As wildfires continue to devastate large swaths of northern California, a group of 40 local pastors have identified the three ways Christians across the country can help those affected.
In an email sent to GH, Transforming the Bay with Christ (TBC) said that many churches are in "desperate need of help but "aren't quite ready for volunteers as the fires are still very active and volatile."
"40 local pastors met yesterday to discuss next steps, however they themselves are at risk of losing their homes and churches," TBC said. "These pastors have concluded an asset inventory and when the fires stop they will build a need assessment. At that point we will have a clearer picture of what is needed (i.e. physical products such as toothbrushes, blankets, clothing, etc) and will communicate."
It adds, "While the below may not seem like enough, it is what has been communicated by local teams until the fires are contained. At this stage, these pastors have identified 3 different critical needs."
First, pray: Continue to pray for all of the individuals affected by these devastating fires.
Second, give: Redwood Gospel Mission is in the final stages of setting up a fund to donate to, and GH has identified several other charities accepting donations.
Third, encourage: "This Sunday night, Sonoma County churches will unite for one large prayer service led by some of the pastors that have lost their churches to the fires," TBC notes. "The hope is to show videos of encouragement from all over the Bay during the service. So grab your iPhone (..or Android) and film a few words that you'd like them to hear. Pastors, record you and your congregation from the pulpit on Sunday morning. Load your videos to Instagram #fornorcal."
For continued updates on how to help, click here.
As of Friday morning, 31 are confirmed dead and hundreds missing as a result of the fires, the worst of which are in Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties. Thousands of homes and businesses have been destroyed, including whole neighborhoods, and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials said Thursday that some 190,000 acres had been scorched across the state.
The 22 blazes have killed more people than any other California wildfire on record, making this outbreak one of the deadliest in state history.
According to CNN, almost 8,000 firefighters are trying to contain the blazes, using 820 firetrucks -- at least 170 from out of state -- 73 helicopters and more than 30 planes.
A number of Christian leaders across the country have issued a call to prayer in wake of the devastation. Franklin Graham, CEO of Samaritan's Purse, revealed that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has deployed crisis-trained chaplains to pray with and minister to those who are hurting.
"Deadly wildfires continue to rage in Northern California," he said. "These relentless infernos have left at least 31 dead, hundreds more missing, and thousands evacuated. We need to pray for the families who have lost loved ones, the firefighters battling the blazes, and the many impacted. The devastation is hard to imagine...We know that "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1)."