In July 2016, laity from The PNW Conference visited sites in Pateros, Wash. Wildfires from 2014 and 2015 left over 400 homes destroyed and families devastated. Rebuild: Up from the Ashes – a laity-driven building project hopes to bring hope to lives affected by this disaster.

The Rebuild Movement

By Karen Fisher | Photos by Andy O’Donnell

As we welcome summer and all of its joys; the trips, vacations and other gatherings of friends and family; we are reminded of wildfires. Here in the Seven Rivers District, wildfires seem to be a normal part of our summers. And we hope and pray that the summer of 2016 will be a quiet summer, allowing us to catch our breath, to catch up, to make more headway on the houses that still need to be rebuilt from the fires of 2014 and 2015.

It is overwhelming to describe the scale of destruction of those fires. Almost 600,000 acres burned. Over 400 homes destroyed, of those approximately 70 uninsured or underinsured, leaving homeowners with nowhere to turn. Also lost, irrigation and water systems, hundreds of miles of fencing, feed for cattle and deer, and hundreds of animals. Finally, we remember our greatest loss: three young firefighters who died when trapped by rapidly shifting flames.

Dead trees are what is left in this patch of land in Pateros, Wash. Excess heat has made these trees even more dangerously flammable.
Dead trees are what is left in this patch of land in Pateros, Wash. Excess heat has made these trees even more dangerously flammable.

In 2015, generous donations from the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the Pacific Northwest Conference, and other faith-based groups helped pay for the construction of 14 homes. In 2016, we plan to build 16 homes and provide emergency shelter for survivors, some facing their third consecutive winter. And the rebuild will continue into 2017 and 2018. As time passes, people forget, and we need to remind folks that there is much work ahead.

Carlene Anders, who serves as Mayor of Pateros, Wash., is also a firefighter. Anders gives laity of The PNW Conference a tour of the land burned by the Washington Wildfires.

Your Pacific Northwest Board of Laity believes that the Pacific Northwest Conference United Methodist folks can help meet this challenge. Through a grassroots movement, Rebuild: Up From the Ashes, led by district lay leaders, we are going to help rebuild homes for people who have nothing left but endurance and character. We are called to help people in our conference. We hope you will join us. I believe that Seven Rivers needs to lead the way.

We hope to raise enough money to build six houses. Right now, each house costs about $90,000 or $550,000 total. A big number, but we have six districts, many churches filled with enough lay people to make this happen. We hope to schedule volunteers, teams of volunteers to come help build houses. And we hope that this movement will go beyond our Methodist doors; that you will take this into your communities and to your friends because we need help from everyone.

Let’s join together and bring Hope.

Karen Fisher serves as the Seven Rivers District Lay Leader. Andy O’Donnell is the lay leader for Renton: First UMC.


RESOURCES_GodWhyD4339: God, Why? Teachings From The Tsunamis

Feelings of grief and a loss of a spiritual compass are common when natural disasters strike. We ask questions that we all struggle to answer: Why would God allow such a terrible thing? Is this a sign of God’s wrath? This important two-session small group resource, with accompanying study guide, helps people of faith through a myriad of emotions. Influential Christian leaders provide light for the journey to understand God’s activity when natural disasters occur. Using the South Asia tsunamis as an anchor, practical – yet spiritual answers are provided to help us address our confusion.

RESOURCE_CatchingFireD1963: Catching Fire Becoming Flame

Designed as a guide for spiritual transformation this resource can function as a group or personal spiritual retreat. Albert Haase is a pastor, spiritual director, Relevant Radio Network co-host, former missionary to China and award-winning author of 6 books. His teaching is full of wisdom and wit. In six sessions he gives you the tools you need to spark and fan the flame of faith in your life so that you can be set ablaze for God. While the perspective is decidedly Roman Catholic, the resource can be used in ecumenical settings and is of value to all Christians.

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