Paradise, California, is still reeling after the Camp Fire that destroyed the town this November. However, the community was determined to come together for a Christmas Eve service.
Ray Van Gilst, Central Pacific District superintendent, recently wrote about the event:
Christmas Eve 2018 was a historic day in Paradise, California, as they had the first large-scale public gathering since the Camp Fire with the theme, “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”
Paradise Alliance Church received special permission to open the church for three services which ended up totaling about 4,000 people in attendance, run by eight pastors from numerous churches in the community, all representing the whole church of Paradise.
The water is still not potable, and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company had to bring in special gas tanks to heat the building. However, the services went on as a tribute to the hope God is inspiring in Pastor Josh Gallagher and our church family there.
Josh stated that life went from fairly simple to complex for the people of Paradise—and to realize that life went from being fairly simple to very complex for Mary and Joseph as well. But then as now, we are all serving within the will of God. All the churches of Paradise came together to put on these services as the celebration of the birth and life of our Savior and the hope that He brings for new life.
Franklin Graham was also there with all the volunteers from Samaritan’s Purse. He was very encouraging and told the attendees that Paradise will come back—and come back quickly. He assured the congregation that there was no other place he would rather be on Christmas Eve (also his wife’s birthday) than right there in Paradise with them.
Samaritan’s Purse, in conjunction with Panera Bread, provided 4,500 box lunches so that every person attending could have one. The “My Pillow” company provided $100,000 worth of pillows to Paradise residents. And Christmas gifts for children came from everywhere, including our district churches.