American Baptist Churches of Pennsylvania and Delaware

ABHMS Releases Funds to California



American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS), on behalf of American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA), has released additional One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) Emergency Disaster-response grants in response to the California wildfires.

To aid in recovery from the Southern California fires, ABHMS has released $5,000 to American Baptist Churches of Los Angeles, Southwest and Hawaii (ABCOFLASH). To aid in recovery from the Northern California fires, ABHMS has released $14,000 to CrossWalk Community Church, Napa, and New Vintage Church, Santa Rosa.

ABCOFLASH will forward the $5,000 to First Baptist church, Ojai, to aid two families that are seeking long-term living arrangements because the fires rendered their homes uninhabitable. When the fires began, the church opened its doors to provide food and shelter. Services and other church activities were later cancelled when the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District categorized Ojai’s air quality as hazardous. Other Southern California churches have experienced power outages, and members of other churches have been evacuated from their homes.

In Northern California, New Vintage is aiding 40 families that have lost everything by helping them to find places to live and by providing such basics as food, clothing, soap and towels. In addition, the church is partnering with the city to help additional families and with the school district to help 80 teachers who have lost everything.

“We just want to thank you, the American Baptists, for all of your incredible gifts and generosity to help people get back on their feet,” says the Rev. Andy VomSteeg, pastor of New Vintage. “This has been an unbelievably painful experience. It’s been catastrophic—and, yet, an unbelievable opportunity for us in the church. Northern California is incredibly unchurched, and the fires have really opened people up to the idea that maybe they need God.”

On the fires’ first night, CrossWalk—which has been a Red Cross evacuation site for many years—sheltered everyone from those without means to affluent community members and tourists. For the next several weeks, they hosted up to 300 individuals nightly.

CrossWalk pastor the Rev. Dr. Peter R. Shaw notes that the church is now helping those who are usually forgotten—not those who have lost homes in the fires but those who lost wages or jobs in the vineyards, wineries or hospitality industry.

He recounts the story of one woman who received funds to cover her rent as well as store gift cards to buy personal hygiene items and groceries.

“That’s One Great Hour of Sharing,” he says. “We thank you for that. That’s churches stepping up and being generous. Those funds that have come in to help those survivors—that’s what we’re doing with it.”