While firefighters battle wildfires in Colorado, faith-based organizations from across the country are helping in the battle for the spiritual and emotional welfare of residents who’ve been evacuated or lost homes, family members or neighbors in what is a designated federal disaster area.
Virginia and North Carolina-based ministries have joined HELP International, a Christian, non-profit agency based in Loveland, as each endeavors to provide spiritual, physical and emotional comfort to victims of two of the state’s most devastating fires.
HELP, an acronym for His Everlasting Love Prevails, is in the proverbial backyard of the High Park fire that devastated hundreds of homes and snuffed out one life in rural Larimer County.
“We believe that HELP begins at home,” say ministry co-founders Don and Jean Kaye Wilson.
From its warehouse in Loveland, HELP provided bottled water, linens, toiletries, female hygiene products and non-perishable foods to evacuees and to the American Red Cross as the fire consumed land, property and a life.
HELP continues to serve as a drop-off site for the Red Cross as the homeless begin to rebuild their lives, needing furniture, appliances, vehicles and housewares.
The ministry, founded in 2000, has partnered with Resurrection Fellowship, a Loveland church that’s collecting blankets, tarps and other emergency essentials for the current and future disasters around the world.
The church is also serving as a clearinghouse for offers of assistance from its members, including clean-up and recovery of destroyed properties, temporary housing, animal care and meals for displaced residents.
While HELP worked with Red Cross volunteers to meet physical and emotional needs, chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team worked alongside ministry partner Samaritan’s Purse, a ministry founded by Franklin Graham, in providing emotional and spiritual help to nearly 4,000 evacuees from the approximately 140-square-mile High Park fire zone.
“People want to share that personal hope and that personal need for Christ,” said Jim Giannestras, a chaplain based at Timberline Church in Fort Collins, the city closest to the wildfire in northern Colorado.
To the south in Colorado Springs, hope is what residents need as they deal with the Waldo Canyon fire which, as of Saturday, was only 30 percent contained, had displaced over 30,000 people and consumed close to 400 homes and two lives. It is the state’s largest wildfire in recorded history, and produced a federal disaster designation from President Barack Obama who visited Colorado Springs on Friday.
Glimmers of hope arrived in the forms of bottled water, food, pet supplies, blankets, toiletries, fresh produce and baby items on Saturday, when four semi-trailers full of relief supplies from Virginia pulled into Colorado Springs.
The relief supplies were donated by Gleaning for the World, a ministry founded by Jonathan Falwell, son of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, who led Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg until his death.
“We have a huge opportunity to bless our city and region this Friday and Saturday, thanks to the tremendous generosity of (Gleaning) and my friend Jonathan Falwell,” said New Life Church Pastor Brady Boyd.
In a post on the church’s website, Boyd wrote that “many New Life members have lost homes.”
What New Life volunteers don’t distribute to hundreds of homeless and thousands of evacuees from the fire zone will be given to local relief groups, food banks and shelters.
“We hope these incoming food supplies will be a blessing to them, too,” Boyd wrote.
Even more supplies are headed to Colorado Springs from Denver, where Loren Sandford, pastor of New Song Church, is encouraging others to “step up to the plate.”
“Our church, for instance, is sending a truckload of water, clothing, diapers and other materials to Colorado Springs to minister love and support to hurting people who have lost their homes or been forced to evacuate,” Sandford said.
For Christians, now is the time to demonstrate mercy, not to proffer accusations that God is judging Colorado, he said.
In a June 27 Prophetic Moments blog post, Sandford hints that if God were judging Colorado with wildfires, Colorado Springs is a poor choice given that it’s home to approximately 100 ministries and one of the state’s largest churches (New Life).
Instead, Sandford writes, the increase in natural disasters around the world is due to earth’s inability to bear the accumulated sin of mankind. The earth, Sandford said, is reacting.
Mercy is the only way one Colorado Springs ministry describes its emergence from the flames around its headquarters.
Glen Eyrie, a castle built by Colorado Springs founder General Lewis Palmer and current home of The Navigators, was unscathed by the encroaching fire.
Dozens of Navigators staff members were evacuated from their homes and some have had their homes consumed by the fire after a week of intense efforts by firefighters working against formidable heat and fickle winds
“Please pray for them to know God’s loving care” is the plea from the ministry’s website.
Navigators staff are keeping temporary offices at nearby Focus on the Family headquarters, and all conferences and activities at Glen Eyrie has been canceled through July 5.
The ministry did lose one small cabin at its Eagle Lake Camp property. All summer camps have been canceled and summer staff has returned home.