“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’” - Eleanor Roosevelt
This week many of our friends escaped the flames of the Camp Fire on the ridge with only the clothes on their back. It has now been declared the most destructive wildfire in California history. The grief that I experienced in the course of 24 hours was the most overwhelming I have felt in my 25 years of full time ministry.
I spent my day on Thursday with Josh Gallagher, the new lead pastor at Paradise Alliance Church. He worked at my side as a part of our staff hospitality team until midnight. We learned Friday morning his home was lost in the fire, but also were relieved to learn Paradise Alliance Church is still intact! It is an honor to serve the people of Paradise… and this NC Chico Church campus is a blessing not only to our city, but to our region.
Here at Neighborhood Church we have been running an evacuation center since Thursday morning. We have received over 500 phone calls looking for family members, as well as those wanting to volunteer and donate to the cause. The evacuation will remain in effect for the forseeable future with a census of 360 people checked in and many others taking advantage of our hospitality. Thank you to those who have been able to come and serve. You are a blessing!
Tomorrow, we will worship in our Dome at 9am and 11am as usual…but in an unprecedented way. We have invited Paradise Alliance Church to worship with us, and Pastor Josh will speak. Our worship team will lead us through the musical portion of our time and there will be testimonies. This is a special, moment in our church history that you will not want to miss. The 360 guests we are hosting are invited to join us, and we anticipate an incredible time together!
There are a few logistics which will require additional patience and time. Because of the ongoing evacuation, parking will be a challenge. There will be a parking team who will assist you, but we recommend you arrive at least 20 minutes early for church. You may have to park down the street or wait for a parking spot… but it will all be worth the inconvenience.
There are at least seven NC families who lost their homes in the Paradise area, and we will pray for them along with our friends from Paradise Alliance and evacuees. There are miracle stories to celebrate as well, but our hearts are breaking as thousands of people lost everything.