One of the worst wild fires in California’s history has been raging in the north of the state for more than a week — spreading over more than 50 000ha, killing six people, destroying more than 1 000 homes and resulting in the evacuation of some 52 000 residents. At the time of posting this article the fire is thirty-five% contained and exhausted firefighters are working up to 48 hour shifts to try and get the upper hand. The major town in the path of the fire is Redding, a name which is familiar to Christians around the world because it is the hometown of the influential Bethel Church. The church, which has a huge impact on the town, is, together with many other groups in the area, playing its part in relief efforts — inter alia as a distribution hub for the Salvation army. Bethel leader Bill Johnson, whose family are among the fire evacuees, rushed home from a ministry engagement in the United Kingdom when he heard of the fire. His message at last Sunday’s morning service — reported on below — was to a community facing a relentless and unpredictable threat.
Acknowledging members who have lost everything to a wildfire surrounding Redding, California, pastor Bill Johnson told his Bethel congregation Sunday morning that the church is going to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice, reports Charisma News.
Some people in Redding and from Bethel are mourning the total devastation of their homes and possessions, while others are rejoicing that their homes and lives were spared, he observed.
“Today is a very strange day,” Johnson said. “We didn’t throw a party of fire for you,” he said before Bethel’s worship team opened with song lyrics “through the storm, He is Lord of all” at the church’s single service on Sunday morning.
“Outside is what’s from the devourer — not from the one who gives life,” Johnson said.
“Crises times are healing and breakthrough times. I don’t feel like I need to offer an answer or explanation because it’s His peace that passes understanding (that we need).”
Like others evacuated from their homes, Johnson said he returned briefly to his home Saturday.
He said dear friends had lost everything, and that months of attention will be focused on the crises before things are fully restored.
“Some of you are at a place where you’ve lost everything, and it’s hard for you to believe for a better tomorrow.
“We’re going to believe the Lord for His full-on demonstration of love,” Johnson said before Bethel’s worship team opened with a song by Hillsong, “Cornerstone.”
Following worship, prayer and intercession directed at containing the fire provided hope amidst the ashes for some.