Bethel Church, a California megachurch with several thousand members, just announced on its website that it would donate to those who lost their homes in the Redding fire that began two weeks ago. The church, which birthed Bethel Music Group, plans to give away $1,000 to each household, and calls the move a “God-sized step of faith.”
“We are incredibly blessed as a church by people all around the world praying for us, donating and supporting our community here in Redding. The generosity of gifts coming towards us is both humbling and much needed. Christians around the world are coming together and supporting a cause that is bigger than any one individual alone can carry,” the church explained.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Carr fire has been ranked the sixth most destructive fire in California history. Seven people have died and the blaze is only 47 percent contained. The fire has overtaken almost 170,000 acres of land and 1,599 structures according to CalFire, the state’s fire agency.
“When we first made the decision to give a financial gift for the people in our city who had lost their home, the numbers being reported were 150-200 homes,” the church continued. “Within just three days, that number had climbed to over 1,000 homes, and the amount we had expected to raise and give went from $200,000 to over $1,000,000.” Bethel originally saw the giving as a challenge, but a doable one in their resources.
According to the Christian Post, this money will not benefit those who lost vacation homes, second homes or rental properties. Only the houses that are listed on the Housing Authority report will be qualified to receive the sum of $1,000.
Shortly after the fire began, Bethel fell under sharp criticism on social media for not opening its doors for evacuees. While Bethel offered to be a holding place for evacuees, they were told the church was situated too close to the fire zone, and would not be appropriate to house people overnight. The church is now serving as a Salvation Army aid distribution site.
Bethel Global Response has deployed “Ash Out” teams, where groups of volunteers help residents sift through ashes of their home to recover any valuables.
The church posted to its Facebook page: “We cannot begin to describe the feeling of helping someone who lost their home find something they thought was gone forever. This is part of what it means to live like Jesus—to link hands together as we move forward.”
On Sunday, senior leader Bill Johnson said the church has been overjoyed to see cooperation in the city as Bethel volunteers and other churches and organizations have also stepped up to help.
“What is happening really is a sign in the natural of a display of God’s power being released across the city,” Johnson shared with the congregation. “This destruction was not caused by a loving Father. You heard the voice of the Devourer for several days, you’re about to hear the voice of the Restorer for months on end. God is going to restore at such a higher level, a greater place than anything we’ve seen happen.”