A few weeks ago, Rev. Michael Stadie traveled to California to accompany our affiliate and the communities impacted by the recent wildfires. He shares this reflection:

When I visited California last month, I knew I wanted to visit some of those whose homes were destroyed by the fires. That is one of the most important things Lutheran Disaster Response staff do when visiting areas impacted by a disaster—visit not only with those who are responding but with the survivors as well. We want to make sure they know LDR and the ELCA cares about what happened to them, make sure they know they are not in our “blind spot.”

While I had seen the pictures taken from the air of the destruction in the Coffey Park area of Santa Rosa, seeing it from the ground was even worse than I had imagined. It was stunning to see for block after block the charred remains of peoples’ homes; stunning to see through what were people’s homes. (A picture I took of the scene is elsewhere on this blog post.)

When I expressed how many trees were left standing, a person shared there were many more in the neighborhood, the burned remains of the trees were the only ones left in the neighborhood.

During my visit, I heard many stories of how at 1:00 or so in the morning, people were awakened and told to flee for their lives. I also heard the heroic actions of people taking the time to insure their elderly neighbors were able to get out.

One of the hardest stories for me to hear was the one where the gentleman heard the evacuation order and got his family in the car, and promptly got stuck in a traffic jam with all the others who were evacuating. He shared as he was waiting in traffic, he saw the back of his neighbor’s home catch on fire and when he saw that, he knew his home would be destroyed.

An even sadder story was told to me how first responders found an elderly husband and wife in their garage. She was seated in the passenger side of their car, and he was near the door. Apparently, the fire went into the garage when he went to open the door to back out.

Stories like these are being told by the survivors. These traumatic events mean while people may recover physically with a new home, it will take a very long time, if at all, for people to recover emotionally and spiritually. And what is true of the people in California is also true for all those impacted by the hurricanes. With all of the disasters the past few months, please remember to keep the survivors in your prayers. And please pray for their emotional and spiritual well-being. While it is easy to be concerned about their physical needs, we are also called to be concerned about a person in their entirety. And Lutheran Disaster Response is working with the local affiliates and synods to address the emotional and spiritual needs as well as the physical one.

Rev. Michael Stadie is Program Director for Lutheran Disaster Response U.S.

Be a part of the response:

Please pray for the people who have been impacted by the wildfires in California. May God’s healing presence give them peace and hope in their time of need. Pray that God might deliver comfort to those who mourn the loss of loved ones, and strength to those who are working diligently to contain the fires and care for affected communities.

Gifts to “U.S. Wildfires” will be used to assist those affected by the wildfires until the response is complete.

To learn more about the situation and the ELCA’s response:

  • Share this bulletin insert with your congregation and encourage support.
  • Sign up to receive Lutheran Disaster Response alerts.
  • Check the Lutheran Disaster Response blog.
  • Like Lutheran Disaster Response on Facebook and follow @ELCALDR on Twitter.