ABHMS releases additional OGHS funds in response to California wildfires

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 12/19/17)—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.”

These grants follow $5,000 in OGHS funds that ABHMS released, on behalf of ABCUSA, to the Growing Healthy Churches region in October.

How you can help
Your prayers are appreciated for survivors, many of whom were forced to flee their homes with little other than the clothes on their backs. Many have no homes to which to return and have lost all their belongings. Your financial gifts will allow survivors to purchase necessities.

Donations can be made via your church; via credit card online through ABHMS’ website at abhms.org > Give Now; or check designated to either “OGHS-Ventura Fires” or “OGHS-No. CA Fires” and mailed to the attention of Kim Wilkins at American Baptist Home Mission Societies, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA, 19482-0851.

One hundred percent of donations go to relief efforts; no dollars are retained for administrative costs. To ensure that your church receives credit for your gift, write the church name on your check or, if giving online, in the “comment” box.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

 American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.

One Great Hour of Sharing is administered by the World Relief Committee of the Board of General Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA. The committee facilitates American Baptist emergency relief, disaster rehabilitation, refugee work and development assistance by establishing policy guidelines and overseeing distribution of the annual One Great Hour of Sharing offering received by churches.