Church leaders are rallying support for those displaced by the recent California wildfires that destroyed entire communities, and everyday American Christians are answering the call.
“I think as Christians, we should be the first ones to be responding because we represent the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and we should be the first ones responding to anybody in need,” Will Graham, the son of evangelist Franklin Graham, reportedly said. “Pray with them. Help with physical needs as well, and there’s going to be a lot of physical needs going forward.”
Christians around the nation have provided support through prayer, made generous donations and done boots-on-the-ground work. One unlikely 7-year-old girl has been a shining beacon of hope following the devastation.
After the raging fires destroyed her home and childhood possessions, Sophia Novotny turned her loss into inspiration. Rather than focus on regaining what she lost when the family’s Agoura Hills home burned, she focused on helping other children who suffered a similar fate.
Realizing that her things were lost, she pivoted and made plans to help other youngsters enjoy the comfort of toys.
“The day that we lost the house, she said, ‘Let’s get some toys for the other kids who have lost their house,’” Sophia’s mother April Novotny reportedly said.
A “Sophia’s Wishes” toy drive was held in Thousand Oaks on the second grader’s behalf, and hundreds of toys were donated to aid children impacted by the fires. The event quickly garnered local business partners and has been a thriving community success. Considering her own personal loss, the youngster’s empathy has been considered remarkable.
“I know how it feels to lose your things,” Sophia reportedly said.
Her efforts have prompted others to take up the cause. The Ventura County Fire Department reiterated her toy drive push on social media.
“Sophia Novotny is a 7-year old who lost everything in the recent #Woolseyfire She was devastated but instead of crying, she organized a toy drive for the other children who lost everything. Her event not only got toys to 4 families but also generated 1,000’s of toys for the spark of love toy drive. She is such an amazing young lady and we are proud to have been a part of something so special,” the Facebook post reportedly states.
Christian groups in California have been quick to organize support events for those impacted by the massive blazes. Several United Church of Christ congregations acted with swift compassion to hold a charitable fundraiser in Redding, a community near the town of Paradise that was utterly destroyed by the infamous Camp Fire.
“We decided to hold a fundraiser for the 900 out of 1,000 high school students who lost everything in the Camp Fire,” Pilgrim church leader Jessica French reportedly said. “With a Spaghetti Feed this Saturday, we hope to raise $3000 that will be donated directly to Paradise High School to be used as they deem appropriate for their students directly.”
The Carr fire impacted Redding in July and four congregation members lost their homes. With the first-hand impact of the fires in their hearts, the Pilgrim church has been open arms to displaced community members.
“We are opening our church doors as a sanctuary for any evacuees who need rest, peace, coffee, soup, Wi-Fi or just connection,” French reportedly said. “We are planning a Holiday Tradition gift card drive for Carr fire victims, and we are partnering with our local schools to identify those families who lost their homes and provide them with gift cards to be used for holiday decorations that may have been lost in the fire, and for gifts for their family.”
Congregation members have been amassing necessities such toiletries, blankets, pillows, and food for people who have been left homeless or temporarily evacuated. Numerous other congregations across California have also answered the call. Many have felt the brunt of these wildfires that have been raging for decades.
The First Congregational Church of Sonoma was hit by wildfires in 2017 and has been working to provide financial support through cash donations. Church leaders plan to donate the relief funds they have garnered to another church that can directly assist Camp Fire victims. A Chico congregation that has been unable to gather since the wildfire has acted much like young Sophia Novotny. The group has opened its office space to evacuees and looked to helps others before themselves.
“What else is there to do but serve our neighbors,” New Vision Congregational Church UCC’s the Rev. Jim Peck reportedly said. “In John’s gospel, on the night before he was put to death, Jesus picked up a towel and washed the feet of his disciples to teach them to be servants to one another. He taught us that our faithfulness to our neighbors is measured by how dirty our towel is. Or, in my case right now, how many dirty towels can fit in a super-sized washing machine at the Sunshine Laundromat.”