Acts of Kindness

Deacons are called to a ministry at the intersection of Church and community. In the summer and early fall in the Shuswap, that has meant a focus on wildfire.

The Bush Creek East wildfire was started by lightning on the east and west sides of Adams Lake in mid-July. The two separate fires grew over the following weeks, fanned by gusty winds and fed by a forest dried from a summer of drought. The first people seriously affected were nearby Indigenous communities, and then the flames spread across the North Shuswap.

On one terrifying day in mid-August, the two wildfires merged into a giant inferno that roared across more than 20k in less than 12 hours, jumping over to the South Shuswap and moving to the edge of Sorrento, just a short distance from the Sorrento Centre and our farm, plus St Mary’s Anglican / United. The flames swept across the North Shuswap, destroying hundreds of homes and buildings, disrupting lives and livelihoods – though St David’s Anglican / United in Celista was spared direct fire damage.

At the Sorrento Centre, the nearby fire triggered an evacuation order. We safely evacuated almost 200 guests, along with our staff team. We lived as evacuees for eight days. When we returned to our Centre and farm, there was no direct fire damage, though the fire raged on so we remained closed to guests until mid-September.

Extreme weather events are becoming increasingly common and much more severe in these days of human-induced climate change. There are two major phases in most events: Disaster relief and recovery / re-building.

In the early days of the wildfire, our focus was on the safety of our guests, staff and neighbours, even as firefighters worked valiantly to protect people and property. The Sorrento Centre is part of a network of community agencies in the Shuswap that collaborated with first responders to ensure everyone was safely evacuated. Our focus was on neighbours with limited mobility and limited means who needed help to evacuate safely. There was no reported loss of life.

When we returned to the Centre, after the evacuation order was lifted, we were delighted to find our farm was filled with an abundance of produce. Farmer Angelo and his team, including volunteers, harvested hundreds of pounds of fresh vegetables that went directly to area foodbanks.

Hundreds of pounds more were offered to our neighbours for $1 a pound. All spoiled produce was delivered to neighbours with farm animals – which enjoyed a special treat.

We recently welcomed a group of quilters to our Centre (as we are a hub for the expressive arts) who donated their time and materials to create beautiful quilts for children in the North Shuswap who lost their homes to the wildfire.

There were many, many acts of kindness amongst our neighbours during the wildfire and since. One of our practices at the Sorrento Centre is to create opportunities for people to love their neighbours in practical ways – a virtue that is at the heart of our faith.

Throughout the wildfire, we received messages from friends near and far who were lifting us up in prayer. All those prayers buoyed our spirits in times of trouble, and we are deeply grateful.

Looking back on the past couple of months, our hearts are filled with gratitude for BC Wildfire and local firefighters in the air and on the ground, first responders and police, many volunteers who helped in so many ways, emergency services who provided practical support to evacuees and so many others.

There are a number of families and individuals who lost their homes but lacked insurance. Most are staying in hotels. The Sorrento Centre is working with municipal and provincial emergency services on housing options for the winter months and hope to have plans finalized by mid-November. We are grateful for the opportunity to offer practical love to our neighbours.

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  • Michael Shapcott

    The Rev’d Michael Shapcott was ordained a Deacon on the Feast Day of Nicholas Ferrar and serves as Executive Director of the Sorrento Centre Anglican Church of Canada.

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