The devastation of the
Camp Fire is hard to picture unless you see it first-hand. There are burned out
homes, businesses, and vehicles as far as you can see. So many lives have been changed
forever. Closure will be hard to come by.
Nonetheless, the role of
our recent Early Response Team mission to Paradise was to help start the
journey of renewal. For about two weeks we sent teams with residents to visit
their property and to assist with the recovery of what limited possessions that
survived, if any.
It was heartbreaking. Most everything was gone. Look
around your house and imagine losing every bit of it. Everything. We all
recognize that a lot of it is “just stuff,” but there are also treasured
keepsakes, photos, cherished jewelry, kid’s toys—a lifetime of memories.
Most days we sent out
three teams of two people, each lead by an Early Response Team Leader. A full
day was about three stops of two to three hours per site. We met with the resident at their property and first
talked about their situation—how they are feeling, how they are doing now. Each
person needs to tell their story. Then, as we suited up in protective gear (there
are many hazardous chemicals and toxins in the ruins), they would tell us what
specific things to look for.
Each situation was different.
Most were looking for valuables of some type—a wedding ring, coin collection,
or other personal treasure. After a few rains, finding such things in the
soggy, soupy ash was nearly impossible. We had some successes and some
disappointments. Others wanted to salvage grandma’s china, family knick-knacks,
and mementoes of times gone by. Some were just looking for anything to remind
them of their life in that place. Time is short. The bulldozers come in a few
Everyone processes loss in
their own way. A good cry helps. Others wanted to reflect on special fond memories.
We lent a willing ear for a couple of hours as we sifted ashes. And then we
were gone. The clients were left with their own grief. Most are uncertain about
their future: rebuild or not, where to live, what about the job they lost, and
so many life decisions crammed into a few upside-down weeks. And yet, among all
the sadness, we saw glimmers of hope, just like the sparkle of a lost ring in
Our mission participants will never forget this
experience. We touched the lives of a few hundred people in a time of extreme
crisis. It was a fleeting but meaningful impact. We marveled at the resilience
and the determination of people so traumatized. “Grateful to be alive” takes on
a whole new meaning!
Outside of our own comfort
zone, we have grown as individuals who experienced the true meaning of living
our faith in such a tangible way. Join us in prayer for the people of Paradise.
In Mission Together,
The California-Nevada Conference Camp Fire Response Team