Compassion and Transformation Through the Santa Rosa Fires

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To be on the receiving end of the love, compassion, and generosity of the Bayside family has been a transformational experience for us at Bayside Santa Rosa. Two and a half years ago, we were a struggling church dealing with a sharp decline over the course of several years. Bayside had helped us once before during a crisis, and we called on Bayside again for help. This time, we were invited to explore what it would mean to become a Bayside campus. We were in the midst of a time of prayer, discernment, and many meetings when the October fires of 2017 devastated our community. 

Pastor Jim Holst awoke that morning to some unbelievable texts describing the ongoing devastation. That morning and afternoon, as we turned our building into a makeshift shelter, and it was filling with truly hurting and confused children and adults, our first help from the outside arrived. It was a large pickup truck filled with Bayside pastors and relief supplies. After unloading, they quickly assessed our immediate needs and made multiple trips to purchase supplies. After two days of little sleep, our staff made a live video connection with everyone at the global Bayside staff meeting, and we were emotionally overwhelmed by the love and support we received. 

 Teams of people were sent to us. They helped in every way imaginable. The city was still burning, and yet Bayside servants kept arriving. Thrive students washed and detailed every car in our parking lot. Supply runs were constant as fire victims continued to seek shelter with us. Those of us who were serving still had no idea if our homes would survive. We slept in our offices along with our pets and a few things we were able to grab on our way out as we fled the firestorm. 

 A few days into this disaster, we were exhausted, unshowered, and overwhelmed. It was then that Pastor John Volinsky stepped in along with a team of gifted Bayside leaders and told us they would take charge. We were to rest and grieve. They would shoulder the burden of caring for us. We cannot tell you how important that moment was for our staff. It was exactly what we needed to keep us from collapsing under the weight of this tragedy. Bayside fed us, cried with us, slept in our hallways and offices, and encouraged us. 

 Our Bayside and denominational family continued to serve Santa Rosa through almost $1,000,000 that was given for fire relief. These funds were used to provide immediate relief and supplies for those who lost their homes. Convoy of Hope delivered eight truckloads of supplies to our campus that were distributed to the community. In the months that followed these funds provided resources and informational events for rebuilding and are still being used in our community.  

 It’s been almost two years since the fire and over two years that we’ve been in the Bayside transition. When we look back at the timing of these two events, we are struck by how God was at the center of this in multiple ways. Bayside’s compassion and generosity put us on the fast track to understanding what it truly means to be part of the Bayside family. What we experienced in the weeks following the fire gave us the truest picture of the heart of this community. Seeing Bayside in action, not only from the giving side, but the receiving side as well was a pivotal experience for our church. 

 When we hear our Bayside pastors speak of “unleashing compassion” we have first-hand experience what that means. We will be forever grateful for the simple yet powerful love of our Savior, which was demonstrated through you. The way you selflessly served your adopted sisters and brothers at this remote Bayside outpost near the coast left an indelible mark on our hearts. We love you all dearly. Because of you, we have been transformed. 

Dan Ferguson, 14 years at Redwood Covenant Church, now Bayside Church
Scott Peterson, 25 years at Redwood Covenant Church, now Bayside Church

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