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Fires in the Okanagan: How to Help

On Thursday, August 17 as the sun set behind the mountains with a beauty that can only be found in the Central Okanagan, smoke was rising with a blood orange glow in its wake.

The sound of helicopters and planes that were seeking to suppress the fires died down and people stood eerily quiet watching flames head towards the city and towards homes of friends and family.

The event then turned more dire as messages from friends and social media lit up with news of embers beginning to jump the lake causing more fires and more evacuations.

Since midnight on Thursday, the sound of sirens, the pressure of packing ‘just the essentials,’ and the constant sound of messages to confirm safety and offer help have not stopped.

The fires spread east and north from Mcdougall Creek into the northeast edges of the city of West Kelowna where there are many homes and subdivisions. It also spread across the northeast half of Okanagan Lake where there is only one main road of access to many homes, cottages and businesses throughout, forcing some to evacuate via the lake.

The embers from this massive fire hopped across the thin-but-long lake and ignited two more fires on the east side of the lake in Kelowna and Lake Country. On Sunday experts said over 20,000 people have been evacuated as this 11,0000-hectare fire keeps spreading.

The Central Okanagan is facing a difficult moment and needs your prayers and support. Here are three ways you can pray as well as a practical way to donate.

God, be our present help

In Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

There is an ominous smoke causing very poor air quality everywhere and many people are not in their own homes or beds. Some are hosting people on couches and offering parking for trailers. A home can be a place for comfort and consolation but many are living in tight quarters with unexpected guests or hosts.

Many workplaces are closed and it is unwise to spend much time outdoors as the smoke causes breathing difficulties and headaches. Some already know that their homes have been destroyed and others are waiting to find out. How long will they wait? What will be left? Where will they go? The pressure on the hearts of people here in Central Okanagan is very much felt.

There is an abundance of fear, despair, stress, confusion and frustration; hope and comfort are in short supply. We need prayer for the God of all comfort to guide our hearts back to hope and peace. We need prayer for Spirit-led perseverance and patience as questions continue to go unanswered. We need prayer for rest as many have not slept very well in fear of middle-of-the-night evacuations.

Lord, make it stop

Mark 4:39 says, “And [Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”

We depend on the weather. The wind spreads the fire, but it also helps to clear the smoke. Since fire is much worse than smoke, we don’t want much wind. We desire rain, God’s fire suppressant.

We empathize with the efforts of the 500 firefighters from Central Okanagan and beyond who are seeking to prevent more spread and are now specifically focusing on protecting homes and structures. There are many lives out there on the front lines who are tired after these last few days of constant firefighting, and homes are still at risk.

We pray for God to make it stop and suppress the fire.

A full assessment of the extent of damages has not yet been done and the fires need to be controlled and tamed before that can happen to assure no loss of life and to confidently know what has and has not been damaged.

God, make it count

Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

As believers in Jesus Christ, we know this is less about flesh and blood or flames and possessions. It’s about the hearts and souls of people.

We pray that believers would fix their eyes on God and not lose heart. We also pray that we can be used as God’s body on this earth offering to be the hands and feet of Jesus, as well as mouths and feet to tell of the good news of the gospel in the midst of suffering. Many people simply need someone to listen to their story, to pray for them and to guide their hearts back to hope.

Our Church gathered on Sunday to sing Blessed Be The Name of the Lord who “gives and takes away”. We also sang It is Well, because our souls are secured with all our sins nailed to the cross and covered by the blood of Jesus.

Even though the cities and homes of this earth can be destroyed by flames, there is a place whose builder and maker is God and there is a place being prepared for those of us who surrender our lives to Christ and trust in Him for salvation.

May the people of the Central Okanagan put their trust in the security of salvation offered by Christ and Christ alone.

How to help

Our Church and others in the region have used our facilities, parking lots and resources to help support the efforts of the Red Cross and Emergency Support System Program. There was a need for towels, toiletries, bedding and food and our people have been generous and urgent to help.

You can donate to the Red Cross, United Way or our Hope Bible Church Kelowna and designate it for Wildfire Relief. This will help support the many evacuees who have lost or are unable to access their homes and resources.

To give, click here or navigate to https://www.hopekelowna.ca/hope-cares