|United Methodist churches among those affected by California fires|
The Santiago fire in Orange County, Calif., lights
up the night sky on Oct. 23. The blaze is one of many fires threatening
thousands of homes in Southern California, resulting in the evacuation
of more than 500,000 people.
A UMNS photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Oct. 24, 2007
United Methodist families are among those who have lost homes in the
raging wildfires that have consumed large portions of Southern
California since Oct. 21
Two families in the Fallbrook United Methodist Church congregation
and three families from Hope United Methodist Church in Rancho Bernardo
have lost their homes, according to early reports from the United
Methodist San Diego district.
Smoke from multiple wildfires in Southern California can be seen
drifting westward over the Pacific Ocean in this NASA satellite image. A
UMNS photo courtesy of NASA.
"The good news is that we have heard from all of our pastors and
none of them have lost their parsonages," said the Rev. Myron D.
Wingfield, superintendent of the San Diego district. "All our church
structures and camps are secure."
Wingfield said they will continue to monitor Julian and Camp Cedar
Glen because they are still in possible danger from the fires.
Pastors and congregations of at least five United Methodist churches
are among the more than 500,000 who have been evacuated and two or three
families have been waiting out the disaster in Qualcomm Stadium, home
of the San Diego Chargers, Wingfield said.
“I spent the morning at Qualcomm Stadium with Rev. Dick George and
Rev. Donna Ford of Hope United Methodist Church, Rancho Bernardo,” he
said. Wingfield said the United Methodist families in the stadium have
heard their homes are safe and they have turned their attention to
helping other evacuees.
The hot Santa Ana winds that have fueled the fires were beginning to
ease by Oct. 23. The fires have destroyed hundreds of acres and homes.
"We have heard comparisons between the fires and Hurricane Katrina,"
he said. "But that is so unfair. San Diego has the advantage of nice
sunny weather and the fire has not obliterated the systems for
communication." The response has been quick and easy, he said.
United Methodist Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, Los Angeles area, called upon “the power of our connectional system” to help.
“As fires rage across Southern California, I hear the psalmist
proclaiming, ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in
time of trouble,’” she said. “God is indeed our refuge, but the
work of compassion is ours to do: now is the time to step up and ‘Be the
Swenson said the United Methodist Committee on Relief sent an emergency
grant of $10,000 to the California-Pacific Annual (regional) conference
for use in the relief/recovery process.
This map details fire locations and resulting damage as of
Tuesday morning. A UMNS image courtesy of the California Office of
“Your local congregations can participate and make a real
difference,” she said. “First, I ask that everyone be in prayer:
Pray for the firefighters, pray for those who lost homes and businesses,
pray for the evacuees, pray for the animals that have been displaced,
pray for those whose loved ones are in harm’s way, and pray for the
leaders who are working on fighting the fires and recovery efforts.”
Secondly, she said the best tool of direct relief is money. There are two ways to designate gifts:
Gifts designated for the “Bishop’s California Fire Appeal” will be
used directly and immediately at the district and local level. Make
checks payable to the local church and put “Bishop’s California Fire
Appeal” in the subject line.
Cash gifts will help provide for recovery. Checks can be placed
in your local United Methodist Church offering plate or mailed to UMCOR
PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Write “UMCOR Advance #901670,
Domestic Disaster Response,” on the memo line of your check. Call
1-800-554-8583 to give by credit card over the phone or give online www.umcor.org.
One hundred percent of every donation to any appeal, including appeals
for California wildfires, goes to support the designated program.
“In addition to an emergency grant to support the conference in its
initial efforts, disaster response consultants are at the ready to
provide the conference with their presence and guidance as needed,” said
the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, head of UMCOR’s domestic disaster response.
“As always UMCOR offers its prayers and support to those in need,”
said Sam Dixon, UMCOR’s chief executive. “We ask for your generous
donations to the domestic disaster response advance as recent
emergencies have depleted the funds we use to provide relief and support
in disasters such as these.”
Wingfield also said the feeling of the United Methodist connection has been a blessing.
"We have the sense that our United Methodist family around the
country is keeping us in God's grace. That's a huge comfort at a time
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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California-Pacific Annual (regional) Conference
United Methodist Committee on Relief