Should You Stay or Should You Go? Either Way, a Pastor Predicts an Ash-Grown Bounty for Bethel

We've officially made it past the Carr Fire's one-month anniversary. This is not a happy anniversary by any means, except that the Carr Fire is nearly fully contained, which is a relief, but it's hardly cause for Champagne since we are still breathing toxic smoke from other fires that continue to rage around us. If you don't believe it, just step outside, squint at the murky gray sky and dare to inhale deeply.

Only paid subscribers have access to our site's lead stories, as well as the Convo Cafe. When you become a recurring subscriber, you will have full access to all lead stories as well as the entire website. Plus, you'll have the option to receive email notifications of everything we post on

We look forward to you being part of's online family of paid subscribers. Your support helps us not just survive, but thrive and bring even more quality content to you by top-notch contributors and journalists about topics crucial to you, our region and our world.

Read more about our decision here.

Click here to subscribe!

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Click here for more fire stories.  

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

41 Responses

  1. Bruce Vojtecky says:

    Despite the Carr Fire, Bethel, crime, homelessness the main issue for those who leave the north state is low economic future. My wife’s family, in Trinity County, have survived wild fires and are still there. The few that left did so because of economic reasons. Even the no college ones have found jobs and are moving nowhere.
    I left Anderson because my kids left because even with college skills there were not enough jobs in the north state. Many of their friends also left for the same reason, some out of state others to southern California. Will my great nieces and nephews find jobs as they graduate high school and look at college? Will my friends high school graduates find jobs in a place where there are few other than fast food?
    My kids and grandkids are here in Phoenix so are we. Two of the health professionals I have encountered just moved to Phoenix, one from Santa Rosa the other from Portland. The economic climate in Phoenix is booming, for now, so is Colorado and other parts of California.
    As much as many people love the north state, if the kids leave then their parents may leave.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      “As much as many people love the north state, if the kids leave then their parents may leave.”

      Makes it hard when the kids move in different directions. Our oldest daughter keeps threatening to move to the Pacific Northwest. The youngest and her guy are currently in North Carolina—he just finished his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley, and I suspect he’s prospecting for opportunities in academia back there (where he’s from). North Carolina!

      Of course, on this particular metric of grandparent suffering, our youngest could move to North Carolina and Doni would still have me beat by an ocean and then some.

      • Beverly Stafford says:

        Might be time to be a permanent RV-er. The youngsters can be wherever, you can visit until the grands become a bit wearing, move on to next landing spot, and so on.

        • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

          My wife has long told me that if I even bring up the permanent-nomad RV lifestyle as an option, it’s the end of our marriage.

          • Beverly Stafford says:

            The lovely Elise definitely ain’t into the hobo life. Bruce said his ideal retirement place would be Estes Park in summer and Arizona in winter. My neighbors are on a three-month RV trek, and just left Estes Park. Loved it. Their huge fifth-wheel has all the amenities of our Redding abode with the exception of a second bedroom and bath.

  2. Beverly Stafford says:

    If the Carr Fire destruction isn’t reason enough to leave Redding, Bethel is. Sounds like a-chicken-in-every-pot mentality. Being a non-religious person, I shudder at Scientology and Bethel beliefs. Lim may be correct if several more Bethel-ites are elected to city council and county supervisor positions. Just when things were looking brighter – containment, the DA’s position on gouging and looting, folks rolling up their sleeves and helping fire victims – we’re subjected to this in-the-name-of-God lunacy. Yes, Bethel does some good works – ask Randall Smith – but overall, they’re a scary bunch of cult followers. Do I get an amen?

  3. William Keller Jr says:

    Oh gosh – you got a great big chortle from me with ‘we might even get a new car out of it’!
    Thanks for your writing.

  4. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    Just another false prophecy from Bethel Corporation…just hard to believe that young and old pay the exorbitant fees to attend the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry; of which they get no credible diploma or certificate. Granted they’ve headed up a project to hire more RPD, but at what price in the end ? This kind of foolish prophecy from a former student at BSSM that new sporty cars will emerge in Redding may be great for local car dealers, but just another way of saying if you join Bethel prosperity will come your way; that is if you have enough funds left over after tithing. My take on the housing shortage in Redding area is that it’s absorbed by the part-time students going to this non-accredited school which get higher fees for local rentals. Either their parents or the church subsidize their rent fees, thus making it higher for non-Bethel persons to afford after they return to their home and back on the market. And the $1000. Bethel is giving to those whose homes have burned is on the surface a great jesture, however just another unfortunate misnomer. I have friends who’ve applied for the money, they did the paperwork, met with the staff distributing such, opened the envelope and inside were two $500. gift cards from WalMart. Disingenuous at the least on this one, unless I mis-understood Bethel on this upfront money was that it was actual money, or a check for $1000. Some folks may not want to shop at a place that makes their employees go on MediCal & CalFresh, because of low wages & low hours. And besides I’ll bet a few real dollars that WalMart gave Bethel those gift cards. Once more we’re asked to drink the kool-aid that Bethel is spewing from this benevolent entity; to be held on high and just overlooked because of their hatred of LGBT+ citizens; because they speak in tongues and expect us to understand it, and because they give to the community without alleged strings; because they started a petition to deny Redding Rancheria from using their own land for their own purposes, and on and on…I say build your own Bethel apartments/condos for your students and overnight Redding will have a reduced housing problem.

    • Linda Cooper says:

      WalMart gift cards. Hum. I always consider cash to be the ultimate freedom for my receivers. Remembering Grandma Cooper, and her $15 checks she would send for my birthday. Before gift cards.

    • Regarding housing for BSSM students, I’ve long wondered why Bethel doesn’t buy that boarded-up motel and restaurant on Park Marina Drive, across from the Civic Auditorium (BSSM), and right off Highway 44. It’s a prime location, and it would provide housing for its students who could walk across the overpass that leads directly to the Civic Auditorium. That would help with their housing needs, and improve Park Marina Drive’s freeway exit curbside appeal.

  5. Linda Cooper says:

    “What once was an rusty town of old buildings and weak infrastructures from the Boom-town days of the Gold Rush, will turn into a hustling and bustling, modern-day city, which will be thriving with Renaissance-like artwork and masterpieces all around. Redding, CA will be a glimmering masterpiece of the Lord!”

    The above quote is what set me over the edge a couple of days ago. Because I was responsible for the curation and preservation of that “rusty town of old buildings,” which included the Boggs collection of early California paintings. Mrs. Boggs, I hope you haunt this awful individual. You, who were responsible for Shasta State Historic Park, and also donated your painting collection and archives. Because you believed in historical preservation, for the people of the State of California. This includes the thousands of school children, who may or may not believe in God, to visit the park annually, and without charge. And on the practical side, you made certain the California State Park Commission would include public restrooms in the picnic area. This became the first rest stop in California, and UPS drivers, along with park visitors, continue to make good use of that facility! I write that, because her correspondence in the archives on this subject is really amusing.

    While my house was burning close by, I thought of the potential loss of the artifacts, the paintings, the archives, and yes, the history. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. But just in case, dedicated California State Park staff and volunteers worked twenty-four hours to evacuate, and transport these collections to Sacramento. They did this “watching their backs with the flames close by.”

    That’s what preservation is about. Even if one’s personal history is lost, including some fine pieces of California art, there’s still a place to visit. Accessible to everyone, with no restrictions on personal or religious beliefs.

    I toyed with the idea of “reaching out,” to Bethel for the rumored $1,000. I even received a return phone call. The voice was so cold, and uncaring, that it scared me. My daughter advised me to take it. I thought about this in terms of turning the donation in to the Grace Baptist Church, where we evacuated for the second time. And the secret reporter in me wanted to know if the offer was valid. I will never know, because I just won’t go there.

    Thank you for the article, Doni.

    • Beverly Stafford says:

      Sorry you didn’t carry through with negotiating the hurdles to receive what was purported to be $1,000. It would be interesting to see if all of the applicants received WalMart cards. I guess we can be thankful that it was $1,000 worth of glitter and feathers.

      • Linda Cooper says:

        Well, they can always call. Actually, my return phone call was regarding their offer of sifting. Have not received a return phone call regarding the $1,000. What would you do? Just curious.

        • Beverly Stafford says:

          This seems a bit like when I return those scam calls. I say something to the effect that “you know this is a scam so why do you allow yourself to be a part of it?” I would not say that to a Bethel-ite, but I’d check out whether or not there is truly $1,000 in cash as expected. If it turns out to be a WalMart card, I’d then tell the world.

      • Beverly Stafford says:

        Oops. Dunno where this correction will be placed, but “was” should have been “wasn’t” glitter and feathers.

  6. Judy says:

    This writing is risky and unfortunate as picking this scab is so unnecessary. But my name was mentioned above and and there is reason for explanation. I work with Bethel’s City Project for two reasons: no one else will do this work which Carr Fire has shown was vital and Bethel knows my beliefs are different from theirs, but this counts for nothing to either party. Neither has tried to influence the other over the last five years of toil.
    Randall R. Smith

    • Oh, Randy, thanks to you, we are well aware of the good works and incredible labor that you and teams of Bethel students have done under your expert guidance to improve our natural areas. I applaud you AND them for that.

      But when a high-powered, influential person like Ben Lim gives a prophetic word from the Lord about our town, something that includes taking over Mt. Shasta, and the Lord handing over to Bethel “the keys to the city” – well, then that makes me sit up and pay attention.

      In all my years as being a journalist, I’ve thought of myself in many ways – mainly a flashlight holder – but your message gives me a new image: a professional scab-picker. I’m fine with that. Sometimes that’s exactly what needs to be done to show a powerful organization’s mindset and intentions. Where there’s money, there’s power, where there’s power there’s the potential for mis-use. Where there’s money, power and religion, all hell can break loose.

      I’m just keeping my trusty flashlight pointed at the – uh – scab.

      Your friend always, with love,
      Doin’ 🙂

      (p.s. Joe’s going to help you so you’re not writing under Judy’s name. In the meantime, it’s smart to sign your name below comments for now.)

    • Beverly Stafford says:

      Dr. Smith, I hope you realize that my comment above that included you was a great compliment for the wonderful work you do.

  7. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    Tough times, but as the old saying goes: Could be worse….could be raining.

    Oh, wait…

    As for resuming the bashing of Bethel’s brand of prosperity gospel, I’m fine with it. If you’ve got a socio-theological ethos to run up the flagpole, you gotta be willing and able to defend it from criticism. That said, it remains odd to me that much of the carping is coming from people whose beliefs aren’t all that far removed from what Bethel members believe, but many of the complainers seem oblivious to that. (Maybe it’s harder to see the degree of overlap if you’re standing inside of the Venn diagram.)

    I remain convinced that if there occurred a sudden mass exodus of all the Bethelites from the Redding area—or if the church imploded due to some kind of internal mischief (not all that uncommon among these prosperity-gospel mega-churches, if we’re being honest)—the local economy would crater, and much of what makes Redding livable would quickly disappear, along with much of our real estate equity. I am 0% surprised that the City fell all over itself to approve Bethel’s new campus. I think the people who run the City want Bethel to dig in, almost purely for economic reasons.

    The reality is that at this point, we pretty much have all of our eggs in one basket, folks.

    • Beverly Stafford says:

      Eggs crack and break. Should that happen and Bethel bugged out – off shore, one would hope, or to Mexico – perhaps rebuilding from the Carr Fire would be a boon for both the residents and the city coffers. And another “perhaps:” the city would get off its collective derriere and move to raze all the abandoned houses and crack-infested motels, and they would be replaced with livable houses and accommodations, thereby putting lots of people to work. Dream on.

      • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

        You may be right, but I don’t plan to die here and have my ashes dumped over the rail of the Sundial Bridge into the river. My medium-term plans and interests don’t dove-tail with Bethel relocating to Central America (apparently the up-and-comer for evangelical Christianity), or with Bethel auguring in like a jet plane that’s lost a wing.

        I’d prefer Redding’s egg didn’t break before I get a chance to make my break. No yoke.

        • Beverly Stafford says:

          I doubt that you’d go back to Davis or Sacramento after your revelation that you were spending more time commuting than enjoying paid vacation. So, back to – where was it? – Colorado? I was looking at the stats for beautiful Sedona, Arizona. Mean house price is something like $455,000. Being able to afford that and wanting to are two different things. But in our dotage, we are definitely thinking of leaving California.

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

            I’m thinking ahead to retirement, and what’s going to drive me out of Redding more than anything else is going outdoors in the summer and asking the rhetorical question, “Are we in Hell?” I grew up where a hot summer day was 85°F, and I’ve never acclimated to summers here.

            I like the Bend, OR area. Not so sure about Colorado—it would have been great to spend my adulthood there, but I’d prefer a little less snow removal in my dotage.

  8. George Koen says:

    There is nothing prophetic in his dreaming. These are actions that are normally done when in recovery mode. This is like horriblescopes. A disqguised way of stating the obvious-with a bit of educated hedging based on historical odds. Circumstatial emotion binds it all together. Those inclined toward ‘spiritual’ emotionality are the only ones susceptable to this nonsense. Thet are logically compromised persons.

    • George Koen says:

      Sorry on typos!

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      I hear ya, but the picture of “The Jetsons” Redding goes a bit beyond predicting that Redding will rebuild. For that matter, the revelation that Mt. Shasta has been annexed by Bethel is……uh……well…… Listen, Lim, if you want to wager that all of that New Age hooey in Mt. Shasta will disappear over the next couple of years now that it’s Bethel territory, I’ll give you 2:1 odds. My $2,000 against your $1,000.

      My take on the “Carr” Fire being a message from God that everyone in Redding is going to get new “cars,” which in turn is a metaphor for a whole bunch of stuff, including new ministries, a new town born from the ashes, and newfound prosperity (actual cars)?




  9. Beverly Stafford says:

    I’ve run out of Reply choices, but this is for Steve and retirement. A million years ago, we, too, thought of Bend. But that was back when it was a smallish town. It’s really a pill hill for Oregon now which isn’t a bad thing for retirees. My brother-in-law lives in Cody and likes it right well. But after living in Alaska for many years, I have all the snow shoveling I want right here in Eastern County. It seems to me that Cody’s great point is its size, but the weather seems to be wind, snow, wind, heat, wind, and then some wind.

  10. Anita Brady says:

    I met yesterday with some friends that had lost their home in the Carr Fire. They have insurance which has really been stellar in dealing with their needs. They found out about the Bethel Fund and decided to go check it out. They had the paperwork needed and got two $500 WalMart Gift cards (not check or cash) as a result. They promptly went down to HIV Food Bank and donated the cards. Bravo!

  11. Bruce Vojtecky says:

    My most favorite place to finish life would be Estes Park, Colorado. Snow birding to Phoenix to see the grand kids would be fine. Colorado does get snow and cold but they also advertise 300 days of sunshine a year. But at 7-8 thousand feet it is impossible for my wife to breathe, the residue affects of smoking cigarettes most of her life.
    Phoenix is at 2000 feet and now we see how much it will help her long term. I have looked at Sedona, at 3000 feet, it might be livable. As for cost it depends on where one wants to live. Cornville, close to Sedona and where the late Senator McCain’s family live, has affordable mini ranches but they are like Redding with chances of a wildfire very possible. Flagstaff area is nice, I like Munds Park, but at 6-7 thousand feet my wife might have the same problem breathing as in Wyoming.
    For now we will put up with the Monsoons here in the Valley of the sun with our grand children. Our oldest grand daughter wants to go to college in Flagstaff and may have a “Lumber Jack Scholarship” to do so. That makes Munds Park a front runner.
    Affordable housing is available if you have good credit. That is true everywhere including Redding.

  12. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    Being born in Mt. Shasta, I know that it is an immovable mountain, the Lemurians have the deed on this piece of geography and no evangelical Elmer Gantry is gonna move that mountain, no way ! And for those thinking of taking the Bethel ‘money’, I say take it regardless of the denomination and give it to a local food bank, like the one mentioned above, the Shasta-Trinity HIV Food Bank. Oh, and one more note: Should the Bethel phenomenon descend to the clouds above, I’m confident that Redding will survive, it has for many years, despite such charlatans choosing Redding as its point of destination. Remember the North Valley Baptist Church, and how denigrating they were…it has disappeared, all things come to an end, especially when they’re disguised as so self-righteous. Julie Winter, please step-away from this empire called Bethel, you’re too smart to get wrapped up in such a power hungry conglomeration.

  13. If money were no object, and my family and friends were there, too, my vote would be somewhere coastal that doesn’t get too socked in with fog. I’m with Steve; I’ve never acclimated to this heat. I spend all summer dodging it and hanging on until fall.

    Another place I like is the Amador County region, because it’s like a little Napa area, but not snobby. But it gets hot, too. (There was a charming Airbnb I adored up there, but it’s no longer available.)

    There’s always the Czech Republic, right, Joe Domke? 😉

  14. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    What a great article Doni. I learned a lot from comments including Linda Cooper’s description of efforts to save historically important artifacts from the museum in Shasta.
    Anita is a truth teller, so I have to believe that instead of giving $1000 to Carr fire victims, Bethel is giving out gift certificates. A rumor from a friend who lives near a person who works in the fiscal department at Bethel is bragging that they’ve brought in over a million dollars for Carr fire assistance.
    I like Frank’s idea. Take the money and keep it in this community by donating it to an organization that could use it. Thank you Doni.

    • Thanks, Joanne. I’ve yet to hear first-hand from someone who’s received the promised 1,000 Carr Fire money from Bethel, so I can’t confirm the stories about Walmart cards. We’ll see.

      (And I, too, loved Linda’s descriptions of saving the Shasta artifacts.)

  15. Candace C says:

    Welcome to Bethelhem where you’re given a new car that encourages you to fall asleep at the wheel while “good people” do “good works”. That is of course unless you’re LGBTQA+, in which case God loves you and “forgives” you for being you, but can’t help you if you don’t change and become one of the “ good people” because as we all know , only “good people” do “good works”. Better hope that car is stuck in reverse.

  16. Paula Brovan says:

    I’m having a hard time believing that the blog is not a spoof??? I do believe you. I would never question your journalistic abilities, you’re the best! But oh my goodness:(

    • Bruce Vojtecky says:

      Paula, I left Redding area a dozen years ago, before Bethel was today’s Bethel. Not being there makes me rely on my family and friends there, none of whom are involved with Bethel, and on articles published on ANews for info on Bethel. That said I have read Bethel’s own website page and would put nothing past them. Some of their claims are totally unbelievable unless one is into Goth or chem trails.

  17. Carla Clark says:

    5 months of smoky hot summer every year and the prospect of living in Gilead.

You must be a subscriber to comment. Click here to subscribe!