By Pastors Gerri Harvill and Stanley Norman
Patience. Persistence. Perseverance.
Looking ahead in hope, for perspective, we must sometimes look back for a moment. So for just a moment, think back to July 2014. The weather had been extremely hot and dry. Fire danger was extreme in most of the Northwest, and certainly in North Central Washington.
On July 14 a lightning storm moved over the Methow Valley and part of Okanogan County, igniting multiple fires. By July 17, due to high winds, these multiple fires converged resulting in the largest wildfire in the history of Washington State. It was called the Carlton Complex Wildfire.
Homes were burned to the ground, 312 total. Thousands of acres (250,000) of forest, farm and grazing lands were lost. The fire was not declared contained until August 25 and continued to smolder for months.
In 2015, it happened again. Another massive wildfire stormed through the area. This fire was named the Okanogan Complex Wildfire, and again in Okanogan County homes and land were lost. This fire was now the largest in Washington State history. This time, lives were lost. Three firefighters perished, four more were badly burnt.
All others survived. They were devastated, homeless and despairing…but they were alive. And, they are stronger than their fears. The Spirit of the living God fell on the people of North Central Washington like the ash that fell like snow in July.
Hundreds of community meetings and hundreds of volunteers came together to rescue, relieve and rebuild the lives of those who were, and still are, suffering loss.
We are two and half years into this disaster recovery. Approximately fifty homes will need to be replaced for the uninsured and underinsured, folks who can’t purchase or can’t afford adequate fire insurance. These are very modest homes for people who live simply and take care of one another. In mid-January house number 21 was completed.
The Pacific Northwest Conference and UMCOR have invested more than $425,000 in the Carlton Complex Recovery. United Methodists have already pledged more than $200,000 to the Okanogan Complex Recovery, an additional $250,000 is needed. Numerous UMVIM Teams have participated in the rebuilding of these homes. We are still there; this is what we do.
As PNW Conference UMCOR Disaster Response coordinators, we are privileged to be present when these completed home are dedicated. We get to witness firsthand the patience, persistence, and perseverance of dedicated volunteers and homeowners as they strive to rebuild their homes and their future. We witness volunteers from many various faith-based communities working together to help others. We witness God’s people answering God’s call. It’s a spiritual issue!
God calls us to help. God calls us to be the hands, feet, and voice of Christ in this recovery. God calls us to give sacrificially so that others may have life. God is calling you: time, talent, dollars.
Form an UMVIM Team to help with the rebuild. Give sacrificially to “Up from the Ashes” PNW Conference Advance #352. God will take everything we give and multiply it more than we can imagine.
Pastors Gerri Harvill & Stanley Norman serve as PNW Conference UMCOR Disaster Response Coordinators.