Serving in Butte County

Quotes and Photos from those who served.

I heard the wind howling through the night, but something woke me early in the morning. I got up and stepped out for a bit of fresh air. How nice it was: the smell of log smoke, a faint red glow of the sunrise in the skyline. It was a bit breezy for the morning but it was not unusual.  I thought, ‘What a beautiful sunrise we will have today.’  As the red color grew more intense and the roaring sound of the wind picked up, I began to think something was wrong. Then I saw the flames rolling over the edge of the ridge line. The entire ridge line, as far as I could see, was on FIRE and it was heading in my direction.  I quickly woke my daughter up and told her to get the cats. It was early for her after a long night of study for midterms; however, she quickly responded when I yelled “Fire!”.  

She grabbed the cats and headed to the car. I was in the car for a moment, but left it to grab another cat who had escaped.  When she put the cat in the car, it also jumped out and ran for it. I returned and we got into an argument about why the cat got out.  Too late, the flames (we found out later was consuming forest at a rate of 50 to 75 feet per second) had already reached our neighbor’s house. 

We raced our car down the windy road, glowing embers flying in the air like a gazillion fireflies.

Emergency stop!  A panicked neighbor ran in front of our car and pleaded for us help her. She tripped and lost her car keys in the leaves.  We had to take her dogs.  She had 2 with her; so we loaded them up… ‘WAIT!  There are more dogs!’  She runs into the house and emerges with 2 more dogs. We load them up.  ‘WAIT! There’s more!’  She runs back into the house and returns carrying her disabled, overweight basset hound.

Ok. Ok. Dogs saved. Neighbor saved. We continue our hasty trek down the winding road, using the wrong side of the road as needed.

We make it into Chico, never to see our home the same again. But we were safe from the flames.

P.S. the cats made it.
— Shared story from a Paradise, CA property owner.

Time and time again, we heard stories of harrowing escape and near misses for each family we worked with. Everyone lost their home. Some lost their church and fellowship. But the most heart-wrenching were the families who lost family members. Life in Paradise, CA will never be the same again for many. It is unclear if the town will even be rebuilt.  It is unclear how long the team efforts and support will continue. It is unknown how long Paradise, CA will be on peoples’ minds before something else occupies their resources, thoughts, or prayers.

The only certainty is that the teams were sharing of God’s word and HIS love with the victims. Each family we visited includes sharing a gift … God’s Word in the form of a topical indexed bible. The front pages of each bible contain personal notes from each of the visiting team members.

The lasting impact on their lives will be the prayer, love, and fellowship that the property owners shared with the visiting team. For most, it was their first time seeing the remains of their property. For most, it was their first small-group/fellowship meeting in many weeks since being forced to flee.  God’s hand was there to rescue them so we could have the privilege to serve them.
— Byron Chun

It was my first-time helping people after a natural disaster. The homeowners I talked to didn’t know what to do next and they feel lost. It was really encouraging for them to see people helping them. It was encouraging for me to see other Christians with a heart of service.
— Victor Chan (Team Leader)

This was a unique experience; the sight of miles and miles of absolute destruction is difficult to comprehend by merely seeing it in the news. Seeing the magnitude and the enormity of the total incineration of all things that we see as homes, it could be our homes as well gives a small portal of insight as to what the residents of Paradise may feel, but the depth of the pain and sorrow can only be known by those that suffer the loss.

The homeowners and residents seem to be in relatively good spirits, given the circumstances, but even with our minimal exchange with them. One can feel some of their deep sorrow within for the losses of a entire town and some of their neighbors or friends.

Our team was cheerful, energetic and worked diligently to sift through the rubble for any remnants of sentimental value to the residents. This was truly a good experience in the company of people with giving hearts.

This was my first time and I feel that we can do much more, given our diverse backgrounds, there is much talent that can be harvested to do much more, since the need is enormous out there. I would very much find another group that can go up there during the first two weeks of the new year for a week or so, say a Monday to Friday stint back up to Paradise. We can all do more given the vast diversity of talents, we all have (actually, I have extensive training in Safety, SCA (surface contamination areas), hazardous material training (previously certified during my engineering/construction days).
— Roger Moy

I saw people coming from different states to come help.  Some traveled for 15 hours.
— Marco Lo

We visited 3 houses.  We all cried, talked and hugged her. I told her that I loved her and ask if I can hug her and she was so appreciated and gave me a wet kiss!
— Pastor Paul Ho

 It meant a lot to me to be able to serve.  We found lots of marbles??  We were shown lots of love from the nearby church who made us lunch for our team. 
— Cheaug Long

We had to take a day to come here to serve.  I feel very blessed, protected and thankful for what we have after seeing the people who have lost everything. 
— Philip Ho

 It is a blessing to see brothers and sisters sacrifice their time to serve. I had quality time talking too.  At the 2nd house, the homeowners had moved in only 2-3 months ago. We were helping her dig up items that had sentimental value.  The volunteers were able to bring hope to them and to let them know that they have not been forgotten and be able to experience what a church is.
— Pastor Simon Cheng

Two years ago, God touched my heart at the Texas trip. It is amazing to see God’s work being done by His people. If you have more time, come out to stay at least 3 nights to experience “God moments” and experience the emotions that homeowners go through after an item is found.
— Gary Lee

It was such an encouragement to see God’s people coming together to help the homeowners in Butte County. It is only with the love of God can we endure shoveling through ashes and debris in the rain to try to recover items for the homeowners. It was all worth it when we see the homeowner’s tears of joy when she picked up her grandmother’s watch or her niece’s clay vase. One homeowner, Chuck, told us that he lost his wife 16 months ago and he wanted to find her ring. Our team dig through the debris and found his wife’s ring and his father’s purple metal heart along with other sentimental items. At the end of the recovery, the homeowners were presented with a bible signed by all the volunteers. It was a privilege to be able to serve in Jesus’ name. A special thank you to Victor’s church friends who welcomed our team into their homes and made lunches for our whole team!
— Lucy Gee
Sunset Church