Volunteers from organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse, Christian Ministries and Bill Graham Rapid Response Relief, are in Williams Lake to help provide support for wildfire victims and volunteers. The teams are being hosted by the Calvary Church with support from other local churches.
The parking lot at Calvary Church on Carson Drive is a hub of help, with Samaritan’s Purse, Christian Aid Ministries and the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team on hand for disaster relief.
Pastor Jay McAlister from the Calvary Church on Carson Avenue said they’re hosting several disaster relief organizations, in partnership with six or seven other local churches.
They are providing accommodations and meals to the hard-working volunteers.
“Everyone’s really come together and connected, offering help and care,” he said. “There’s great camaraderie between pastors and church members. Everyone wants to reach out and exemplify the love of God to people.
“People are in need, and we’re doing our best to care for them.”
Greg Schmidt, program manager B.C. Response Team for Samaritan’s Purse Canada, said that their volunteer-based operation helps out after disasters like floods, ice storms, fires and tornadoes.
“We were in Fort McMurray for two months last year, and recently in Vernon for flood response,” he explained. “We were just in Ashcroft for a week, and now we’re here.”
Samaritan’s Purse is an international disaster relief agency, operating Canada-wide. They provide on-site training for volunteers, and when requests for assistance are phoned in, a team is sent to help.
When helping out in wildfires, they do things like fridge and freezer removal. “We pick them up and take them to dump stations. Another thing we do is possession recovery,” he added.
“When a house burns we try to recover what might have survived – things that may be meaningful to the home owners. We also help with some yard clean up, and have equipment on hand for moving heavy objects.
“I get such personal satisfaction seeing how amazing people get when they see neighbours loving neighbours – that’s what we’re doing,” he continued. “We go across the country and love people like we’d like to be treated.
“When they found out that it’s free, and that people travel across the country to help them, it makes their day, their month, their year. They tell us this renews their faith in humanity.”
For some, losing their home to fire is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“This gives them a hope they may not have had for a long time – God is at work here,” he continued.
“Working with these volunteers gives you an amazing view of people; it’s no coincidence that people with such talents come together. I have a little talk with them every morning, and they just go.
“When they start meeting with the home owners, conversations can go deep – they truly care about people.”
He said that volunteers have said that working with Samaritan’s Purse is a life-changing experience, and that recently, one couple who helped out in Ashcroft cancelled their holiday and came to help in Williams Lake instead.
Schmidt said that it’s his mission to bring churches together whenever possible. “We focus on things we all agree one – the basics of love bring us together,” he stated.
“In Saskatchewan, a couple of years ago, we had a whole group of Muslims work with us, and in Ashcroft, had a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
He said that the public is welcome to phone in requests for help. “If you know someone who needs a hand, give us a call,” he said. “We’re here to help.”