This is a series of excerpts from the journal of Don Hargis, CSBC Disaster Relief director, who spent more than a week in Colorado -- along with other volunteers from California Southern Baptist churches -- helping victims of the 2012 Colorado wildfires.
Things must be coming together because I had to find stuff to do before dinner. I have the best team on the IC (Incident Command) that an IC commander could ever have. It was rough the first few days, but now out team has a handle on all that is going on and each is very conscientious about their part of the mission.
Dawn has been the perfect Ad Min for this IC and her husband Richard has taken the operations and logistics and made them his ministry. Gail, who struggled at first and seemed very outside her comfort zone, has embraced her kitchen staff and has them operating like a well-oiled machine. Then there is Lew, he is the epitome of a “gofer.” He is the one who feels very at home keeping everything working around the church and the IC command center. We work so well together, but then why not – we are part of the greatest family here on earth, the family of God, where our motto is, “In all we do and all we say, we do it to the glory of the Father.” I have a great team.
Being the leader is not always a joyful time. I have had to be honest to some on my staff, one of our own chaplains, and one of the men from another state. In every case the Father has been the victor and not Satan the enemy. Some say the honesty is the best policy. For me, it worked in each of these cases and my relationship with each is stronger for it.
One of our assessors from OK took me and two other assessors on a trip around the area. He wanted to show me the houses I was questioning and whether or not we can do the jobs. One lady named Candace had a rather bitter taste in her mouth because of a misunderstanding on the phone with the previous IC. Everything that was said was correct but the way it was said was incorrect. We went to visit her and try to do some more on-the-job training with our assessors. The outcome was great and she was happy we came by. I tried to help her understand what we could and could not do for her burned-out home. She was very pleased with what we told her. We had prayer with her and left a lady who had a better feeling about God’s servants called Cal. So. Bapt. Dis. Rel. Ministry (CSBDRM).
All the teams returned, again with great stories and no injuries. That is a successful day.
The kitchen crew did a great job with the ribs we got, plus taters and veggies. I did not eat any veggies – I am a carnivore not a rabbit.
After the meal I had a meeting with the assessors, four teams going out tomorrow. I am praying that each team comes back with a stack of requests for help. If not, this operation is going to dry up with no more work to do. We will see how the Father moves.
I had to get up at 4:45 to leave at 5:00 to pick up the OK command unit seven miles back to La Porte. We got there only to realize I forgot the key that was in my pick-up. Therefore, I had to hoof back to Ft. Collins, drag Dennis out of bed, get my key from him and drive back to La Porte. For all those who might be wondering, I still have a problem with keys. No, I did not lose my pick-up.
The guys got the command unit loaded and I drove it from La Porte to Immanuel Baptist in Ft. Collins. It is a very nice piece of equipment. It does give me ideas for our CSBDRM Command unit.
Breakfast was back at the church in La Porte as well as lunch fixings – everyone fixes their own lunch and takes it to the field.
Before breakfast our group had their devotion and they were given their day’s assignments. As far as I was concerned all was well. What I did not know was that there was a problem in the kitchen. Our senior cooks were worn out and they decided they were too tired to keep going and returned home. I will miss them because they are great people. I had to put together a new team to work the kitchen. I placed Gail as the kitchen blue cap. I gave her a staff of four to feed about 45 people, which will grow by Thursday to about 75.
We also moved the kitchen refrigeration unit to Immanuel as well.
Bill, and Naomi and I drove up to the fire area to see what is going on in assessment and clean-up recovery. I put two of our teams in the field to contact people who might need our help. The three of us drove on up to the Sky Corral Ranch, a retreat center, to see what help they might need. They were housing and feeding some of our volunteers as well. We sent an OK chainsaw team to cut burned trees and they cut 100+ trees.
Naomi and I had a sad moment when the wife of the director recounted a problem she came across. It seems that some of our volunteers have not been the most cordial to some of the grieving homeowners. The bottom line is that there are some who do not know how to talk to grieving people. However, I am very proud of our CSBDRM volunteers who have a reputation of treating grieving people in the appropriate way.
We moved down the road to another area of the fire to Yoko Frank’s house. With no exaggeration, her driveway was a half-mile long and on a 35 degree slope. To climb this drive took us about 20 minutes and a lot of air (the air is thin here).
We met Yoko and she was a very gracious Japanese lady who was about 65 years old and a widow. I sadly informed her we could not fix her road but we could do some mudslide mitigation. This means we will help her secure her house against further erosion of the upper driveway. She was very happy with that prospect and we are planning to get the job accomplished with one of the OK teams with my instructions. I hope none of these guys have heart attacks climbing up to Yoko’s house! She promises sushi to the team that comes. I hope I get a chance to talk to Yoko about her relationship with the Father.
I just heard that Hwy 41 had another mudslide. This is what happened with Yoko’s place – the mudslide that blocked traffic a week ago was from her driveway.
We had our team devotion and meeting at 7 a.m. We tried to meet outside but as we started, it began to rain buckets. After our meeting we each had a job to do before we left for Colorado. My job was to follow Dennis to the Ford dealer and leave the truck at the service department (about 11 a.m. the Ford people called and informed me the truck will be ready Monday morning).
We hit the road at 8 a.m. and drove through a lot of rain to Salt Lake City (SLC). As stated earlier, the Ford people called and we decided to put Bob on a bus in SLC to meet up with Pastor John of First Southern Baptist Church, St. George. Bob is a great volunteer and cares deeply for the team and the Father’s mission through disaster relief. Got word that he was on the bus and all is well with him.
It took five hours to get to SLC and then drive another five hours to Laramie where we are now.
I have been sending photos to be posted on our facebook page. I hope to send more video as well.
It has been a very long day and I pray that all the hard thinking and decision-making is over and I can now concentrate on the easier stuff like disaster relief problems.
We started with a flat tire on the water buffalo. We took off the tire and ran on three tires. It only weighs about three pounds with the tank empty. We got the tire fixed in Tulare while the team ate breakfast. There was no charge and we were on our way to Colorado. Our plan was to drive to Salt Lake City spend the night and then head for Ft Collins.
Our team of 20 is to arrive in Ft Collins at different times.
All our plans went awry when we found ourselves 20-and-a-half hours on the road and still four hours from Salt Lake City. Therefore, we stopped to spend the night in St George, UT. But the Father had everything under control. While we were waiting at the motel for the rest of the members to show up, we got word from Dennis, our blue cap, that the Southern California Ford 350 had broken down on the freeway about 52 miles from St. George. We started looking at all the options – disown the truck, blow it up or call AAA. I called AAA. They were no help because I was not with the vehicle. They gave me three options of people to call. None was available except the guy who wanted our credit card info. We decided to drive the broken down truck the 52 miles from Mesquite, NV to St George, UT.
Here are some things that came into play as we thought about the conclusion of the whole situation:
- We had a plan to drive all the way to Salt Lake City, but everyone was tired after 12-16 hours of being on the road. Therefore, we stopped at St George to stay the night. I believe the Father had us stop because He knew about the truck’s upcoming problem. If we had kept moving on to achieve our plan, it would have put more distance between the truck (Dennis and Bob) and the rest of us.
- Once we found out about the truck, we started to make plans to call AAA and have them pick up the car and take it to a dealer in Mesquite. I even called Mike McCullough to see if he knew someone in Mesquite to help us (he was the associate exec in NV for several years). However, nothing happened with that and we were dead in the water with the towing idea.
- Stan and I left St. George to go to help at the truck site. We started the truck and began driving to Mesquite to park it at the Baptist church. However, the more we drove it the more we came to hope and believe that the Father wanted us to take it to St George. We took the risk and brought it back to the motel at 11 p.m. I pulled the clean-up unit behind my pick up.
What did we learn: we had a plan, but the Father knew more than we did and helped us see the better way. We stopped when He told us to stop. This kept us from getting further away from the broken truck. We tried to use AAA, but the Father knew we did not need AAA. He encouraged us to drive the truck 52 miles and it made it. Rom. 8:28.