
Today Rev. Caldwell and DS Schuyler Rhodes are in Santa Rosa assessing the situation and needs and extending pastoral care. We will continue to give you updates on what they learn and others report to us. Be assured that we will develop a clear disaster response plan that we will share with you and the entire United Methodist Church.
We are receiving expressions of prayer and support from all over The United Methodist Church and others. I am in Panama representing The UMC and our Council of Bishops at the Assembly of the Methodist Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean and our area has been prayed over many times including a very moving moment this morning when I was asked to stand with leaders of the Methodist churches in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and other places that have been recently affected by natural disasters so that those gathered for the Assembly could pray for all of us. Our brothers and sisters laid hands upon us and lifted up fervent prayers for us.
As this great Assembly prayed for all of us, I had a vision in which I saw the reconstruction of all our regions in the world; brick by brick, beautiful homes and buildings arising from the ashes and flood waters of destruction! It was more than just a hopeful thought. As I had closed my eyes for prayer I was only thinking about the pictures of the horrible destruction and death that has afflicted so many of us. I believe that what I saw was an assurance from God that through God’s help we will rebuild. I am praying that we will join God in this redemptive work.
I had been scheduled to go from Panama to the Board meeting of Africa University in Zimbabwe but have made the decision to return home to be with all of you. My heart has been burdened by the suffering of our communities, churches and pastors while I have been so far away. God willing, I will be home tomorrow and will devote my time to the pastoral needs of those suffering and serving in our area.
We are the people of a faithful God who never forgets or abandons us, full of mercy and grace, a rock beneath our feet, a powerful right arm at our side, the One who protests us under the wings of God’s own care, and loves us in all circumstances with extra care and love for those who suffer most. We are the disciples of Christ Jesus who came that we may have life. We are the church who knows through the Holy Spirit that we shall never be alone for God is with us!
Your Sister in Christ,
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño