Recently, I was invited to attend the Long Term Recovery Group for the Carleton Complex Fires of 2014.* That meeting was very difficult, as our friends on the East side have not had a fraction of the media exposure or financial assistance that poured into the Stilly Valley after the March 22nd tragedy. The main difference of course was that there was not the overwhelming loss of life.
One of the things that I shared at that meeting, was that as a man of faith, I looked at the 530 slide through that lens, and have always sought to see what good thing God was going to do in our community. I think it’s always good to view even the worst of circumstances that way. We need to believe that God is at work in every situation. It’s my belief that He is especially active in times of brokenness.
As we remember those in our community who have suffered, and continue to mourn the loss of friends and family, I’d like to point out some good things that are happening, and continue to happen.
At the top of my list would be the outpouring of support from around the world. Volunteers and donations poured in from all over the world as people were moved by the heartache and loss of others. This truly was, and continues to be, a great source of encouragement.
Our small church gave, and also received donations from other churches near and far. That money was all spent to assist those in need.
It was a great privilege to be the conduit of assistance. If you gave, thank you!
As co-chair of the 530 Slide Long Term Recovery Group, we are continuing to provide assistance as needs are brought to us… that difficult and important work is ongoing.
Next, and perhaps in a more personally moving way, I have seen the community come together like no other time that I have experienced.
The faith community, in spite of differences in theology and praxis, has enjoyed a wonderful year of cooperation, to love the community -from Arlington to Darrington. While we generally held no malice of one another prior to the community disaster, the relief effort has brought many individuals and groups together, who prior, simply had no occasion to work together. In this last year, I have often considered Jesus’ prayer for unity (John 17:11-23) and Paul’s repeated admonition of the same (Ephesians 4:3).
As a Christian of nearly 30 years, and over two decades of pastoral practice, I believe that I have grown more in love and tolerance in the last year, than the previous 20. I have seen personal prejudice and spiritual pride give way to love and true christian unity in my own heart.
I have learned, and am continuing to learn, that the church of Jesus is made up of many tribes, as it were, and that my own is not necessarily His only, or best intention.
Though there remain non-negotiable theological beliefs and practices, there is unity in our belief in Jesus as Lord, and salvation by faith alone in Him alone. My personal relationships with those of Catholic, Free Methodist, Foursquare, and other individuals has been a great blessing over the last year. In particular, my relationship with Father Tim Sauer, who pastors the Catholic churches in both Arlington and Darrington has been a remarkable surprise… to him as well. Recently, he and I were featured in an article for NW Catholic Magazine. (see page 20)
There remains much opportunity for the gospel to impact our community. In the days, weeks, and months, ahead, I look forward to continuing to look for ways to bring the good news, and the transformative love of Christ to the community, -and at times doing that arm in arm with my brothers and sisters from different groups!
This Friday, March 20th, many pastors and churches will be coming together to worship the Lord and pray for our community. Please consider joining us. The Gathering Together In Hope event will be at 7PM at the Darrington Community Center Gymnasium (570 Sauk Ave)
God is at work in the Stilly Valley. Come and see.
* The financial need of those impacted in Eastern Washington State remains overwhelming, with nearly 250 primary residences destroyed and little resource and infrastructure to rebuild. Please consider making a donation to those in need. Call (509) 433-7260 for more information.