Congregations Minister to Families In Aftermath of Fires

Source: The Baptist New Mexican

Recent wildfires in New Mexico prompted churches to offer assistance to evacuees, those who lost property to the fires, or both. 

The Calf Canyon/Hermit Peak fire impacted the community of Angel Fire and surrounding areas. Brian Nystrom, Angel Fire Baptist Church’s pastor, reported, “We have prepared our church for years to function as an evacuation site … and [we] are the official evacuation site for a reintegration center that is nearby.”

“We have been able to use [our resale shop] to provide needed items for evacuees and those who lost homes, as well as help provide for needs of firefighters located in our area,” Nystrom said. AFBC members also provided and delivered meals, and members who serve with volunteer fire departments functioned as support personnel to the wildfire firefighters. “The church helped to fund food distribution through the local school and the local ministerial alliance,” Nystrom reported.

Mickey Richardson is an AFBC member and fire chief for the Sierra Bonita Rincon Volunteer Fire Department. His wife, Betty, shared that in addition to support from the community who provided food at the fire station, “we had prayer services asking for safety, strength, endurance and wisdom. Firefighters recognize wisdom comes from God and [that] He provides what we need just when we need it.” A firefighter working on the fire line with Chief Richardson as the fire was being diverted from Angel Fire said, “I don’t know what God you pray to, but keep going. He’s listening.”

Las Vegas was also affected by the CC/HP Fire.. Zac Teston, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Las Vegas, said,  “FBC has been involved in volunteering at the evacuation site in town, the Old Memorial Middle School…to help with distributing goods and food.” New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief helped at the Middle School with its laundry trailer. NMBDR volunteers used FBC’s building as a place to stay, and it remains available for their use during cleanup efforts.”

Richard Lujan, a FBC member, volunteered at the Middle School from 10am to 6pm every day, distributing food and drinking water. “We weren’t allowed to have spiritual conversations with people, so I told them I would pray for them,” he said. Prayer meetings took place every Friday at different churches in Las Vegas. Even when people were frustrated, Lujan said he tried to have a positive attitude with a smile and encouragement.

Jemez Mountain Baptist Church, whose members provided help to people affected by the Cerro Pelado fire, was the Jemez Valley area’s evacuation center. Pastor Eric Larson said they “began with feeding firefighters for the first 48 hours, housed and fed about 40 evacuees for the duration of the evacuation order and provided shelter and supplies for pets and livestock.” The church fed about 100 people daily, including people who stayed at the church, other displaced individuals who came for food and supplies, and firefighters. JMBC also served as a contact point and communication center for fire information. It held public information meetings for the community as it provided supplies and aid for front line firefighters.

The CCHP Fire threatened Rociada, a small community northwest of Las Vegas, twice and burned onto the Rociada Baptist Church property. But, it caused no damage to the church’s facility. Most of the church family had evacuated, and five church-member homes burned down. 

The church helped when the area reopened. “We have opened the church building for those manning the roadblocks just past the church (National Guard and law enforcement personnel) for restrooms and water,” Owen Young, pastor of Rociada Baptist Church, told the Baptist New Mexican. “We have a well, so we are able to offer water to the community.”

Source: The Baptist New Mexican