Pastor and family killed in California mudslide
Saint Sophia Camp in Southern California's San Bernardino Mountains is run by several Greek Orthodox parishes, but caretaker Jorge Monzon reportedly served as co-pastor of the Iglesia de Dios de la Profecia (Church of God of Prophecy) in Van Nuys, a storefront evangelical congregation. (The San Bernardino Sun seems to contradict an Associated Press report that Monzon was co-pastor, identifying him only as a member who was "very involved in the church." The latest AP story doesn't identify Monzon as a pastor.)
Monzon, an immigrant from Guatemala who lived with his family at Saint Sophia Camp since 1997, apparently invited two dozen family members and friends from the church to the retreat for Christmas. When heavy rains fell, causing mudslides in the Waterman Canyon devastated by autumn fires, 12 died, including Monzon, his wife, Clara, and his two daughters, ages 17 and 9. The Monzon's 6-month-old son is still missing, as is a teenage boy who was staying at the camp.
"It's been several days and our hopes are not high of finding people alive," Chip Patterson, spokesman for the San Bernardino County sheriff's department, told reporters. "We may never find everyone."
Fourteen of the Christmas celebrants at the camp were rescued. (The Los Angeles Times has a photo gallery of the destruction, as well as a first-hand account from the man who saved his 3-year-old son but lost his wife and 6-year-old daughter.)
Several newspapers today report that Greek Orthodox officials had closed the camp for fear of flash flooding and mudslides, and that Monzon had been forbidden from holding unauthorized gatherings there.
Meanwhile, at Monzon's church, about 200 congregants—including several from sister congregation Day Harvest Ministries—wept, sang, and prayed during yesterday's service.
"Many of us are asking, 'Why is this going on? When will this all be explained to us?'" Pastor Emilio Ruedas told the congregation. "I do not know the answers … . But we must pray that God will show himself."
Day Harvest pastor Kelly Price told the congregants that "the enemy" was attacking Iglesia de Dios de la Profecia, referencing the destruction of four families' homes during the fall fires. "If our enemy comes in like a flood, we will still say Jesus is our Lord," he said.
Miss Friday's Weblog?
We hadn't planned on posting a Weblog on Friday, but we did anyway, with coverage of the mudslides, Howard Dean's religion, John R.W. Stott's stroke, and the National Park Service. If you missed it, it's still available.
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