California quake devastates Adventist school

California quake devastates Adventist school

Furniture scattered across a classroom

Napa, California/USA [Stephanie Leal, Dan Weber, Andrew McChesney]. A powerful earthquake that struck northern California last weekend badly damaged a Seventh-day Adventist school, forcing it to close just four days into the school year and to launch a dr

September 03, 2014 | Stephanie Leal (NCC), Dan Weber (NAD), Andrew McChesney (AR)

Napa, California/USA [Stephanie Leal, Dan Weber, Andrew McChesney]. A powerful earthquake that struck northern California last weekend badly damaged a Seventh-day Adventist school, forcing it to close just four days into the school year and to launch a drive to raise $200,000 for repairs.

The school, Napa Christian Campus of Education, appeared to be the only Adventist facility to sustain major damage in the 6.0 quake that rocked Napa County at 3:20 a.m. Sunday. Pacific Union College, located a 30-minute drive from the school, emerged unscathed.

The quake, California’s largest in 25 years, injured more than 200 people. It was not immediately clear whether any Adventists were among those injured. Early estimates put the total cost of quake damages at more than $1 billion.

The principal of the devastated school, Justine Leonie, said she was stunned to see the jumble of furniture, books, and other equipment when she first visited the classrooms after the quake. But she thanked God that the quake struck at night when none of her 130 students were on the premises.

"I was overwhelmed emotionally with the responsibility of the due diligence of an educator,” Leonie said in an interview Thursday. “We must make sure our kids are safe. We must never skimp on safety for our kids.”

Leonie said the school, which teaches students from kindergarten through the 12 th grade, hoped to reopen on Sept. 2 but needed to raise $15,000 immediately to restart some operations.

The Adventist Church's Northern California Conference, which operates the school, opened a web page on the You Caring fundraising site on Thursday to collect $200,000 for reconstruction. In addition to repairing the building, the school needs to replace computers, televisions, bookcases, pianos and other equipment.

Fifteen people had donated a total of $1,420 by Friday morning.

The school, like many Adventist Church-owned properties in California, did not carry earthquake insurance. In California, insurers do not include quake insurance in their regular coverage, charge sky-high premiums with large deductibles, and only provide minimal coverage.

“The insurance is not worth the risk of an earthquake once every 30 to 40 years,” said Jeff Klam, director of risk management for the North California Conference.

Many Adventist institutions have opted to direct the funds that would have gone for premiums into strengthening the structures of their facilities against quakes.

Leonie, the principal, said she was touched by an outpouring of compassion from high school and college students who have volunteered to assist in the school's cleanup. On Thursday, 29 second-year high school students and five adults drove the 65 miles (100 kilometers) from Lodi Academy to help sort through the mess.

“They were wonderful!” Leonie said. The volunteers’ work even made the pages of a local newspaper. The cleanup effort was to continue Friday with the arrival of students from Pacific Union College as well as members of the Napa church.

Pacific Union College briefly lost power after the quake, but it said no structural damage had been found on the exteriors of campus buildings.

“Individual interior building inspections will continue, and if any structural damage is found during these inspections the college will assess the damage and respond appropriately with necessary repairs,” the college said in a statement.

Pacific Union College opens for fall classes on Sept. 22. “Our prayers are with those in our community who experienced injuries and damages to their homes and businesses,” the college said. Marvin Wray, the senior pastor of the Napa Community SDA Church, also encouraged prayers for members in the community who experienced damage in their homes.

The church itself has been in cleanup mode this week. The violence of the earthquake swung the chandeliers into the ceiling and rained glass down on the pews below. It also left the kitchen and the Adventist Community Services center a mess, and the church’s organ with bent pipes. All the equipment in the TV control room, where Napa streams its services live, fell to the floor.

“We are all just thankful that this was not any worse. God is good,” Wray said on a quake-related blog maintained by the Northern California Conference.

Wray also said his church has extended use of its premises at no cost to the local First United Methodist Church, whose early 20 th-century building was severely damaged by the tremors and was expected to remain closed for at least a year. He will officially welcome the Methodist believers when they meet in the church for the first time on Sunday.

While the Napa Community Church continues its cleanup, Wray said wryly that the church had actually benefited from a blessing of sorts. “All of the pews in the sanctuary shifted forward,” he said. “I have been trying to get the people to move closer to the front for 15 years. God did it in 15 seconds!”

Back to list