‘Almost apocalyptic’: Convoy of Hope, churches helping those affected by West Coast fires

Dee Perez comforts Michael Reynolds in the ruins of his home destroyed in the Almeda Fire in Talent, Oregon, September 15, 2020. Infernos across California, Oregon and Washington state have burned more than 5 million acres (2 million hectares) this year, killed dozens of people and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. |

Convoy of Hope, a faith-based disaster relief charity, has been working with churches on the West Coast where it has sent over a dozen loads of supplies to aid families affected by the fires that have burned millions of acres of land in California, Oregon and Washington state and taken more than 30 lives.

“We’ve got at least a dozen loads of resources either already on the ground or en route to some of our partners both in California and Oregon,” Stacy Lamb, senior director of disaster relief for the nonprofit, said in an interview with The Christian Post on Wednesday.

“In California and Oregon at the moment, we’re working with multiple churches out there to provide them the resources so that they can do distribution even through to local evacuation centers or whatever the case may be.”

Lamb noted that it's more useful to work with local partners rather than set up a specific site since the fires are “extremely widespread.”

He contrasted the fires with the work that Convoy of Hope is doing in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where it's responding to the devastation caused by Hurricane Laura.

“When you take something like fires in California, Oregon, and Washington, where they’re literally stretched over thousands of miles, setting up a single site out there doesn’t really make a lot of sense,” Lamb said.

Convoy of Hope
Convoy of Hope has been trekking across the U.S. since 1994, serving 1.6 million Americans through its community outreach events alone. Today with U.S. poverty at an all-time high, The Convoy of Hope 50-state tour will touch thousands of the 46 million Americans currently living in poverty. |

“So it’s easier to find those partner churches or those hub churches and provide them with the resources and let them distribute locally.”

Lamb told CP about the need for people living elsewhere in the country to “pray for those folks out there” as they deal with a situation that is “almost apocalyptic” and to understand “the scope of the situation.”

“Even the folks that aren’t necessarily in harm’s way from the fire, the smoke and all the ash and all those things out there are just impacting so many more people,” he continued.

“From the standpoint of fresh air and people that have any type of breathing ailments or anything like that, [they] are greatly impacted by these fires as well.”

Recently, several fires have started on the West Coast, burning millions of acres. They have come from a mixture of causes, including lightning strikes and the downing of powerlines, and arson attacks.

Northeast Assembly of God, a Fresno, California-based congregation that has a campus near the wildfires, is one of the church partners working with Convoy of Hope.

Pastor Jim Mattix told CP in an interview on Thursday that supplies from Convoy of Hope arrived Wednesday and around 47 families were assisted by volunteers tied to his church.

“There's been a lot of properties destroyed; there's been a lot of families displaced. They are basically scattered all across the Fresno area after coming down out of the mountains where the creek fires are burning,” Mattix said.

"There's families out here that lost everything. Whenever you're in a fire, there's nothing to get back from that fire. You've lost everything."

Mattix said the church campus is being treated “like a mini-warehouse,” and he's grateful for the help Convoy of Hope gave them to assist people.

By his count, around eight of the families that came to his church for supplies had lost nearly everything they owned when one of the fires went through the nearby mountain communities.

Many in the path of the fires quickly filled up their campers and drove away and their campers have become their new home.

“I look at people's faces when they come in and I listen to their stories,” said Mattix, who noted that those whose homes survived still have yet to get electricity back.

“One of them said, 'I hadn't been in my camper in two-and-a-half years. I moved to the mountain so I didn't have to camp anymore.' He said, 'I threw everything in the camper and took off.'"

That person, Mattix recalled, end up losing his house. According to the pastor, the man later explained that “it looks like I'll be living out in my camper until I can rebuild."

Another family that came to the church had lost all of their family photos, with one family member who talked to the pastor crying and stating, “I can't believe I lost all our memories.”

"We just gave them whatever we had. We have clothes, blankets, food, all the necessities that they would need to restart. So it’s been a blessing to them, it’s been a blessing to us to be a part of that,” Mattix added.

“It’s hard to grasp a hold of it and say, 'How can we help?' I feel like any help we do is minimal and doesn't really make an impact, whereas, to the people, it's huge. But to us, like, man I wish I could build you a house, I wish I could buy you a car to replace the one that burned down."

"But we can't. We can only do what we can."

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