First Baptist Church of Middletown Stands as Beacon of Hope Amid California Fires

The Valley Fire in Southern Lake County, Calif., burned 75,781 acres, but the flames went around First Baptist Church of Middletown, Calif., sparing the two-story wooden structure from damage. Church photo
The Valley Fire in Southern Lake County, Calif., burned 75,781 acres, but the flames went around First Baptist Church of Middletown, Calif., sparing the two-story wooden structure from damage.
Church photo

The Lord is using Southern Baptist Disaster Relief to share the Gospel in a tangible way among the survivors of California wildfires that have killed six people and burned more than 150,000 acres of land, pastor Michael Ent told Baptist Press.

The largest of two fires currently threatening populated communities, the Valley Fire, seemingly parted as it neared Ent’s pastorate, First Baptist Church in Middletown, sparing the two-story wooden building. The church’s membership of 40 is using the experience to encourage fellow survivors.

“We’re all survivors honestly,” Ent said. “Every one of us is blessed because the loss of life is so minimal. So in that respect we all recognize we’re going through this together, whether our structures are standing or not.”

A Middletown community member who was suffering from survivor guilt, as her home was spared, came to realize that her home was left standing as a blessing to the community, not her alone, Ent said.

“It dawned on her that the value of that property standing is not just for her. She knows that she’s going to get to use her house and her household, her home, to honor the Lord. And that’s what happening,” Ent said. “But we’ve been kind of hearing some miraculous reports about some of our membership who, their home is still there. It’s kind of like the church building. Everything around the home is burned to a crisp and their home is standing.

“I don’t know what the rhyme or the reason is, but the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. That’s where we are and we’re giving God the glory for our property being there. And it’s pretty clear to us we get to use it for His glory. And what a privilege that is.”

First Baptist Church is using its lot to host shower and laundry units, and a kitchen that may serve up to 5,000 or 10,000 meals a day for survivors of the Valley Fire, California Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Ministries (CSBDRM) Coordinator Don Hargis told BP.

The Valley Fire has killed four people and injured four firefighters, has destroyed 1,910 structures, and although it is 90 percent contained as of today (Sept. 25), is still threatening 2,953 structures, according to a Cal Fire Department of Forestry and Fire Protection incident report.

Other Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units are serving survivors of the smaller fire, the Butte Fire in Amador & Calaveras Counties, with a kitchen serving 2,500 meals a day in San Andreas. Nearby Glory Bound Fellowship (Southern Baptist), a county designated evacuation center in Burson, is hosting a laundry unit from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and a shower unit. Glory Bound is serving as a distribution site and shelter, where many of the meals being prepared in San Andreas are being served, Hargis said.

The Butte Fire has killed two civilians and injured another, has destroyed 475 residences and 343 outbuildings, and has burned 70,868 acres, according to Cal Fire figures. While the fire was 93 percent contained as of today, it is still threatening 6,400 structures, Cal Fire said.

More than 25 Southern Baptist volunteers are working at each of the churches serving survivors, Hargis said. And those numbers will increase, he noted, as SBDR units are able to help homeowners clean their lots after the fires are totally extinguished.

Survivors are said to be in good spirits.

“Their mood is high because they’re getting a lot of help, not so much attention, just help,” Hargis said. “It’s very constant. So there’s a lot of encouragement.”

 

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Diana Chandler