By Nicole A. Krug, former Canon for Media & Communications, Diocesan Disaster Coordinator
Arizona can be blessed when it comes to the weather. But anyone who’s lived here for at least a year knows that summers in the central and southern areas of our state can be brutal. While we’re spared natural disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes, the one thing Arizona can count on in the late spring and summer is wildfires.
Earlier this month, there were 23 active wildfires being fought in our state. Fortunately, most were able to be contained and didn’t affect people or property. There have been several that caused evacuations and loss of homes and businesses.
One of the early fires this year was the Margo Fire that started in April. At one point, the entire town of Dudleyville (about 1,000 people) had to be evacuated. By the time firefighters were able to gain control, many homes and outbuildings had been destroyed.
As part of our disaster relief ministry, the Diocese is a member of Arizona VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster), which is an association of organizations that leads response efforts and assists communities affected by disaster.
During the June monthly AZ VOAD meeting, Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief indicated that they would be taking one of their kitchen trailers to Dudleyville to feed volunteer workers from Team Rubicon. Team Rubicon would be helping residents with cleanup of the buildings that were destroyed. The only challenge was that they were planning to be there for two weeks and only had enough funding for one week of food. After the meeting, I called Rev. Byron Mills, Vicar of St. John’s in Globe (north of Dudleyville) to see if his congregation might be able to assist with part of the meal funding. He responded that not only were they able to assist, they would underwrite the full amount for the week of food!
It is a real blessing to be able to make these connections with our churches and communities in times of disaster. Because of multiple relief agencies working together, the volunteers were fed, the residents had their lots cleaned up, and according to the thank you note we received from Southern Baptist Relief, the donation from St. John’s was able to assist even more people than was planned:
“We were happy to feed the Team Rubicon volunteers as they cleaned up many of the 28 homes burned in the Margo Fire in Dudleyville. They worked hard and long hours and finished their jobs 5 days ahead of schedule. Because they finished early, we had a significant amount of food left. Working with Pinal County Emergency Management, we were able to donate the remaining food to the Superior Food Bank. The Food Bank was able to distribute food boxes to the people affected by the Telegraph Fire. A total of 153 food boxes and 36 smoke/cleanup buckets were distributed within 4 hours. Because of your partnership with us, people in Dudleyville, Superior, El Capitan, Top of the World, Miami, Claypool, and Globe were helped. Your donations stretched a long way. Thank You.”
Does your family and your congregation have a disaster plan? Each of our congregations needs to look at disasters from both an internal (parishioners affected) and external (community assistance) point of view. For instance, what would happen if there was a fire in your church sanctuary? Could your parish hall be used as a place to feed those evacuated from a wildfire?
The diocese has a page of resources on our website, including disaster plan templates, to help our churches get started. I would encourage all of our congregations to get involved in their county COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster). If you don’t see one listed for your county, contact me and I will help your church find the disaster relief group nearest you.
By working together with other disaster agencies, our churches can truly live out the Feeding of the Five Thousand in Mark 6:38-44:
And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.