MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday, the 10th of August, 2018.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. California is enduring a terrible season of fire.
More than 14,000 firefighters are battling 16 major fires in the state.
The fires have claimed more than a dozen lives, and they continue to devastate wildlife, homes and other structures, and the land itself.
REICHARD: But as Mr. Rogers said to do when disaster strikes, look for the helpers. In addition to the firefighters, they are there. One group of helpers on the ground is Samaritan’s Purse.
Here to talk about it is Debra Cooper. She’s in Redding, California, and helping organize the relief efforts in the area.
DEBRA COOPER, GUEST: Thank you so much for having me.
REICHARD: Debra, could you describe the scene on the ground there where the fires are?
COOPER: Sure. The fires are extremely widespread and as you drive out into the affected areas, what you’re seeing is trees that are completely burnt. There’s just hills that are just sticks, essentially. And as you drive you see chimneys that are still standing, but that’s it. There are no homes. There’s just piles of ashes where the houses used to be. And it’s widespread. I mean, we’re talking driving 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes and the whole time you’re driving you’re just seeing the burn scarred area. It really looks like a war zone. There’s just nothing left.
REICHARD: And how would you say this time is different from other fire seasons in California?
COOPER: This fire season is really devastating across the state. There’s multiple fires burning. Currently the largest fire on California record is burning just south of us. The Carr fire had multiple structures lost, over 1,100 families were displaced because their homes were destroyed and we’re seeing that across the state and that’s huge. Many people are displaced, whether evacuated or burned out. And it’s going to be a long time before this area recovers from this.
REICHARD: And how is Samaritan’s Purse in particular responding to the needs of those affected?
COOPER: Samaritan’s Purse helps in several different ways. We help physically, we’re sifting through the ashes, going with these homeowners to find anything that might be left. We’re also helping them emotionally and spiritually. Some of the things we found as we sifted, we found dog tags, we found wedding rings, we found lockets from people and jewelry from people that maybe have already passed away that they were close to and it’s just one thing to tie that memory to that person.
REICHARD: And how are you working along with local churches there?
COOPER: The local churches are one of our biggest assets. We’re currently sleeping in a church. We have volunteers from all across the nation that have come in. We’re staying at Redding Christian Fellowship. And then the local church is where we get the bulk of our volunteers. Samaritan’s Purse brings in tools, we bring in equipment, we bring in safety gear, but those aren’t good without people. And so the local churches send those volunteers in to go out to their community and to love on them and to share hope, to share Jesus Christ with these people.
REICHARD: Debra, can you tell us about a person affected whose story made a particular impression on you?
COOPER: Sure. So there’s one that I was out with just yesterday. There’s numerous stories, but the one I was with yesterday—we’d been sifting through her home for several hours and we found a lot of glass, we found a lot of dishes, but we really hadn’t found anything that really just made her smile and brought joy to her eyes. And then when we were getting close to the end we found a locket that had been her mom’s, and finding that locket made her willing to step away and to realize that her memories aren’t there with that house, they’re with her. And so to be able to see that joy come in and then to get to pray with her, to hear her share how encouraged she was because we had walked through those ashes and helped sift through, that just means everything to the people that are helping.
REICHARD: So many numerous spiritual connections there, then. Thank you so much for talking with us today, Debra. It means a lot.
COOPER: Thank you.