Since 1995 I have been talking "online" with a group of mostly Methodist preachers, one of whom lives in San Diego. He goes by his middle name, "Wesley," and this is what he posted Monday night. "Thanks to the near hurricane force Santa Ana Winds blowing off the desert toward the Pacific Ocean, 1 percent to 3 percent humidity (where 25 percent to 45 percent is normal), and exceedingly dry brush, grass and trees, California is once again burning. Fires started Sunday before noon and they remain 0 percent controlled here at 8 p.m. Monday evening. Over 500 homes lost. Businesses and mini-malls have been burned to the ground. If you've not experienced a fire like those of California and the southwest, you cannot imagine the devastation. It is like hell on earth."
Wesley's continued updates convey a feeling of panic that must be felt by many in the San Diego area. Pictures of the fire on television seem to shrink the miles between Georgia and California. Newspapers online show that the fires in California are front page news around the world, and it reminds me of something the author Gregory McDonald once wrote, "Technology will unite the world." According to the news reports on Wednesday morning, there are 16 wildfires, over 400 square miles have been burned, and over 500,000 people have fled their homes - this is roughly half the number of evacuees that fled the devastation of hurricane Katrina. Over 1,200 homes have been destroyed. Over 70 people injured, and there have been several fire related deaths.
One can only hope that in the midst of the crisis, people are able to find strength in themselves, in each other and in their faith. The saddest book of the Bible, the Book of Lamentations, was written by Jeremiah in the aftermath of the destruction and burning of Jerusalem. Yet even as he weeps, something happens - Jeremiah realizes what he still has. He wrote, "This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, Therefore I hope in Him!"
In the ruins of Jerusalem, Jeremiah discovered that he still had the Lord, "The Lord is my portion." I hope that the thousands who are weeping over lost homes in California can take time to be thankful for what they still have - their lives, each other, their hope in God.
Wesley's home in California is between two fire areas and so far he is doing fine. In his latest post, Wesley added, "We in California thank you all for your prayers and your concerns for us." Friends, as you are praying for rain in Georgia this week, think also about the people of California - pray for rain, cooler weather, and for the winds to quiet down.