Beauty for Ashes

Isaiah 61:3 “to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion –
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes”

October is a harvest month where all roads lead to falling leaves, pumpkin carving and candy. However, it  means something different to the people of my community in Sonoma County. Just two years ago we were faced with devastation beyond belief that impacted every human being within our borders. The Tubbs, Atlas, and Nuns fires swept threw our communities leaving a wake of devastation both physical and emotional.  We have been slowly picking up the pieces ever since. Now, in the wake of the Kincade Fire, those pieces were dropped, and we are currently living in a smoky haze of déjà vu. We are experiencing this trauma all over again.

Yesterday, I packed up my kids with our important belongings and drove south to cleaner air and safer outcomes. Our home is just two blocks from the evacuation zone and the winds were projected to head our way. We were evacuated by police sirens and bullhorns in the 2017 fires. We returned after days of being displaced to the blessing of our home still standing. Others were not so lucky.

The tragedy of fire affects so many categories of life.  We could spend pages discussing the hardships, but what I am acutely aware of is how fires affect families. Families that are strong, and families that are fragile – fire does not discriminate. Post 2017 we stood beside some of  those families. Those who were bogged down in fear. Mothers unable to reassure their kids because they had no assurance of their own. Fathers angry at themselves for the things they should have and could have done due to an unfair retrospective mindset. In this breakdown, our county saw more foster kids enter the system. This tragedy shook the foundation of families and made the need that much greater to come alongside them, ready to love on those that are hurting.

I am new to the amazing team of Foster The City. Up until this point, my connection to children in foster care has been as a volunteer CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate).  My church, Refuge Christian Fellowship in Santa Rosa, has been actively seeking a way to meet this deficit in the foster system. This deep desire has been multifaceted and been gaining speed for a few years now. We are excited to partner with Foster The City and co-labor for this calling. In my personal journey,  I felt the Lord lead me to become a CASA volunteer. I have been placed with a sibling group for over a year and have heard the whispers of God in each step of the process. In one of our first meetings when the topic of their mother came up, both kids expressed that she had always had a drug and alcohol problem but it GREATLY intensified after the 2017 fires. Just two months after the fires she lost her children due to her substance abuse. This is just one story….of many. Unfortunately, this story has the potential to rewrite itself in varying forms in the months to come for so many other children.

Foster The City has just launched in the North Bay – and it couldn’t be at a more appointed time. Our community, that has not fully healed from our previous trauma, has just had their wounds and scars reopened; exposed with much pain. Families will fall apart, in desperate need.  Fears and worries must be answered with love and faithfulness. God wants to bestow on his people a crown of beauty amongst new and old ashes. Lord knows we need it. We have seen physical restoration in regions of our town – we will see it again. We also long for restoration in the depths of our hearts and souls and in the lives of the families affected to their very core. It is a promise from God that we will cling to and take part in!

Foster The City’s motto, “a church for every child”, has been a vision and also a prayer for bay area children since its start.  It brings me such joy to know it was a prayer for our North Bay children as well; a cry for healing for those whose needs have escalated in our crisis. These prayers have been echoed before, during, and now in the wake of our devastation. The need for restoration and help is real and we get to be apart of God’s promise, his hands. Lord, we are willing!

Deana T.