California Wildfires: Thank You from Ridge PCA (Paradise, CA)
OPC Giving in Response to California Wildfires
With Gordon Robbins and the Presbytery Diaconal Committee (PDC) of the OPC Presbytery of Northern California and Nevada (PNCV) acting as intermediary, the OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries (CDM) investigated the needs of churches affected by the California wildfire, known as the "Camp Fire," in the autumn of 2018, and selected Ridge PCA (Paradise, CA) as the church to which it would donate funds and to which it would recommend that OPC members direct their personal giving.
Gordon Robbins reported that he was able to deliver a relief check from the OPC CDM directly into the hands of Pastor Josh Lee of Ridge Presbyterian Church. Gordon made it clear that he was the courier for people who cared for them and were praying for them. Pastor Lee was extremely grateful and said that the day before, although he knew of huge needs, he wouldn’t have been able to cite a specific use for the funds, but that morning, he could. He said he had met with one of his “burned out” families the night before to encourage them. The father is a contractor who not only lost his home, but also lost his truck and all his tools in the fire. They have a child with spina bifida, with the on-going medical treatment and bills that that entails. The family was feeling extremely pressured with their situation. They were staying with another family, but the father stated, “I have to get back to work to provide for my family and our daughter’s care, but I have no way to work as I have no truck or tools.” Pastor Lee assured them that God understood their plight and would provide for them, although he admitted he had no idea how. When he received the OPC check the next morning, Pastor Lee told Gordon this story and said he now knew how God was going to answer that hurting family’s prayers, and he was excited to be able to share it with them.
Click here to give to Ridge PCA's Camp Fire Relief Fund.
Thank You from Ridge PCA
The following year-end Thank You Note was written by Pastor Josh Lee to everyone who had helped their church in its time of crisis.
December 20, 2018
As I write this, we are five days away from Christmas. And yet for me, and for many of our people, it feels like Christmas has come already. That must seem like an odd thing to say considering all that our people have gone through in these past 6 weeks. But because of all the love and support and prayer that we have received from you, it couldn’t be truer. In the last six weeks, we have been blessed by hundreds of families and churches seeking to care for us. We’ve received checks, gift cards, housing, letters, handmade quilts, etc…every single gift bringing us to our knees in gratitude. My only regret is that I have not been able to adequately thank you, with all that is continuing to happen here.
But this week we’ve had a chance to catch our breath a bit, so I wanted to sit down and write this letter as a way to say thank you by updating you on how your gifts are blessing the lives of fire survivors from Paradise. First, let me give a small update:
It is estimated that somewhere between 85% and 90% of dwellings have been destroyed in the towns of Paradise, Magalia, and Concow. In our congregation, 7 houses have survived out of 114. And of those 7, only 2 are currently livable. Certain sections of Paradise were opened for return on December 5th, but the majority of the town was not allowed to return and see their property until December 15th, a little over 5 weeks after the fire. The scene upon return was surreal. Everything looks bad, but some areas look exceptionally bad. Entire neighborhoods completely gone; flattened houses as far as the eye can see. Families are starting the process of sifting through the ashes to find whatever may have miraculously survived, but most everything is gone.
However, in the midst of this, recovery HAS begun. And that is in large part because of the way YOU have loved us so well. I’m not going to lie to you…there are still very hard days around here. Days with tears and frustrations and feelings of despair. But hope is rising. I can see it. And I can especially see it when we are able to support a family by means of the gifts you have given.
So far, we have been able to use donated funds to meet a variety of needs. Job recovery is one of them. One member of our congregation is a contractor who lost his work truck and tools. We were able to help him put a down payment on a work truck, and replace the tools lost in the fire so he could return to work. This was especially important since his son, who has Spina Bifida, has been in the hospital preparing for another surgery.
We’ve also been able to dedicate funds towards housing. The biggest need in the area right now is to find local housing. There just is not enough of it for the vast demand. For folks that need to stay in the area for their job or for county services, finding a place to rent has been almost impossible. Because of this, we are partnering with families to allow them to broaden their search. Even if something is out of their price range, we have committed to helping them cover the remainder of the cost. They pay what they are able, and then we are covering the rest for the duration of this year’s lease.
Funds are also being used for families who found themselves without adequate insurance. One family in our church is incredibly tight-knit with their extended family who all lived in Paradise. The husband actually drove back into Paradise when evacuations started to wait at the crossroads and watch until he saw every last one of his siblings, cousins, nieces/nephews make it out. His immediate family was insured. His extended family was not. And they have been using their insurance money to provide for grandparents, siblings, nieces and nephews. When we heard about this, we were eager to come alongside them in caring for their family so that the entire burden did not fall on them.
Gift Cards have been a God send! At first, our people were hesitant to take them, always saying that someone else probably needed them more than they did. But now that the initial insurance checks have run out, gift cards have been vital in keeping people afloat. Not only are our people using them, they are able to connect us to those they meet in the community who are in need as well. In fact, on Christmas Eve we will be participating in a community wide Christmas Eve service in Paradise where we will be able to pass out these gift cards to families from Paradise.
I could go on and on describing toy drives, appliances, home furnishings, even a plan to partner with a non-profit finding housing for Senior Citizens in need of medical assistance. But I’ll stop here and trust that the things I’ve described above will give you a glimpse of how your generosity has helped so many. And by God’s grace, will continue to help. I underline “continue” because our goal is not just to use these donations for a few months and then be done. It’s to invest in the long haul. As we’ve met with disaster recovery experts, we’ve been told repeatedly that this recovery is a marathon not a sprint. And to have resources still available in the years to come when rebuilding starts in earnest will be paramount. We are fully committed to using these funds to assist those in need today. But we are just as committed to using these funds to aid those in need tomorrow.
I will end in the same way I began: Thank you! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you! Years from now, you may not remember that you made a donation to a small church in Paradise CA. But believe me, we will remember. We will never forget.
Lead Pastor, Ridge Presbyterian Church