Just 2 miles east of where I sit, 1,556 homes lay in ash on the ground, the result of the “Bastrop Complex Fire.” Just 5 miles west, 27 more burned to the ground as the result of the “Union Chapel Fire.” Almost 40,000 acres are reduced to nothing, representing nearly 2/3rds of our community here in Bastrop, TX.
At 2:34pm on Sunday, September 5th a power line fell in the backyard of a home just north of Bastrop; forty-five minutes later the fire had traveled 5 miles. Moving at more than 7 miles an hour, it grew to be 20 miles wide and 24 miles long. It was all firemen could do to stay ahead of the fire long enough to get people out of their homes. The lucky had a few minutes, but most had only seconds to evacuate and many were out of town for the holiday weekend having no chance to consider the question, “what should we take?” The fire, now 8 days old is only 60% contained.
A little more than a week before the fires, during a meeting of LWR’s President’s Council in Austin, TX, volunteers assembled 75 School Kits to be distributed in the course of our normal Quilts & Kits work. Those kits were being held for shipping in my home in Bastrop, TX when the fires broke out. Hearing of the struggle in our community, Lutheran World Relief made a generous offer. On Saturday, September 10th those 75 School Kits were shared with students who had lost their homes in the Bastrop Complex Fire, in anticipation of their return to school on Monday.
This act of generosity is outside of the normal scope of the work of LWR, as LWR generally responds to international disasters of a larger scale. Yet, in our mission to “work with Lutherans and partners around the world to end poverty, injustice, and human suffering,” LWR chose to reach out a hand to those who were hurting here in Bastrop, TX. It just made sense, there was need, and there was resource. From this small act of kindness, 75 students who had nothing left returned to school on Monday with full hands. It was a small, but meaningful, act of generosity. That act, combined with countless others, has buoyed the faith of a community and the hope of its citizens.
On behalf of the community of Bastrop, and the 75 students who returned to school on Monday with backpacks full of school supplies, I offer my deep thanks.