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Northern California Church Serves Neighbors Affected by Wildfire

Located around 90 miles from Sacramento, the town of Magalia, home to roughly 12,000 people, has been destroyed by the large wildfire named Camp Fire ravaging northern California. The Magalia Pines Baptist Church's building was one of the town's few structures spared from the devastating fire. In the aftermath, Pastor Doug Crowder has opened the doors to the church building to help serve the community.

Baptist Press opens their story about Magalia Baptist Church by pointing out that Crowder was planning on preaching a sermon this past Sunday about risking your life to save others. The Camp Fire had other plans, though, and Pastor Crowder has yet to preach that sermon.

With the Camp Fire speeding toward Magalia in the early hours of the morning Nov. 9, Crowder, pastor of Magalia Pines Baptist Church, was loading into vehicles about 30 people who had been unable to evacuate the town. They had taken shelter at the church building with him and four other church members. "We were in the driveway planning to leave," Crowder told Baptist Press through tears, "and the entire world erupted."

There had been no fire in the adjacent businesses or woods, he said. But suddenly "the woods exploded. The Subway restaurant across the street exploded, and on all sides of us was fire."

So the church members hurried people back inside the building and prayed -- watching flames shoot horizontally between buildings and listening to thousands of gallons of propane detonate at a hardware store next door.

When they emerged the next day, everything around the church had been incinerated, but "we were totally unscathed -- totally," Crowder said. "The fall leaves were still on the trees" on the church's property.

Many of his neighbors have evacuated the area, but Crowder, who lost his house in the blaze, has stayed behind to help those who were unable to leave. Even with most of the town destroyed and evacuated, there is still much work to keep Pastor Crowder and his congregation busy. The church has opened up their building to house firefighters and is planning on using it as a staging ground to feed the community. The California Southern Baptist Convention's disaster relief team is helping coordinate the relief aid being offered by Magalia Pines Baptist Church.

No doubt, Pastor Crowder and his congregation are suffering themselves, yet they are a shining example of Jesus' love as they selflessly minister to their community. "It will be years before it's a town again," Crowder said. "But all through that, our church will be standing and our church will be ministering."

On Friday Pastor Crowder updated the church's Facebook page, giving thanks to God for protecting the church.