Sravasti Abbey finds welcoming hosts
The Sravasti Abbey Community was among those to evacuate in response to the Oregon Road Fire. Thubten Samten shared the abbey's experiences on needing to "Go now," being welcomed in homes, being showered with care, concern and prayers from around the world, and returning Aug. 25.
On Aug, 18, the Sravasti Abbey Community began activities for a weekend retreat. The retreat managers were finishing an orientation, guests were still arriving and the kitchen team was preparing meals.
About 4:45 p.m., a friend called to alert us that a fire had broken out nearby. She said her brother was part of the firefighting team attending the incident and news of the fire was not yet public. She urged us to be vigilant. About 15 minutes after her call, all the cell phones received an emergency alert about the Oregon Road fire.
Fortunately, the Abbey community has a fire emergency plan. We gathered everyone in the dining room to communicate news that the fire was about four miles away. We rounded up our "go bags" and brought out the Barricade Fire Gel Retardant to spray a protective coating on buildings if we had the opportunity. Soon we saw huge plumes of smoke billowing in the west and growing in magnitude quickly. The Newport Sheriff's office dispatched a member to the Abbey, directing us to evacuate as soon as possible. We thought we would have time to apply the Barricade but then we reached Evacuation Level 3, which meant, "Go Now!"
Quickly guests and residents headed to an agreed meeting place. Once there we started calling friends who had agreed to house us in fire/natural disaster.
As each carload contacted friends, the response was overwhelmingly positive and supportive for us to please make our way to their homes immediately. One friend not on the official host list emailed shortly after news of the Oregon Fire went public, letting us know that if evacuated, we were welcome at his home.
One group could not reach their assigned host, so I took him up on his spontaneous offer. Not only did he offer his home, but also he headed out to direct us to his rural property in Valleyford.
For the next several days, the Abbey community was showered with care, kindness, meals and warm-hearted company. People around the world wrote expressing concern for our well-being, offering prayers and asking what help we might need that they could offer from afar.
People living close to the Abbey wrote to offer us a place to stay. We had no idea how long the evacuation would be and how this might strain our hosts. Our kind friends hosting us assured us we were welcome to stay as long as needed.
We stayed in touch with each other that week, doing practices and pujas online. Venerable Thubten Chodron, abbess and spiritual teacher of Sravasti Abbey, suggested practices to do during our evacuation and reminded us to keep the world community in our minds and hearts as so many are displaced, dealing with loss of life of loved ones and loss of homes.
All of us watched the progress of the firefighting effort through an app called Watch Duty, which eventually included video updates on the Oregon Road Fire. We were deeply touched by the effort invested in fighting this fire and all areas burning in the state and beyond. Organizing and implementing how to bring these fires under control is extremely well thought out and carefully managed.
Late afternoon Aug. 25, we learned that it was safe to return to the Abbey. As we prepared to leave the homes of our kind friends who cared for all of us with such care and thoughtfulness during the evacuation, we were impressed by the incredible generosity and kindness we had received.
As we continue to reflect on this week and the outpouring of support for the Abbey community, we are reminded at a deeper level of the interconnectedness of life and our dependence on others. We will continue to make prayers and dedications for all involved in firefighting, for everyone impacted by these fires and for everyone who reached out to us to express their concern and support.
Thubten Samten - Sravasti Abbey