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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Lutherans wait out wildfires

At the beginning of September, one of the largest wildfires in California history was still burning in and around Yosemite National Park. Known as the Rim Fire, it began in mid-August and quickly grew in size.

"It's not good. California has had an extremely dry year. The winds are blowing hot cinders, causing spot fires which spread the blaze to more populated areas," said Carol Roberts, CEO and president of Lutheran Social Services of Northern California.

At presstime, the agency's programs and services had not been affected, but Roberts and others stood ready to work with the Sierra Pacific Synod, Lutheran Disaster Response and other partners after needs are determined.

Sierra Pacific Synod Bishop Mark W. Holmerud conferred with pastors at three congregations close to the fire line: Mountain Lutheran in Groveland, Mount Calvary Lutheran in Mi-Wuk Village and Mariposa Lutheran in Mariposa.

"Members of these congregations were under mandatory and voluntary evacuation," Holmerud said. "All the prayers and support that can be offered would be greatly appreciated."

At Mount Calvary, just across the street from a fire department, church members welcomed firefighting crews to use their building and parking lot as a respite and staging area, said Eric Yochheim, interim pastor. "They have a place to wash off and use a real bathroom," he said.

While some members had evacuated, others remained. Worship was still well-attended at the end of August. "Until we can't get in [to the building], we're going to have a place for people to worship, fellowship, and get questions and answers," Yochheim said.

To learn more or support overall Lutheran Disaster Response efforts, visit www.elca.org/disaster.


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