From Bishop Carcaño: Next Steps in Our Response to the Butte County Camp Fire Crisis

November 21, 2018

Sisters and Brothers,
As we gather round the table of grace in our homes this Thanksgiving, let us remember the victims of the Butte County Camp Fire and other fires throughout the state of California. Let us hold them up to God through prayer and let us consider how we might come alongside them to comfort and sustain them.
This past weekend I was able to join a group of our United Methodist leaders who were providing relief to victims of the fire that devastated the community of Paradise, CA. We joined other people of faith and government and secular agencies at the Disaster Recovery Center set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Chico. We served hundreds of suffering persons who readily told us about their experiences of facing consuming and all-powerful fires.
Their stories were filled with horror, but also with the wonder of human bravery, resilience, and hope. I will carry their stories, their faces, tears, courage, and faith with me for the rest of my life. I know that we cannot abandon them.
I am so very grateful for the generous loving support of our United Methodist Connection. In response to the Camp Fire, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) provided an immediate $10,000 grant, the Arkansas Conference is donating $10,000, bishops from across the church have reached out to ask how the conferences they lead can help, and people in states as far off as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are calling area pastors, offering their help and announcing that they have taken up collections for our fire relief effort.
Right here at home, the people of the California-Nevada Conference have responded as well. Since the fire, 70 people have donated $8,915 to the conference’s disaster response fund through the website alone. All of the donations have already been put to good use.
Through the gifts already received, we United Methodists have been able to connect with more than 1,100 households – approximately 10% of those who have been displaced. We have provided individuals and families with nearly $50,000 worth of gift cards for gas and immediate personal needs such as food, clothing, and medications. We also continue to offer them emotional and spiritual support. We have pledged to be there for them for the years to come. I saw many tears as I shared with these suffering souls that we would not cease praying for them.
I know that you join me in the commitment to continue to pray for these our brothers and sisters. And, I know that you want to continue to do all you can to respond to their needs. Here is how you can respond:
VOLUNTEER for one of the following needed tasks:

  • Provide spiritual and emotional care support at the Disaster Recovery Center
  • Organize tool and “fire bucket” drives in your community
  • Deliver fire buckets throughout the affected neighborhoods as families return
  • Build sifters for volunteers and homeowners to use
  • Provide data entry and/or office administration services
  • Contact registered families to assess needs
  • Assist homeowners in sifting through the ashes to recover precious items
  • Assist homeowners with small repairs to homes damaged by the fire
VOLUNTEER by completing a Fire Disaster Response volunteers form. You will be contacted and given further information for the work that is needed.
Further down the road we will also need a Construction Advisor to help assess construction needs of individual restoration projects for families whose homes suffered small to intermediate damage.
Remember, volunteers will be needed long after the flames are extinguished. Mission Teams will be needed to help families with cleanup and rebuilding. It will be a long process and Mission Teams will be needed soon, and for years to come.
A Volunteer Coordinator is needed to oversee the process of coming alongside Camp Fire survivors in the repair, restoration, and/or rebuilding of their homes. This person will be responsible for coordinating with local and state governments and other agencies to identify and provide resources, as well as overseeing recruitment, assignment, and hosting of volunteers from across the Connection. The volunteer coordinator position is local to the Chico area and could be performed by a team of individuals. This position works directly with the Conference Disaster Response Ministry team.
There is no doubt in my mind that God is calling forth servant leaders from among us for these needed efforts. Most of all, I know that as we step up, we will be the most blessed. Just ask those who have already stepped up to the front line to serve.
Let us continue to pray for the victims of the fires as we give God thanks for all the blessings we receive each day. May you have a blessed Thanksgiving. I am praying for all of you with a grateful heart.
Peace and love,

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño