When fires raged across Oregon in September, tens of thousands of people began to evacuate their homes. But where do fleeing families go to escape the flames?
As the Riverside Fire was accelerating toward towns southeast of Portland, Laura Pascoe received a call from Clackamas County officials, asking, “Could the Oregon Conference open the Gladstone Campground for evacuees?”
Pascoe had spent years developing relationships with the county and other disaster response organizations as the former Adventist Community Services and Disaster Response coordinator for the Oregon Conference. She quickly connected the county with her successor, Andy Villanueva. Within hours, RVs were rolling into the valley at the Gladstone Campground. Usually tasked with helping camp meeting campers find their sites, volunteers were now cheerfully greeting those fleeing the oncoming flames and helping them settle in.
As the evacuees arrived, they found a whole community of people rallying to support their needs. Chris Cakes NW brought a pancake truck to serve pancakes. Other days saw Kona Ice, local coffee shops, donut shops, food carts and many others bringing food and goodies for the evacuating guests. World Central Kitchen provided two hot meals each day for guests and volunteers alike.
Dozens of volunteers rallied to the site, while pastors from across the Oregon Conference were called in to serve when needed. In this moment of crisis, it took the entire community to support those who were displaced.
At its peak, the “Hope Valley” evacuation site hosted more than 150 RVs. And the families that came to the valley found far more than full hookups for their RVs. They found security. They found community. Most importantly, they found hope.
“Thank you for opening this place up for us,” one guest shared. “I haven't ever been on this property. I grew up in Gladstone, just down the street. My dad hated Adventists because every summer they parked in front of our driveway and we would have trouble getting out. But you Adventists opening this up for all of us who need it is something else. Thank you for this. My mind is changed about Adventists now."
The Oregon Conference believes its theme of “It’s All About Jesus.” Three years ago, when we chose this year as the year of "Serving Jesus and Others," we had no idea God would call us to such intense and meaningful service. We had no idea God would desire to use this campground, closed in 2020 by COVID-19, for such a meaningful act of service in the midst of crisis. Yet through God’s grace and the selfless generosity of so many people, God touched the lives of hundreds of people who fled the flames to Hope Valley.