Adventist Journal Online | “I pray that we will shine and show a true picture of the character of God”
After extensive forest fires, ADRA Canada intervenes to support communities in difficulty.
IIn the weeks following the wildfires that ravaged the village of Lytton, British Columbia (BC), Canada, and threatened neighboring communities in the summer of 2021, ADRA Canada continued to support the besieged province.
In early August, the British Columbia Wildfire Service sent out a terrible message: with over 30 active fires posing a threat to public safety and over 1,235,000 acres (and over half a million hectares) burned, the wildfire season in British Columbia was far from over.
As firefighters are on the front line to fight the raging fires, ADRA, in partnership with the British Columbia Conference (BCC) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is also on the ground helping evacuees with housing. , managing a warehouse large enough to handle a large number of in-kind donations; and building the church’s disaster response capacity in the province.
After the Lytton Creek fire destroyed the town of Lytton and two First Nations communities, the Lytton First Nations Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was moved to Camp Hope to help manage relocated evacuees in the camp. Brian Wahl, Director of Youth Ministries at the BCC, has been appointed Emergency Management Associate at the EOC. “I connected with the ADRA team to receive advice on how to work in an emergency. I praise God for ADRA and the incredible support we have received, ”he said.
A new sign at the entrance to Camp Hope welcomes evacuees from the forest fires of the Lytton First Nation in British Columbia, Canada. [Photo: ADRA Canada]
Alain Normand, Senior Emergency Manager and ADRA Canada Incident Commander for the British Columbia forest firefighting operation. [Photo: ADRA Canada]
In a discussion of the impacts of evacuations and the loss of property, Campbell Page, Indigenous Ministries Coordinator for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada (SDACC), noted that “after a tragedy, which is often necessary, it is both for leaders and members to come together in a space. More than one space, [they need] to express sorrow, loss, hope and gratitude for the rebuilding.
Page claimed there was hope for area residents, however. “The Lytton First Nation, like many Indigenous peoples and nations in Canada, is resilient, resourceful and able to respond and rebuild from tragedies when they strike. When events like the Lytton Fire occur, these characteristics kick in through the leadership of Nations and individual members. This happened in the weeks following the fire, ”he said.
During a busy summer for ADRA working in British Columbia, reports of wildfires in northern Ontario, Canada resulted in further complications and further deployment of ADRA volunteer teams in the Thunder Bay area. Hundreds of active fires, many of them uncontrollable, have resulted in the evacuation of more First Nations and other remote communities.
Daniel Saugh, ADRA Canada’s Director of Canadian Programs, continues to be instrumental in ADRA Canada’s rapid response. “This work,” he shared, “is beyond what we can do. But together with our conferences, churches and members who are our volunteers, we are responding to needs and providing help. We have seen the hand of God open doors and grant us His favor. I pray that we may shine and show a true image of God’s character in our humanitarian efforts right here at home. “
Back in British Columbia, with its experience in managing in-kind donations, ADRA Canada caught the attention of the provincial government.
Alain Normand, Senior Emergency Manager for ADRA Canada and Incident Commander for the BC Wildfire Operation, explained that within 17 days of the first offer to the BC government, ADRA was fully operational in Coldstream with a donation management warehouse. “There are three areas in the warehouse,” said Normand, “the receiving and warehousing, evaluation and sorting, and the sorting and packing areas. We have an average of about 20 volunteers per day from the central Okanagan region. Yet the need is enormous and we need many more volunteers. Training and coaching is provided, but we urge people to consider training with ADRA in peacetime in anticipation of trouble. We receive goods from all over the province and the warehouse is slowly filling up. If the Fort Mac experience has taught us anything, it’s that 150,000 square feet [about 14,000 square-meter] the warehouse will eventually be full.
“Therefore, we will work with shelters, evacuation centers and support agencies to provide them with what their clients need to get back to normal. Once the houses are rebuilt in the final phase of operations, we plan to have an online catalog of donated furniture for customers to select. On a personal note, I want to say that my wife, Nicole, and I have prayed for almost two decades that we can do this kind of work for the Lord. We aim to show God’s love in action, not just in words, by encouraging everyone to help.
Many people affected by forest fires ask the question, “Where do we go next?” ”
“Camp with mountain views [Camp Hope]”Campbell Page said,” an organization has been asked to provide this location. Leaders and staff on the ground said, “We have to help. We have to make this home. As cultures and religions interact, we must remember that we are all children of the Creator. This shared gift of shared humanity is the starting point for all who now live in Camp Hope.
“It’s a call to work together for the good of the Lytton First Nation, without any strings attached. We have the opportunity to welcome our new friends in their emergency and to build lasting and everlasting relationships.
Wesley Torres, President of BCC, said, “The greatest human response that reflects the glory of God and the character of Jesus Christ is when we let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. Then, and only then, can we selflessly and authentically help those around us who are suffering and vulnerable. True Christianity is meeting others at the lowest physical, emotional, and spiritual points of their lives. It is going through personal and heartbreaking community experiences to become the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. BCC administration and Camp Hope management used this motivation when we saw the needs of the community. Our priority was to help this injured community.
“When we do it honestly and sincerely,” Torres added, “we not only help others overcome their desperation, but ultimately we direct them to the One Who can solve all human dilemmas.”
Peggy Caesar is a communications specialist for the Adventist Relief and Development Agency Canada.