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‘Bomb cyclone’ the latest natural disaster to affect California Southern Baptists

(Left to right) Derk Schulze, Mike Bivins, Mel and Rod Sanderson serve at an assistance center set up at a local middle school after yet another natural disaster in northern California.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (BP) – A powerful storm referred to as a “bomb cyclone” hit northern California with heavy rains and hurricane-like winds Thursday (Jan. 5.).

The storm caused loss of power to more than 180,000 homes and the death of two people, according to The Associated Press. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency, and some evacuation orders were issued but later lifted around the state. 

Thursday’s storm was the latest in a series of natural disasters to hit the state including several earthquakes and other heavy flooding over the holidays which left four people dead, AP reported. 

Mike Bivins, director of disaster relief and camping ministries for the California Southern Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press despite all of the damage from the storms, there currently are not any “unmet needs” among churches from either the earthquakes or recent heavy rains.

“We’ve weathered the current storms and our teams remain on standby to provide assistance,” Bivins said.

The recent disasters have affected churches in several local Baptist associations, including Rio Dell Baptist Church in the North Coast Baptist Association.

Rio Dell’s buildings were severely damaged after a 6.4 earthquake struck on the morning of Dec. 20.

Even though his own church was deeply affected by recent disasters, Rio Dell Pastor Rod Sanderson is among California Baptists assisting Bivins with outreach.

Humboldt County, where Rio Dell is located, recently sponsored a local assistance center that was set up at a local middle school Dec. 30-31. The county also invited Bivins to bring a team of chaplains to help with setup and provide counseling to visiting community members.

The team included Bivins and Sanderson as well as a few other California Baptist chaplains and pastors from neighboring associations.

More than 100 people visited the assistance center during the two days to receive support, counseling and prayer from the chaplains, Bivins said.

“It’s significant for us to be invited to serve by the local government in this way,” he said.

“When I attend events like this, I like to be there on behalf of the local SBC church, which in this case was Rio Dell. This was a good deployment and was great ministry.”

One of the pastors at the event was Derk Schulze, association mission strategist for the North Coast Baptist Association, of which Rio Dell is a part.

Schulze reiterated to Baptist Press there is currently nothing “severely hampering” any of the churches in the association, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still great need.

He explained that even though this region of California is known for frequent natural disasters, their effects eventually take a toll on the residents.

“Resilience has a limit, when you get buffeted continually by these things, you can lose hope,” Schulze said.

“Trauma and grief happen with loss, and it’s really important for us to be there to offer a listening ear, hopeful word and prayer. The greatest resource the Church has is its people. We’re better together than we are apart. We can shine a light when times seem completely dark and dreary.”

Schulze encouraged fellow Southern Baptists to both pray for California Baptists as they minister through these disasters, and to consider joining the ministry taking place in the region. 

“This is a place that is not often on people’s radar, but people can be very receptive to the Gospel here,” Schulze said. “I would pray that people would develop a heart for areas like this and go there to minister.”