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October 24, 2007: Smoke, Ash and Thanksgiving

The early reports are remarkable in that it appears the Witch Creek Fire missed Westminster, Escondido; Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church; Village Church in Rancho Santa Fe. These were all within the burn area swaths you see on the maps. It is too early to know about Fallbrook Presbyterian.

It is likely that all four congregations have members who have lost their homes. We know for certain that RB and Village have, those who were evacuated and are at Westminster have not been allowed back into the burn areas to look. All of Fallbrook was evacuated yesterday and the fire is still going through there.

Down here, most of the damage done by the Harris Fire was east of Chula Vista (us) and south of Trinity Presbyterian in Spring Valley. The fire is now traveling east. La Mesa Presbyterian and Lakeside Presbyterian are watchful today.

The fire risk is down, the winds have subsided and we have an on-shore flow. That means that the fires are doubling back east, albeit at a slower pace. It also means that the smoke settles over us. Today is the most smokey, ash-filled day we have had in Chula Vista. Just normal breathing gives you an acrid taste on your tongue.

Clark Cowden, our new presbytery exec, has been amazing keeping in contact with all of us. It is a great comfort to be connected to one another. The offers of help among Presbyterians north-to-south and south-to-north in this presbytery have been encouraging.

Thank you to everyone for keeping us in their prayers. Yes, we have learned lessons since the 2003 fires; yes, we have learned lessons since Katrina; however, I am convinced that the Spirit of God is dwelling among people in this community for the overwhelming and miraculous response we have seen. The reports from Qualcomm Stadium of volunteerism, of resources, of hope in a crowd of evacuees are a testimony to God's hand working in our midst. I believe it is an answer to prayer.

We will have much cleanup to do in the coming days, weeks, months, and -- as our 2003 experience and Katrina show -- years. For people who want to help, I encourage them to stay tuned to Presbyweb, to watch San Diego Presbytery's website for information from Clark Cowden, or work with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.