June 20, 2017

Adventists Respond to London Building Fire

Richard Daly, British Union Conference News

The scenes at Grenfell Estate were both horrific and numbing.

It was about 4:30 pm on Wednesday, June 14, almost 14 hours since the start of the fire at the apartment complex in London, and one could still see the smoke and smell the burning as the 24-story block of apartments continued to consume any outward visible structure of the building. The atmosphere was still of amazement, shock and despair as people that were either apartment residents, or those who had to be evacuated nearby, sat along the concrete pavement in dismay. Some were being comforted by other people present in the area, while others were just staring in stark bewilderment.

In times like this, the good in humanity is clearly observed as numerous charity and community organizations came together providing supplies of food, water, and clothing. The upbeat army of charity organizations compensated for the sad tone that prevailed where hope and cheer were expressed with everyone recognizing there are no cultural or religious barriers to helping in a tragic disaster such as this.

Grenfell Tower after fire

However, the stories coming out from those displaced were harrowing. One lady, five months pregnant, stood staring at the smoking building wondering if her mother had made it out. “I just came back from holiday this morning, and I came straight here,” she said. “The last time I spoke to my mother was 11:30 pm last night. Since then I can't get through on her phone.”

Another middle-aged man shook his head in disbelief, “I can't believe it,” he said. “My family lived up on the 21st floor, I have checked all the hospitals nearby, and no one knows where they are.”

It is stories like these and many others that make the reality of what happened in the early hours of Tuesday morning so real and tragic.

Among the number of charity organizations on the ground is the Community Services Department of the South England Conference church region. Staff members were on the scene by lunchtime and were able to distribute food and clothing to those made homeless.

“We have been flooded with people asking what the Seventh-day Adventist Church is doing,” Community Services Director Malika Bediako said. “I want to assure them that we were here as soon as it was possible and the response has been very positive so far. We plan to be on site every day for the rest of the week.”

Adventist Development and Relief Agency UK, the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the United Kingdom, has also been involved in providing financial support to buy the necessary supplies. In her role as Community Services Director in the British Union Conference church region, Sharon Platt-McDonald immediately approached ADRA-UK to receive financial assistance. So far, an amount of £2500 (about USD 3,200) has been released to provide immediate assistance to those affected. Platt-McDonald said the Adventist Church can do a lot to make an impact in the local community by helping to meet immediate needs.

Church leaders in the United Kingdom are asking for continued prayers for the victims, their families and those simply confused about what has happened. “Keep also the church’s Community Services department in prayer, as it represents the Adventist Church on the ground, where people are hurting most,” they said.