"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." - John 13:35
Who remembers the last major wildfire in 2015? Can anyone, other than those who experienced it, list the number of homes destroyed or loss of life reported? Odds are, the details are hard to recall without a Google-search.
Wildfires are indeed one of the most destructive, yet least acknowledged forces of natural disaster occurring on our plant today. Every year, hundreds of families in the United States are forced to flee their homes as the infernal flames bare down on their properties. Most suffer enormous amounts of property damage, while others lose their homes altogether.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 68,151 separate wildfires were recorded throughout the U.S. in 2015 destroying over 10,125,149 acres of land and property. In California alone, 6,335 wildfires occurred destroying 307,598 acres of land and property. Unfortunately, these numbers ought not to be surprising.
One such fire struck the town of Butte, California this past fall. Thankfully, no loss of life occurred in this instance, but many families' homes were severely damaged. One local church in Butte, by partnering with IDES, decided to reach out into their community and use the critical situation as an opportunity to show God's love.
All summer long, volunteers from churches all over the U.S. faithfully served at IDES by participating in our Shed-Building program. Old and young alike put hammer-to-nail, assembling the lumber into shed components piece by piece in the name of Jesus Christ.
Once 10 full "shed-kits" are assembled, they are shipped to partnering churches within communities affected by disaster, such as Butte, California. Each shed is given to a family in the community who has been affected, and put together by volunteers within that local congregation which opens the door to build relationships and share the Gospel.
Our partner in Butte shared this report with us:
"[The first recipient] is an 80+ year old who was sleeping on a cot on his property....He has become family to us. He was a crusty, very skeptical, old guy. When his shed was almost done he said to us, 'I can't believe you would do this for me. I can't believe there are still people out there who do this.' Everyone who comes to build leaves a note or just their name for the shed owner. As was the case with the other owners, he was overcome by the thoughtfulness of this."
These sheds are more than just storage-buildings.
As local church members put the sheds up, being the hands and feet of Christ, they are rebuilding hope. Oftentimes, the IDES shed is the first physical, tangible object of the rebuilding process for a recipient after disaster strikes him or her.
The structure rebuilds confidence that all is not lost. The new friendships with local church members rebuilds the bridge between the recipient and God's people. The notes of encouragement and Scripture verses left on the lumber of the shed rebuilds the concept that he or she is cared about and cared for.
As we move into the Spring months of 2016, a season in which natural disasters are expected to occur like clock-work, let's dig deeper into God's grace and share it with those who are hurting. Let's look more closely than just the news reports and listen to the underlying story of souls in need of Jesus. Let's give 100% of ourselves to be used as tools in God's hands.
Let's rebuild hope.
"National Interagency Fire Center." National Interagency Fire Center. National Interagency Coordination Center, n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2016.
"Number of Fires and Acres." CA.gov. CAL Fire, 7 Aug. 2013. Web. 1 Mar. 2016. <http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_stats?