Update on McKenzie Bible Fellowship Fire Families
It has been two months now since the Holiday Farm fire destroyed over 400 homes in the McKenzie River valley, including the homes of 17 members of our church family. The fire also destroyed the homes of most of the members of the Living Waters Family Fellowship as well as their church building and parsonage. Four hundred homes equates to 400 families; families who lost not only a structure, but also a life-time of mementos, pictures, and other family heirlooms and sentimental items.
All evacuation levels were lifted some time ago. At this time all of our church families have found temporary housing they will live in for the next year or longer, as they go through the process of rebuilding their new homes. Most are now at the stage where they need to clean up and remove the remnants and debris of their former homes. This is a slow process because it requires interaction with government and EPA officials to assure there are no hazardous materials in the rubble. Another thing a number of families must address is timber lost in the fire. The timber that appears to be dying must be logged within a year or so, or it loses its market value. One of the biggest burdens faced by fire victims is the number of critical decisions they are now required to make. Pray for them and ask that the Lord would provide wisdom in the choices they make in these decisions.
The generosity of people from around our state and even outside of Oregon has been overwhelming. God has abundantly provided resources that have brought encouragement and hope for our families. Here is how we have used the resources and contributions of God’s people and others. Initially all of us were evacuated to temporary shelter while the fires were still burning, the roads still closed, and the smoke still thick in the air. During this time we were able to meet together as a church family through the offer of two churches who allowed us to meet in their facilities while evacuated. During these weeks of evacuation, the Lord provided resources that allowed us to give cash gifts and gift cards to evacuees to help offset costs not covered by Red Cross or insurance. Once the evacuation orders were lifted and the highway open to traffic, our families were able to return to their homes and begin the process of cleaning up and addressing the smoke damage. But for too many families, they had no home to return to, only a pile of ash. At this point we were able to help coordinate and find temporary living quarters that would be needed for the next year or so. Many of our families decided they wanted to return to their own properties as opposed to renting away from their property. Many purchased travel trailers, RVs or fifth-wheels in which to live. Most had insurance that helped, but for some who had no insurance or were underinsured, we were able to help purchase RVs or trailers for them. The generous support of churches, families, friends, and strangers provided funds to help purchase household items lost in the fire, such as bedsheets, pots and pans, dinnerware and plates, clothing, toiletries, children’s toys and many other things we all take for granted. Our church gymnasium is full of donated items such as clothing, furniture, food, toys and all kinds of items needed to stock a home.
At this stage, homeowner’s insurance has responded, allowing families to purchase and furnish things they need. But homeowner’s policies also carry deductibles which we were also able to help with. Currently our church families are being cared for through the abundant outpouring of support. It has allowed us to also help other families outside of our church who lost homes, including the congregation of Living Water Family Fellowship, our local Assembly of God church from Blue River. We are providing our church building and resources for their church services each Sunday afternoon. We are also partnering with them to provide and build storage sheds that can be used to store tools and other items while people rebuild on their properties.
A number of our families who lost homes have been able to share their hope and joy in the Lord with neighbors who also lost their homes. Their loss has become a part of their testimony, a testimony that has a greater impact on the heart when shared by one who has suffered a similar loss. It is exciting to see the Holy Spirit use one who has lost their home be able to share their joy in Christ with others who have lost their homes. We believe and trust that many in our community will be brought to Christ through the testimony of our church families.
Thank you so much for your part in being the hands of Christ to a needy community. The families of our community who lost homes are especially in need of prayer for encouragement, hope, and perseverance. They suffer both highs and lows each week as they grieve their losses and make important decisions regarding their future. But the Lord has been abundantly faithful to lift up the downcast and to provide mercies that are new every morning. Thank you again for your generous spirit that Christ may be glorified. Over the next year please remember to pray for our valley and for our church that this time of hardship be used by the Holy Spirit as a great opportunity for the gospel.
Thank you again for your prayers and your gifts. We can identify with the apostle Paul when he said in Philippians 4:18-20:
But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. glory in Christ Jesus. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Your contributions, gifts, and prayers are truly appreciated and reflect how greatly Christ loves His Church. Thank you for encouraging our families with your generous heart. It is our hope that on that day when we are all together with the Lord, that I can personally thank each one of you for serving our church family during our hour of need.
Sincerely in Christ,
McKenzie Bible Fellowship