LOS ANGELES— For many Californians, hazy, smoke-filled skies envelop their cities as much of California continues to be aflame. But amidst the ongoing fires, community members are gathering together virtually on September 16th for a moment of heartfelt prayer.
In the past few weeks, millions of acres of scorched devastation have left the California and Oregon regions at an incredible loss, with people and animals without homes.
The event, led by California Zion Church (CZC) in Southern California, has brought communities across the continent together to pray for the afflicted families as well as firefighters still working around the clock.
CZC Representative Sara Sanchez expressed the need for this time of prayer and of offering help to the community. “We’ve heard how firefighters have been working without sleep, and a lot of us have seen the news of the travesties families have faced and we just want to do whatever we can to help,” said Sanchez. “There’s many ways we want to help contribute, but as a woman of faith, I can’t think of anything we need more for them right now than prayer.”
The prayer meeting was a testament of unity across boundaries with the participation of diverse faiths and international leaders. Among the countries represented included Cristina Reyes from the National Assembly of Ecuador, Cesar Coronel Garces, Advisor to the National Public Defenders of Ecuador, Claudia Cabrera Tarazona, Former Mayor of the City of Policarpa in Columbia, Luis Alejandro Cellillo of the Senate of Buenos Aires and Odino Faccia, CEO of Red Voz por la Paz. Faith leaders of the Anglican, Sikh, Buddhist, Zoroastrian and Cao Dai religions also joined to express solidarity during these difficult times.
“We need to stand in solidarity with the whole world, not only for the problems that occur in our country of origin or city. To love is to think of the other” said Faccia.
Other participants agreed that any opportunities to unify in heart are needed especially during this year of the pandemic which has distanced many socially, but also emotionally.
“[This meeting] is a good sign because humanity needs to reunite, it needs to rebuild its relationship, and its coexistence under the symbol of love and a sense of being together” said Cellillo.
California Zion Church will also support firefighters in Southern California by partnering with local businesses to donate goods like pillows and coffee, to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Over 50 volunteers from CZC have spent their early mornings and lunch breaks contacting companies in their areas to request for donations for frontline workers, and picking up the items from contributing businesses.
Community members personally affected shared their gratitude and thanks. Jacqueline Kim, whose husband is a firefighter, commented, “You may not realize it, but when they’re out there doing their job, firefighters don’t sleep well- they usually just close their eyes for brief moments with their backs against their truck. It’s a big burden off your shoulders when you can feel the community support and our family is truly thankful; pillows and prayer go a long way.”