Update on McKenzie Bible Fellowship Holiday Farm Fire
Your gifts and offers of help to our church family and community has been nothing short of miraculous. The Lord is continuing to supply through the generous hearts of His Church, individuals, and families. We consider ourselves so humbly blessed.
To bring you up to date: The Holiday Farm wildfire began on September 8th and was driven to the west, down the McKenzie River valley, by strong westerly winds. After it burned through the valley over a period of days, over 700 structures were destroyed, of which over 400 were homes. The McKenzie River valley (Highway 126) is a string of small communities and individual homes stretching about 50 miles, from Springfield on the west and going past McKenzie Bridge to the east. The fire burned homes for a stretch over 20 miles, between milepost 23 and milepost 47. The small community of Blue River was completely destroyed, including the local Assembly of God church, their parsonage, and ministry retreat building. McKenzie Bible Fellowship is located on the 25.5 mile marker. Our church buildings were graciously spared by the Lord. Seventeen of our church families, however, lost their homes, over a third of our small congregation. We also lost one of our members to the fire, the single fatality in the Holiday Farm fire.
The outpouring of help, empowered by the prayers of God’s people and the generosity of individuals throughout all parts of the country, has been instrumental is providing a sense of hope and security to those who lost homes. I would like to share how your resources have been used.
Initially the Red Cross, friends and family members provided food and lodging to all who were evacuated (evacuation levels went all the way into east Springfield). Due to danger and fire activity, Highway 126 was closed to all traffic, except fire and emergency personnel, prohibiting any to return to their homes. Little by little portions of the road were reopened allowing many in the areas which were not burned to return home, including many in our church family. But the highway remained closed from milepost 24 to milepost 45, the area that contained the homes that had been lost. During this time, we were able to provide those who lost homes gift cards, cash disbursements, supplies and other things needed while away from their homes. The Lane County Sheriff’s department began allowing homeowners to return to the affected areas for 20-30 minutes to see their homes (or the remains) and they then had to go back.
Recently the entire highway has been reopened, although portions of it with limited access and highway department escorts. All of our families have now been able to view their homes. Those who have homes remaining have returned to their homes, except a number who still have no electricity. Currently the church has electricity, a lot of smoke damage, and no internet. But these inconveniences pale in comparison to those who have no home to return to.
At this point MBF is using contributions and resources to help these families find housing that will provide temporary homes for the next year (at least). Most of the families at this point have determined that they will rebuild. Some have purchased trailers or RVs to place on their properties, some are renting in the area, and a few are waiting to determine their next steps. We have been able to help, with your generosity, to get our church families to this next step. There are still two couples still in motels, awaiting access to their properties. Once the Red Cross vouchers run out we have been able to help them stay in their rooms and not be forced to move to another motel.
We are now at the point where families need the things we all take for granted. They have lodging, but now need to stock these homes. Kitchen supplies, dinnerware, bathroom supplies, bedding, etc... all the things we have in our homes that we often don’t think about. Most have insurance that helps with rent but not necessarily furnishings and other things. Your generous gifts have enabled us to obtain many of the necessary items. A large expense, still faced by all, is the massive cleanup of property and removal of the debris that once was their home. This stage has not yet started by most of our church families. Part of the challenge that will be faced in the months ahead is that with so many homes destroyed in the valley, finding contractors, getting permits, and specialized equipment will be extremely difficult. But our God can be trusted - He will provide for our needs and He is doing so through your hands.
Our church family thanks the Lord for each one of you, many whom we do not even know. A special prayer request is that along with all of the material needs, that you would pray for the emotional, physical, and spiritual pain many of our families are now experiencing. Pray that they will have a deep hope, a strong, growing faith, and a trust that the Lord will bring His beauty out of our ashes. The initial shock has passed and now the gravity of the loss and the reality of the road ahead has become a weighty burden on many of them.
Pray for our Elders and Deacons, that the wisdom from above will help us distribute resources according to the needs of our families and the will of the Lord.
Please continue to remember us in your prayers - that our church family will be a strong witness to the grace and the glory of Christ; and that we might have a fruitful outreach for the gospel in the lives of the hundreds displaced and suffering.
I cannot say it enough. We give thanks to the Lord for supplying our needs through His abundant resources shared by each one of you. May God bless you for your generous hearts and may Christ receive all glory. Previous updates are available on our church page www.mckenziebible.com.
Christie and I are privileged that the Lord has allowed us to pastor McKenzie Bible Fellowship for over thirty years. We are family. Our hearts ache with their suffering, but at the same time are so grateful to our Lord to see the depth of faith and love for one another exhibited by our church family amidst their grief. We say the following words, we believe them, but now we live them.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Thank you again for sharing in our lives and investing in Christ’s kingdom --To whom be glory forever and ever.
McKenzie Bible Fellowship
MCKENZIE BIBLE FELLOWSHIP Holiday Farm report
“so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” (1 Peter 1.7)
On September 8th, what began as a small brush fire, near the 47-mile marker of the McKenzie River highway, fanned by strong westerly winds and fueled by dry underbrush and forest, got out of control and roared down the McKenzie River valley, covering over 20 miles in a few short hours. The Holiday Farm fire continued to move west over the next few days. At the end, after the fire was rerouted by hundreds of firefighters and pieces of heavy equipment, 431 residences were destroyed and hundreds of other structures. Among those residences were 17 members of McKenzie Bible Fellowship, including one who trapped in his home, perished in the flames after failing to evacuate. Entire rural communities were destroyed. Living Waters Family Fellowship, our local Assembly of God church in Blue River, lost their church building, the pastor’s residence, and newly constructed ministry retreat center for pastors. Most of their congregation lost homes. By God’s grace and mercy McKenzie Bible Fellowship’s building, parsonage, and all other structures were spared as the fire skirted to the north of the church properties, taking out the homes of 6 of our church families who lived near the church.
By order of the Sheriff’s office and the local volunteer fire departments, residents of the valley were given level three evacuation orders, meaning Go Now! The entire valley was evacuated into areas around Eugene, Springfield and beyond. The Red Cross came in and provided free shelter and food, vouchers for motel stays, and calls for donations. The donation centers were inundated with supplies. Our church families found shelter in various motels, homes, and shelters. The level three evacuation was extended to the entirety of the McKenzie Valley and then into east Springfield and the Mohawk valley to the north of us. While evacuated, many of our church families waited to hear the fate of their homes. A great deal of information and misinformation poured through social networks. When Christie and I were evacuated, we went to our son’s house in Marcola, only to see their valley evacuated the next day. On our way to find a motel, Christie received a text saying someone had seen the church and parsonage burning. About an hour later we received a second text, from a church member working the fire, that our church building and home were not destroyed but still standing. Over the next days and week, one by one we learned the fate of our church family’s homes. The wait was excruciating for people. At final count seventeen homes were lost, over one third of our congregation. But the saddest news occurred when we were notified that one of our members had perished in the flames – this the only confirmed fatality at this point.
As reports of each one’s home were received, there was an intermingling of tremendous joy and the deepest sorrow. Those who discovered their homes remained, gave praise to the Lord, while those whose homes were lost, mourned and grieved, albeit with rejoicing for those whose homes were spared. The strength of our faith in the Lord was truly ‘tested by fire.’ The
next stage, once everyone learned the condition of their homes, was an anxiety to get back and see the damage, even if the damage was total.
As evacuation levels were reduced, people to the west of the fire began returning to their homes, blackened by soot, but nevertheless still standing. Many of our church members were able to return to their homes and once electricity was restored, begin the process of cleanup, thankful to the Lord that they had homes to return to. Little by little evacuation levels were reduced from west to east. All of the homes lost in the fire were to east of the Leaburg dam, at milepost 24. On September 20th the evacuation level for the entire McKenzie Valley were reduced from level three (no one allowed) to level two, allowing homeowners to return to their homes, but to be prepared to leave quickly if conditions changed. Level two would have allowed all of those in our church family to return to their homes upriver, but on September 20th rockslides occurred at the Leaburg dam and Goodpasture Bridge, closing the highway to any traffic and preventing us from going back to homes. Seventeen families had no houses, but nevertheless wanted to go back and see what they could salvage from the remains. As I write this, the road (Highway 126) is still closed between milepost 23.75 and milepost 47. It is in this area that the majority of homes were destroyed.
After being in motels and away from home for nearly two weeks, we moved from finding temporary shelter to beginning the process of seeking longer term housing for those whose homes were lost. Huge life decisions were being considered: Do I want to rebuild? Where can I live during the rebuilding process? Do I want to relocate? Will my insurance cover my losses? Little by little the Lord began revealing His answers. Some chose to purchase RVs, trailers, or campers, and move them onto their ashen property, while others will live with friends or families, some are renting until they determine long range plans, and a few don't yet know which way the Lord will lead.
In the midst of grief and sorrow among our church families were hundreds more in our community that lost homes – facing the same questions, experiencing the same emotions, and
seeking help and hope for their futures. This is where our Lord has given us the greatest opportunity for the gospel we have ever seen. We now have the opportunity to be the hands of Christ to a needy community. More than anything else our community needs hope – the hope that can only be found in Christ. We wish to be like the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. Please pray that we avail ourselves of this great opportunity. One of those who lost his house commented that if one soul is saved through the loss of their house, the price is worth it.
““For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
McKenzie Bible Fellowship has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, in prayer, in gifts, and in offers to help. Churches and individuals from far and wide have sent donations of food, clothing, monies, and most importantly, devoted prayer. I will not mention names of individuals or churches so that Christ alone receives all glory.
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
Upon first hearing of the loss of some of our homes, a church in Eugene graciously opened their building so that a small group of our members could meet together for the first time as evacuees. Among these members were some who knew their houses were gone, some who knew theirs were safe, and some who did not yet know. In the midst of all our needs at that moment, what we most needed was to be together, to cry together, to comfort one another, and to encourage one another. It was a life-saving moment for some of our families at that moment as we shared together in our suffering, our sorrow, and our hope. This is the beauty of the body of Christ.
Another church in Springfield opened their gymnasium to our church family to gather together as they provided a meal for us and an opportunity to just be together – laughing, crying, and sharing together in both sorrows and joys. On that same evening churches from Redmond sent down a truckload of food and clothing for our church families. Other churches and individuals offered places to stay, boarding for animals, rentals, RVs, parking, finances, and an abundance of resources to help meet the immediate needs of our displaced members. Individuals on social media carried the message of our church and community on their media posts, linking them to our church website fire fund. The Lord’s response to our need has been both humbling and overwhelming. Please know that your prayers, support, gifts, and encouragement are resulting in many thanksgivings to the Lord “For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:12)
The question most often asked: What can we do to help?
We say this not to be spiritual, but we really mean it and believe it. Pray! The response of God to our prayers draws the glory to Him and not to others. We want our response to this hardship result in glory to Christ, especially through the salvation of souls in our community.
The very fact you have offered help is an encouragement in itself – knowing your heart for our church family and community is a blessing to us.
The number one thing for which to pray – that our church families will learn to receive without shame, embarrassment or guilt. It is a hard lesson to learn. Those who have never in their life asked help of others are now needing that help. It is hard and humbling for those who are used to giving, to be on the receiving end.
Pray that our elders, of whom two lost homes in this fire, will know God’s wisdom, power, and will as we navigate our Church family through this trial.
Pray that our Deacons will know God’s will and wisdom as they disburse resources to those who most need them.
Pray that the highway will reopen – we have access to a truckload of emergency supplies for our community but cannot get to our property to distribute it -- and our community cannot return to their home until the highway is open.
Pray that we will not miss this God-given opportunity to tangibly demonstrate the loving mercy of Christ to our suffering community.
Pray for Pastor Doug Fairington of Living Waters Family Fellowship in Blue River, Oregon. They lost their church building, pastor’s residence, newly built retreat house, and the homes of most of their members.
The needs of people and community are fluid – the immediate needs at the beginning are not what is needed at this time – we have moved from temporary shelter to more permanent housing needs. The Lord is miraculously providing for our church families the housing needs for those wishing to rebuild and remain in our community. A big need may be teams to come at various times in the future to clean up the ash and debris from burned homes. We need financial funds to give to people who know what they need more than we do. Our initial disbursements were for temporary housing and personal items. Now we are helping with insurance deductibles, furnishings, clothing, and household supplies. Gift cards to clothing stores and grocery stores, visa cards, and such are very useful.
We also are partnering individual families with churches so that they can minister on a more personal basis, communicating together on the needs they have. For some the needs are more encouragement and prayer rather than resources – for others they need financial or other material resources. A personal relationship between a church and a needy family is an added benefit.
Pray that we will be outward rather than inward focused – that the resources the Lord supplies us will be used not only to help our church families but that they could also be used for the benefit of our neighbors and community. We want to be among those who are blessed by the Father in Matthew 25. Seventeen of our church families lost homes – over 20 times that number lost homes in our valley.
Thanks be to the Lord Jesus for the salvation He has provided us. He is close to the broken- hearted and the nearness of His presence is abundantly felt among the McKenzie Bible Fellowship families. We join you in praying for other churches who have suffered losses through the fires ravaging our Oregon communities. We give thanks to the Lord for so many of you who have come to the aid of our Church families and community. We hope to thank each one individually but if you do not receive a personal note of thanksgiving, know for certain that your prayers and gifts, prompted by the Spirit of Christ, will result in praise to the Lord Jesus and souls for His kingdom in the McKenzie River valley.
Thank you for your love, your prayers, your service, and your support. Jesus Christ, who supplied our greatest need, is more than able to supply our lesser needs. To Him be glory forever and ever.
Pastor Dick Roberts
McKenzie Bible Fellowship
45061 McKenzie Hwy
Leaburg, OR 97489
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NAS95)
On early Tuesday morning, September 8th, we received over our phones an urgent evacuation notice from the Sheriff’s office – a level three evacuation – Go Now! – this is typically preceded by a level one and level two notices – but this went straight to level three. About 20 miles to the east of us a wildfire was getting out of control. Knowing how far away the fire was gave a certain sense of security that we need not be in a big hurry to leave. So, we threw in a couple of changes of clothes, some personal papers, our electronics, and bottles of water, thinking we would certainly be back home the next day. Then the Fire and Sheriff’s department sent people to each residence telling them to get out quickly. We never imagined, the fire driven by strong westerly winds, would cover the distance between Rainbow and Vida in a matter of a few short hours.
At 2:00 am, Christie and I woke up our son Richard, who lives in Marcola. We evacuated to their house until the next day. Then Marcola received an evacuation notice, forcing us to re-evacuate. Little did we know that by that time there would be hundreds of homes in our pristine and scenic valley scorched and leveled to ash by the Holiday Farm fire.
Christie and I headed for a motel in Springfield. We heard that the fire had essentially leveled the community of Blue River to the east of our church, and was threatening Vida, one mile from our house and church. We heard that the Fire Department was going to take a stand against the fire at Vida. As we were driving, Christie received a message that someone saw our church and parsonage on fire – our hearts sank – it was like getting punched in the gut. After a few tears were shed and we had regained our perspective that our Lord was in control, we had each other, our families were safe, and we decided to leave Springfield and head to Albany to stay in a motel there. We were going to regroup and grieve the loss of our church home and our family’s home.
On the freeway going up to Albany, a text from an angel appeared on Christie’s phone. One of our wonderful firefighters who was a part of our church family texted that our church and home had not been burned but were safe. From the deepest depths of grief in our hearts to the highest of joys – what an emotional ride! The next day it was confirmed when one of our church Elders and his son drove up to look at their home and discovered their home a total loss. What a humble blessing that in the midst of their shock, grief, and sorrow, they were gracious enough to drive a little further up the road and confirm that yes, our church and home were saved from the flames. The next day, as various photos of the carnage began to appear on social media, a video recording of the area around our home showed the church building standing unscathed.
As we thanked the Lord for the protection of our home, our joy was tempered with great grief as we began to learn one by one, sixteen of our church families had their homes destroyed by fire. It took days for people to finally learn the fate of their homes. The wait was excruciating. Even though this is over a third of our congregation, the number pales in comparison to the loss suffered by our community. On one side road alone, Goodpasture Road, twenty-four homes were destroyed. The community of Blue River, fifteen miles to the east, was completely decimated – homes burned down, RV and trailer parks completely destroyed, lodges and vacation homes reduced to ashes. Fellow believers at Living Waters Family Fellowship in Blue River lost their church building to the fire, the pastor’s residence, and a newly built pastoral retreat center were burned to the ground. Almost all of their church members suffered the loss of homes. All up and down the McKenzie River valley was blackened with soot and smoke – places where families and children once lived, worked, and played, now left as a pile of ash.
It took from Tuesday to Saturday of the following week, before we were able to account for all our church families and the status of their homes. What began as four homes grew to six, then to eight, to twelve, and ultimately to sixteen. Sixteen families not only displaced for a few days, but sixteen families who have no homes to return to – and that number can be multiplied perhaps even 20 times in our community. Lane county sheriff estimates 715 structures destroyed in the Holiday Farm fire. That is likely to mean hundreds of families who have lost homes.
But the greatest sorrow was learned on Saturday evening, just last night, when it was confirmed that one of our dear brothers and members of our church family did not survive the fire, being trapped in his home and unable to escape. But the cross of Christ is the ultimate escape, and my dear brother and friend, who while absent from the body, is at home with the Lord, will never need fear fire again.
Our evacuated church family continued to pray as we learned one by one of our fellow brothers’ and sisters’ homes. Friends and churches from all over our state and beyond were praying. Offers of help and assistance began pouring in. So massive was the outpouring for our community that relief centers and Red Cross distribution centers were overwhelmed with donations. Fellow churches and believers offered both prayer and material support. The generosity has been overwhelming.
Immediate needs for shelter, food, and clothing were amply provided, but what our church family, spread throughout the Eugene-Springfield area and beyond, needed more than anything else was each another. I will not mention names that the Lord Jesus might receive all glory and praise. A church in Eugene opened their church building so that a small group of us could meet for the first time. Twenty-two people were able to come together. Those who had lost homes, those whose homes were standing, and those who did not yet know, came together with profuse tears and tight embraces as we were able to weep together as a family. The next week a church in Springfield invited our church family to gather in their gymnasium as they cooked and served a warm meal, allowing us ample time to just be together sharing our joys and sorrows. Donations were brought to the church from churches in the Redmond area. Some churches determined to ‘adopt’ church families who lost homes and begin the rebuilding process with personal relationships as well as spiritual, emotional, and material support. Thank you to all who have been led of the Lord to provide for the Lord’s family and our community.
Now that the initial shock has worn off, reality has set in, and the enormity of the loss to these families seen, our prayer continues to be for provision, but not just the provision of our ‘stuff’ but for the provision of the Lord’s hope, strength, and endurance in the days, months, and even years ahead. Many in our church, inconvenienced by evacuation, will return to the homes, air them out, and continue their lives somewhat as normal. But there are sixteen families in our church whose lives are not merely inconvenienced, but rather totally reset and turned upside down. These are the ones for whom we especially pray – grandparents adopting their four grandchildren, couples whose retirement dream homes now lie on the banks of the McKenzie River in a heap of ash, couples whose families have lived on their properties for generations, others who moved up here to start a new life, whose businesses are here, and who came to our valley because of its natural beauty and now see it blackened and burned. There is no return to normal for these families.
BUT God is so faithful – The body of Christ is a beautiful thing — it is during times like these that it shines through – offering temporary living places, replacing lost clothing items, providing vehicles, rentals, food, space for horses, parking, donations for future living expenses.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NASB)
Remember, it is fire that tests our faith - “so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” (1 Peter 1:7)
We want our fire-tested faith to result in the praise, glory, and honor to Jesus Christ.
I am so encouraged to see the strength of faith in our church family. Through this trial we are seeing faith in Christ at work: I would say with Paul:
“Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.” (2 Corinthians 7:4 NASB)
In our hardship the power and character of our God is being seen.
It is the humbling feeling of guilt you get when one who has lost their home, rejoices with you when you discover your home is safe.
“And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26 NASB)
It is the realization of husbands, wives, children and family that being together is a far greater treasure than the things we possess.
It is a brother, who probably lost the most stuff, able to honestly say “it was only stuff”.
“This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:27-29)
It is a brother, on seeing the remains of his house’s metal roof lying on the ground, quip “well it will be a lot easier to clean the gutters now”.
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;” (Matthew 6:20 NASB)
It is thoughtful believers delivering home-cooked meals to people away from their homes and in motels and hotels.
It is fellow churches offering some of their ‘stuff’ to those who have lost their ‘stuff’.
“For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints,” (2 Corinthians 8:3–4 NASB)
It is the recognition that what the Lord has given us is far greater than what He has taken from us.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NASB)
It is believers sacrificially reaching out into our community with the loving hands of Christ.
“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:40 NAS95)
It is the Spirit of Christ giving strength to face another day.
“Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. Selah.” (Psalm 68:19 NASB)
It is finding our rest and relief – in Christ --- Matt 11.28
“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.” (Isaiah 40:29 NASB)
“Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly,” (Isaiah 40:30 NASB)
“Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:31 NASB)
It is our togetherness in the Holy Spirit, praying together – weeping together – rejoicing together -- manifesting the unity of the Body of Christ for which Jesus prayed.
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;” (John 17:20-22 NASB)
It is the Church meeting the material needs of homeless families in our community that Christ’s love might be manifest in their hearts.
It is a sense of identifying with the suffering of Jesus, who emptied Himself of greatest treasures to bring sinful mankind to Himself through the Cross.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NASB)
It is the children of God coming to know the power of God who enables us to press on in life to the glory of Christ.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:7–10 NASB)
Thank you for your love, your prayers, your service, and your support. Jesus Christ, who supplied our greatest need is more than able to supply our lesser needs. To Him be glory forever and ever.
Pastor Dick Roberts
McKenzie Bible Fellowship
45061 McKenzie Hwy
Leaburg OR 97489
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 NASB)