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