Churches unite to help pastor, community that lost homes in wildfire
The concept of a phoenix “rising from the ashes” is nothing new in popular culture. Originating in Greek mythology, this bird lives a long life before suddenly bursting into flames and perishing. From its ashes, the story goes, a new phoenix emerges, ready to begin again.
Admittedly, this image came to mind in light of those impacted by fires in Santa Rosa, California. A phoenix often evokes images of renewal and resurrection, and at first glance, these terms might seem appropriate for Crosspoint Community Church and the surrounding communities looking to recover and rebuild. After all, lead pastor Mike Baker and his family were one of 10 from the Santa Rosa-based church that lost their homes in the wildfires that hit the area October 9.
“We never get wildfires here,” Baker admitted. “It’s really hard to describe to an outsider what it was like. There was no reception in the city. Eighty percent of the church was out of their homes.”
The thing is, Crosspoint didn’t die. While homes may have been lost, nothing about the church body or its impact on the community has perished. In fact, it has only grown stronger.
Baker organized a church gathering two days later – “to pray, hug, check in” – while also trying to communicate the basic needs of his church to the many Converge pastors that had reached out to him the day the fires broke.
“While everyone was willing to help, I told Mike to let us know when he knew what he needed,” said David Yetter, district executive minister of Converge PacWest. “After what had happened in Florida and Houston, we were trying to be sensitive and see, ‘what did other churches do?’”
Yetter remained in contact with Baker those first two days until a plan was organized. Five Converge churches located within two hours of Crosspoint – Grace Church, CrossWinds Church, Golden Hills Community Church, Parkway Community Church, and New Harbor Church – served as drop-off points for food, water, clothing and toiletry donations.
The result? Two days after the fires broke, eight moving trucks arrived at Crosspoint; three were redirected to a nearby Christian organization due to the enormity of donations received. More than 80 volunteers spent the next day attempting to sort and distribute what was collected.
“It was remarkable,” Baker said. “Just the amount of items, and the variety of clothes and sizes. I mean, there was a section for men’s shoes for 10, 10.5…they had it sorted like a DSW or Department Store.”
More than 1000 people came through until mid-October, though Baker said there will be just as great of a need in a month. Crosspoint reopened donation distribution December 1-3.
Kelly Patchin, lead pastor at New Harbor Church, helped coordinate transportation for the trucks delivering supplies to Crosspoint. He said the focus was and should continue to be helping those on the front lines of need.
“We work with the indigenous church,” Patchin said. “In this case, Mike is the indigenous church. People in our community and church wanted to give but didn’t know how. It is important to talk to the people on the ground and get specifics on what their needs are.”
“We were very blessed to give. We each use our abilities, and God uses things like that. It’s all a part of His plan.”
Baker echoed that support. His wife and two kids initially stayed with church members and are now living with a church family.
“There was never a moment where I felt my family wasn’t taken care of,” he said. “It reminded me of a recent sermon on Philippians 4:13 – ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ There was an uncertainty, but not one that leads to despair.”
That uncertainty has also allowed Crosspoint the opportunity to be a light in a community that can at times feel dark.
“This (Sonoma) county is so closed off to the gospel, but people are looking for hope,” Baker said. “What happened down here allowed us to speak into folks’ lives. We lost as well, and so we’re able to talk with them and relate to them because we’re walking the same path.”
Yetter said that while there was no real set plan in place for a situation of this magnitude, the response was a great example of the Converge family coming together to help one of its own in need.
“We were impressed with how God brought us together,” he said. “There was a readiness after other disasters. People were ready to be responsive.”
Baker agreed. “God knew what he was doing. This was a God-sized task, and it took God-sized support.”
Troy Emenecker, Guest writer
Troy Emenecker is a freelance writer for Converge. He attends a Converge church in Mesa, Arizona.