On June 6, 2017, the Zion UMC Sanctuary was gutted by fire. The cause is still under investigation by several agencies. The 100-year-old congregation is one of a few in the Desert Southwest Conference (DSW). The conference requested to a cadre of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM), trained and experienced in Early Response, to assist with the site cleanup. By June 21, six members were on site.
Three different code agencies were involved – one closed on Fridays and another on Mondays. Throw in a green insurance adjuster who got into an argument with one of the inspectors by walking thru the caution tape the previous week. Add a little ash, mix with record temperature – what a recipe!
The group faced an initial delay, but it allowed time for building of ramps, putting up shade cloth, adding water misters to the assembly area, and having better organization by the time volunteers arrived. On Friday afternoon, the team finally received clearance to enter the building.
Saturday, June 24, the cadre started work at 4:30 AM, had breakfast on site at 6:00 AM, and volunteers arrived about 7 AM. The team worked 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off. Worked stopped when the temperature reached 110° – usually 1 PM. The first day was a good start!
The CAL-PAC cadre augmented the DSW UMVIMs with knowledge and years of experience. About a dozen volunteers came Saturday: a few from area UMCs, a big group of LDS, and several from Zion UMC.
Sunday, June 25, the group was enthusiastically greeted as they worshiped with Zion. Prayers for the congregation and their ministry!
An incredible adjunct to the DSW/Cal-Pac Teams working Zion UMC fire clean-up.
The team was blessed with breakfast at 6 AM every day. They spent the first two weeks at University UMC in Las Vegas. They ate in the kitchen each morning before taking off to the site.
By the end of the week and due to the extreme heat in Las Vegas, the group arose at 4 AM and arrived at the work location by 4:30 AM. The cooks, Meryl, Eduardo, and Angel, served a gourmet picnic breakfast at the site in the cooling area by 6 AM. The team gained at least an hour of work with the schedule change so continued this pattern. By the last days, others who wanted to come early received breakfast as well. What a gracious gift to those of involved in the soot and ash of a devastating fire.
For lunch, the culinary school across the driveway provided lunch boxes for $3 a box. The group took a wagon across the path to pick lunch boxes each day. The school offered a different meal each day: sandwiches, salads, wraps very filling. What good partners for a hard working team.
Green Valley UMC provided most of the evening meals. The team enjoyed the flavors and abundance of food after tiring work days. Every night was a pure delight, and the team enjoyed meeting the folks who fed them and at times joined them to eat.
The team received donations of water bottles and other snacks that were appreciated by all.
The folks of Las Vegas showed the team generous hospitality. They provided a place to sleep and a shower at University UMC. The team felt like guests instead of a work group. Praise be for the ways, they minister to one another.