As the wildfire situation in British Columbia is now listed as one of the worst fire seasons on record, the congregation of Smithers (B.C.) Christian Reformed Church has stepped up to help those who have been forced to evacuate their homes.
Bulkley Valley Emergency Support Services (E.S.S.) set up in the church’s new building on August 6 and continues to use the facilities. The support services team approached the church council earlier this year, as they were looking for a central location to use as a referral center.
Matt Herzong, a director at Bulkley Valley E.S.S., said, “We would not have designed a better building for our needs; in fact, if and when we are able to build a site, it could easily be modeled after the church building.”
Most of the evacuees arrive at the church after a two- to three-hour drive from any direction, but some have come from much further. At the church, evacuees register with disaster relief services provided by Salvation Army volunteers and others. Once registered, evacuees are able to get access to assistance with housing, counseling, and other needs related to the evacuation.
Members of Smithers CRC meet with the evacuees as they arrive. They show people where they can find water for their pets and direct them to refreshments, washrooms, and computers. As many of the evacuees have just come through some terrible losses, they appreciate having someone to talk to. Members have spent hours just meeting with people, sitting and having coffee with them. “It’s a way we can share the love of Jesus with people in deep need,” said director of church life Stacey Stolte.
“The congregation has been willing to help since the first evacuee arrived,” explained Stolte. “We have been blessed with a great facility, which we built in 2015, and we have been looking for ways to use it to be a blessing to our community. This is a great opportunity for us to provide sanctuary and a place of peace for people in distress.”
As the forest fires continue to burn across the province of British Columbia, there is no known end date for use of the Smithers CRC facilities by Bulkley Valley E.S.S.