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Southwestern

2003 California Wildfires

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Baptists honor firefighters with early Thanksgiving

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (BP)--Local firefighters, who put in up to two weeks with no down time fighting Southern California's worst wildfires, were treated to an early Thanksgiving feast and honored by Northpark Community Church.

Calif. fires claimed her home, but not her faith

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (BP)--Ashes fell from the sky like snowflakes on a cold winter morning -- but it was neither cold nor winter. It seemed that California Baptist University would remain untouched by the blazing inferno that covered thousands of acres across Southern California.

Churches gear up for cleanup, added ministry after wildfires

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Turning the page
As numbers dwindle in the shelters that once housed thousands of evacuees from Southern California's wildfires - Robert Holebrook from Lake Arrowhead, among them, shown here reading a Bible -- Baptist churches are gearing up to assist in cleanup across the region and minister to other fire victims' needs. Photo by Morris Abernathy
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (BP)--With California's worst wildfires now contained, Baptist churches are banding together for the cleanup phase and in other ministry efforts.

Wildfire victims to receive coordinated help from churches

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Healing the brokenhearted
As the smoke that once clouded the skies in much of Southern California clears, churches now are building a vision for ministry among brokenhearted thousands who lost their homes in late October's wildfires. Photo by Morris Abernathy
SAN DIEGO (BP)--More than 100 San Diego-area pastors from various denominations have begun a cooperative effort to make sure all victims of the wildfires in late October are covered with physical and spiritual help.

‘Thank you for saving lives,’ Bush tells firefighters in Calif.

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An appreciative president
President Bush, flanked by Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger and outgoing Gov. Grey Davis, commends firefighters and emergency personnel who battled Southern California's wildfires for "what a superhuman effort you all put in to save lives." Photo by Morris Abernathy
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Firefighter’s sacrifice
A C-130 carries the body home of firefighter Steven L. Rucker, who lost his life battling Southern California’s wildfires. Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger and hundreds of firefighters attended a Nov. 4 memorial service for Rucker at the San Diego-area Gillespie Field. Photo by Morris Abernathy
SAN DIEGO (BP)--President Bush toured the most devastated areas of San Diego County Nov. 4, offering hope to wildfire victims and thanking hundreds of firefighters and support personnel for their efforts in saving lives.
      "We've seen the worst of nature," said the president, who arrived at Gillespie Field in El Cajon about 10:30 a.m. after being flown by helicopter over towns where wildfires turned hundreds of homes into piles of ashes in late October.
      Hundreds of firefighters listened to Bush, who stood on the back of a California Department of Forest truck flanked by California Gov. Gray Davis on one side and California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger on the other.

Calif. man at the gate looking, finds Jesus

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (BP)--It was an unusual sight at the temporary shelter for wildfire evacuees: Robert Webber in his wheelchair, with his Cockatoo, watching hundreds of cars come and go at the San Bernardino Airport.

Mountain community shows love, gives aid

SAN DIEGO (BP)--Seven-year-old Dalton Woods clutched a brown, plush teddy bear he had just received from church members of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon.
      It was the only toy he had after fleeing his trailer that was one of 202 homes in his small, mountain community of Crest consumed by Southern California wildfires in late October.
      "This is wonderful," said Trina Woods, his mother who had come back to the town of 2,700 residents to see what was left of their trailer. "I can't stop crying. We've lost everything and have nowhere to go. We've been living in our truck since last week and our son has to go back to school tomorrow."

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Bar-B-Caring
Members of Shadow Mountain Community Church serve a barbeque dinner to residents of Crest, Calif., who lost their homes in Southern California's wildfires. Photo by Morris Abernathy
      The Woodses are among hundreds in Crest being shown the love of Jesus through Shadow Mountain members who have adopted the community that sits on a hill about a quarter-mile behind the church facility.
      "We are going to do everything we can to help rebuild the community," said David Jeremiah, pastor of the 6,000-member church and president of the Christian Heritage College that were narrowly spared from the San Diego County fires. "As followers of Jesus, this is what we know He would do. We are doing everything we can to help the families in Crest."

Pastor & wife, despite losses in wildfire, remain thankful

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Pastoral support
Longtime church member Patty Denton gives pastor Robert Winterton a hug after the he and his wife, Helen, lost their home in Southern California's wildfires. Photo by Morris Abernathy
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP)--With shaking hands, Helen Winterton prayed for God to help her drive her car piled with her belongings out of the dense, black smoke in Peutz Valley at 5 a.m. Oct. 26.
      She prayed 2 Timothy 1:7 from Scripture: "For God does not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."
      "Praying that was the only thing that got me through," said Winterton, whose husband, Bob, 68, is the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif. "I told God I needed those things [in the Scripture] right then. All I could do was rehearse what I knew."

As wildfires continue to blaze, leaders ask for prayers

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Remembering fireman’s family
"Obviously, we need to keep Steve Rucker's family in our prayers, and I hope every Californian will," California Gov. Gray Davis said of the 38-year-old firefighter killed Oct. 29 as he battled a wildfire to save a home. Photo by Morris Abernathy
SAN DIEGO (BP)--California Gov. Gray Davis urged Californians to pray for victims and firefighters Oct. 30 as the state's worst-ever wildfires raged on. He also praised the religious community for their ministries amid the tragedy.
      San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy, meanwhile, told Baptist Press that, in handling governmental duties amid tragedy, "I believe God has been with me through this. He has been my major source of strength."

Scorched Bible pages reassure wildfire victims of God’s love

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Precious pages
A scorched Bible found in the remains of her home reminded Laura Carrasco, "You can't imagine what it's like to lose your Bible until you don't have one." Photo by Morris Abernathy
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (BP)--Through the smoldering, black ash of what was left of the home of Mike Foscolos of San Bernardino his flashlight caught site of a paper fluttering through the air just hours after the flames consumed his home.
      As he stepped on it with his foot to catch it, he realized it was a singed page from his Bible.
      "It was the first Bible I received as a new Christian and I had saved it in the garage," said Foscolos, who evacuated his home on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 25, and returned that evening to find it destroyed. "I couldn't believe it was the page with Jeremiah 29:11-13 on it."
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Fireproof faith
"It's not over yet," San Diego Fire Capt. Gerry Brewster, said Oct. 30 of the Southern California wildfires. "There has been tragic loss, but knowing God I know there is a meaning." Photo by Morris Abernathy

      The passage reads: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
      Foscolos said he is having the page framed to keep in his rebuilt home as a testimony.
      "To me, it means God is in control and His promises are true," said Foscolos, who manages the bookstore at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., where 15 other members of the church lost their homes and one deacon died after suffering a heart attack after evacuating his home. "It's a reminder that God has a purpose for everything. We may not know why something happens but it's not our place to ask Him."