By His Hand, We Will Rise

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” - Matthew 14:30

Dear Friends,

It was 1:24pm on Sunday, and I was having some difficulty digesting the phone call I was receiving. There was a fire, on Summit Ave, the apartment building managed by Kenton, was he ok?

Moments later, a second phone call with the same information and the same question.

I called, but couldn’t get through and then I realized I’d received a simple text, confirming the fire.

Pictures and descriptions, from Kenton and others, didn’t do justice to the devastation.

Later that evening, once the fire was finally put out, Bridgette and Aidan and I drove up to offer our presence and hugs and any help we could. When we pulled up to the backside of the apartments, the acrid smell of fire hung thick in the air and the charred remains of 18 apartments stood like a haunting halloween skeleton. As we crossed the charred remains of roof and debris, my eyes looked up to see Cheryl Burkett, Kenton’s upstairs neighbor, friend and fellow church member. I hugged her.

And then I looked over and saw her daughter salvaging items from the rubble. And then I saw the mayor’s daughter, and grandsons, doing the same. I looked up and saw three pillars of our community - the mayor, the director of public works and the fire chief - each one a 30+ year member of our volunteer fire department, having worked themselves to exhaustion, helping save the lives of every resident.

Then I looked over and saw members of the Red Cross, coordinating with the displaced residents to ensure they’d have adequate housing in the short term.

And then I saw Kenton… still in his church clothes… talking to anyone of the number of people from the Insurance Company to the friends, to the many people wanting to immediately lend a hand. Exhausted as he was, he was serving these community members while his home lay in a heap.

As the grief and devastation hung in the air, thicker than any smoke, the love of God was being reflected off of each and every servant on the scene.

We’ve begun talking about the Kingdom of God on Sundays, the central theme of Jesus’ preaching and teaching, and we were treated to a snapshot of that on Sunday afternoon. Firefighters from 10 different fire halls, all gathering to save the lives, homes and memories of this small community. Red Cross volunteers, jumping into action to meet the immediate needs of a disaster as they do so well. Insurance adjusters filing claims, community members picking out pieces from the rubble, and friends offering hugs.

There’s a long road ahead of the approximately 26 families affected by this fire. Clothing drives, grooming essentials and financial funds have been and are being conducted right now. There’ll be more longterm needs that we can meet down the road as well, and I’m glad that as a church and a greater community, we’ll be there to help in both cases.

The one thing I want to leave you with is this - it’s important what and who we look at. If we focus on the charred remains, the smell of smoke, the loss and devastation… we can’t stand. If instead, we can focus on the faces of the servants reflecting God’s love by their sacrificial service, if we can see beyond this present moment, we can rise.

That’s not just a word about this fire, it’s a word about every battle, every defeat, every enemy, every injury, every injustice, every obstacle we face in life. They are legion, for sure, but Jesus cast them out. And by his light, we see. By his grace, we are saved. By his hand, we are healed.

Welcoming people to Grow in Jesus,

Pastor Don

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