By Scott Peterson
Editor’s note: Scott Peterson is the pastor of children’s ministry at Redwood Covenant Church in Santa Rosa, California. The fires have destroyed nearly 3,000 homes and caused $1.2 billion in damage in the city, which is the country seat for Sonoma County. So far, 20 county residents have been killed by the fire.
It’s 6 a.m. and I’m at church because East Santa Rosa is evacuated, again. Our friends and family are coming in looking tired and just spent. Battle-hardened soldiers talk about the thousand-yard stare. I’m seeing that on the faces of our people. They come through the door with blankets wrapped around themselves shaking and exhausted, awakened by sirens and loudspeakers and banging on their doors. Breakfast is ready and there are a lot of hugs and stories being shared. Even though I’ve had no appetite I decide to force myself to eat breakfast. A little boy cannot stop coughing. He has an infection and his little lungs are filled with gunk. He’s been sleeping with his family here since this started. It was then I lost it. The sound of a suffering displaced child sent me over the edge. I had to leave and went into my office and started to cry.
The weight of the stories just reached the tipping point for me. I’m looking out my office window and I can see the smoke plume billowing near Rincon Valley. It’s backlit by the first rays of the new day. My morning begins with mourning. My heart is completely broken. I put my hands to my face and just sobbed for a few minutes. I turn from my desk, get myself together, and grab my juice box. Then, real life hits. I broke my juice box straw. Really? All this pain and suffering and I have to break my juice box straw, too?
Diane Corby is a teacher and she was checking in on her students and talked with a family who had nowhere to go. She told them about us and that is why we are caring for them. They have made Redwood their home. The father worked at a destroyed business which shows how deep and wide the loss is. We have those who have lost their homes. Some have lost their jobs. Some have lost family. The feeling of safety is gone. As we share our stories a common theme is that for the last week we can’t trust what’s going to happen hour-to-hour. We have twenty-five Redwood families that have lost their homes and that number continues to increase. When will it stop?
To be gut-level honest, when I read the Psalms of lament written by David I used to think he was quite the drama queen. Now I get it. My soul understands David’s lament.
Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish.
How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when he is dead.
Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from groaning;
all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.
Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping.
The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.
Psalm 6:2-9 NIV
Redwood is hosting a city-wide prayer event Sunday evening beginning at 6:00 p.m. More than 30 area churches are joining us in prayer for our devastated community. Please plan to join us as we pray for healing and peace.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.