Christian Students Volunteer to Help Fire Victims

( [email protected] ) Nov 03, 2003 01:45 PM EST

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Fire victims at the largest evacuation site in Southern California are receiving much help from local Southern Baptists. Among the helpers are the young students who are partaking in comforting the victims by feeding, providing showers, cleaning, etc.

On Oct 29, a group of 50 students from California Baptist University in Riverside, for example, helped serve dinner to more than 1,800 people at the San Bernardino Airport evacuation site, which one of the largest evacuation sites or the 32. The students also did carry on some cleaning job, picking up trash and debris around the facility.

A mobile children's Sunday School unit from Set Free Yucaipa, called Kids For Christ, helped offering recreation for the victims such as free puppet shows, face painting, balloon animals, and stories. They also offered free clothes and food items from the church's thrift store.

Also a wrestling match was held outside the shelter by the Empire Wrestling Federation. This event was opened with prayer from Set Free Church of Yucaipa youth pastor Kirk Overstreet and closed with a rap song by Ben Brown King, a member of Set Free.

Students from Cal Baptist served 2,000 meals at the shelter after the wresting event and cleaned up the site.

"They are doing a great job," said Forsey of the Southern Baptist volunteers. "They do any job we ask them to do. It's a tremendous help to us."

The victims are very thankful for the loving volunteers who came to serve them with the heart of Christ.

"This is what we needed," Maria Pena, 17, said of the hot showers. "We're glad you brought in these showers because I won't go in the other ones [at the evacuation site]," both of which have only cold water.

"This is great," said Vanessa Campos, 17, from Arrowhead who has been sleeping in the shelters' parking lot for four nights to protect valuables in her vehicle. "We get so dirty from the ashes falling it's nice to have a hot shower. It makes us feel better."

13-year-old Alexandria Graham was glad to have some entertainment at the site.

"We're having fun," she said of the wrestling event. "I've been here almost a week because my house is burned. This is cool. I like it."

Don Bechtol, a Running Springs resident at the site, was also excited to watch his four children scream at the event.

"They are having a great time," he said. "We needed this. It's great to see my kids having fun through this."

The volunteers are glad that they have given the opportunity to help out during the difficult moment of others.

"Since I couldn't help out during 9/11 I wanted to help during this disaster," said Annie Hanson, 20, a Cal Baptist junior who served iced tea at the shelter. "I hope if I lost my home other people would volunteer to help me. I have a few friends who live in the burning areas and it just hits too close to home to not come help out."

Hillary Hayes, an 18-year-old freshman and Tehachapi native who served fruit cocktail, said, "People are hurting and need the Lord right now. We need to minister to them."

Thousands of people continued to be evacuated Oct. 2`9 from the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles as relentless flames engulfed hundreds of homes. More than 1,000 homes have been lost in the area, according to AP reports, and more than 1,000 others in the San Diego area and other parts of Southern California.

"We're ready wherever we're needed," Wilkerson said. "We want to minister where we can."

Many other ministries joined providing the needs of the evacuees at the site.

Church members from various Baptist congregations have been staffing a mobile kitchen and a six-stall shower unit provided by the California Southern Baptist Convention.

Various Southern Baptist churches are sending volunteers throughout the week to serve food and staff the shower stalls, said Paul Wilkerson, director of missions for the Inland Empire Baptist Association.

"It has been a concerted effort by many churches," Wilkerson said. "We started out this disaster without a dime and churches are taking collections and volunteering. God has really provided during this crisis."

Wal-Mart, Target, Sears and Sam's Club also have donated toiletries, washcloths and towels for the shower unit which has dispensers for soap and shampoo in each stall. It also has three sinks for evacuees to brush their teeth and shave.

Several members of Inland Community Church of Chino provided spiritual comfort by acting as counselors and praying with people.

The Set Free church is offering to bus families from the shelter to their Yucaipa site for Halloween night activities on Oct. 31.

"We want to give them some fun and keep their mind on other things," said Overstreet, who will wrestle another pastor at the event Friday. "We'll have two buses available to bring them to our event."