October 8, 2016
“Fire! Girls! There is a fire! We gotta get out right now!” I woke up startled to see my whole room thickened with smoke. At first I didn’t think much of it. Fire? How could our house be on fire? I quickly grabbed a coat to cover myself and grabbed my Bible. Where was the fire located? Could we even get out using a door? All I could do in that moment was to pray that Jesus would help us all to safely get out hoping that one of our two exits were not doused in fire. Our whole house, the roof, celling, furniture is all made of wood. There was little time.
I stepped into the hallway to assess the situation. Knowing this was an emergency situation, I knew I had to be firm, but gentle and calm at the same time so no one would start to freak out. Thankfully I had the opportunity to practice emergency calmness with the IRR, International Rescue and Relief, program at Union College. We made my way through the hallway to go out the front door, realizing the living room was engulfed with smoke and fire, not to mention that the door was locked, we made our way to the back. Thankfully we kept a key in the lock after we locked the door every night. I opened the door and as we exited the three of us coughed and took in the fresh, morning air. Standing in the blinding daylight, we soaked in the realization that it was a miracle we were alive.
As I stepped outside and got a whiff of fresh air, I realized something had to be done. Here in Africa, it is almost a given that when a house fire starts, the whole house will become ash due to the fact that there are no fire services here. The only explanation was that the Lord Almighty was watching over us. In fact, I now realize that smoke detectors and sprinklers are a luxury item. Back in the states almost every room was equipped with loud smoke detectors that go off when the fire isn’t even in the same room. Schools have sprinkler systems in every room, and 12am fire drills that are mandatory. Yet here, we don’t even have running water let alone good electricity that is consistent when it rains lightly. So in the midst of all the chaos, I still was in awe of how we were able to wake up and escape with little harm. I praised God how he kept us all safe.
At once I praised God and thanked Him for keeping all of us safe from harms way, and grabbed two buckets. I told Marz to run down the road and notify our career family about the situation. As she ran down the dirt road, I later found out she literally jumped over goats, I asked Andrea to help me fill buckets with water. As I filled one, she took over and filled another so that I could move quickly. I ran inside not even feeling the weight of the 10 liter bucket of water. Pulling back the curtain to the living room, I couldn’t see anything other that the flames. It was so black. Not even one drop of sunlight was able to penetrate through the thick smoke. Even though I was afraid, I realized that this was an attack by Satan. This time, this emergency, all I could do was pray.
“Jesus. There is little time. I know that I shouldn’t be in here. In fact, I can’t even believe that I am, but I know that there will be nothing left if we don’t do anything. Give us the strength to be able to do what needs to be done and the wisdom to do it.” At the end of the prayer Psalms 91 came to mind. We had learned at AFM training that there will be times with little hope, and above that we can rise. There is no need to fear what the devil throws at us. God is always there protecting us from harm. If He is not standing by us, then He is carrying us through.
As I entered the room, I saw that the flames were blazing much higher than me. The intense heat and ash made my eyes cry from the burning sensation, but I couldn’t stop here. I continued to asses the situation. Was it safe enough to enter just enough to throw water? Was the ceiling going to collapse? Are the windows open for ventilation? Since I knew that Andrea and Marz were safe outside, the house was still stable at this point, and there was no one else in danger’s way, I decided to proceed.
I slowly made my way through the door frame to look at the only source of light, the fire. The flames were so bright and the smoke was so thick, I couldn’t even see the couch or the other furniture in the room. I threw the water at the base of the flame watching to see if it did anything. By the grace of God, it had an impact.
After completely drenching my sweatshirt in water, I covered my head and face so that the amount of smoke that I would be inhaling, hopefully, would be a little less. I then continued the process of running outside to Andrea, and then running back with the buckets she was filling. After 15 minutes, and launching as much water into the fire as possible, the only fire that was left were embers on one of the chairs.
As I went back outside I saw that Marz had returned with Uncle Fred, Auntie Isatta, and about 15 other people that came to help. I handed them wet towels to put over their faces and we unplugged the house electricity. We opened the front door and windows to get ventilation and started to pour water on areas we were concerned, including the celling since that was where it had appeared to start. Once we had ventilation going through the house, we started taking all of the leftover furniture out of the house to the front yard. That way if there were any leftover embers, they would not fall from the ceiling to catch anything else on fire. Once the house was, hopefully, semi-safe enough, Andrea, Marz, and I then went back for our passports and other items. Thankfully everyone helped with packing all of our stuff to take with us. While packing, I realized that because we had a limit to how much we could check when coming to Africa, we didn’t have much to pack.
After all of our stuff was outside, we all just kind of stood there. Soaking in the realization of what had just happened. Once I put my passport back in my emergency “go bag,” I walked over to Andrea and Marz to have a word of prayer with them. My new family saw that we were praying and gathered around in a circle to pray and praise God for how he protected us. They helped move our stuff to safe location, and fed us before going to church.We all hear stories of how house fires destroy everything, even kill families, but the possibility of it occurring to you personally, well, it doesn’t ever seem like it will happen. Yes, it is an unfortunate attack by Satan, but in the end, God can use our troubles to glorify him with more lessons learned and valued as a result. Its similar to the story of Job. When thinking of a sad story about troubled times in the Bible, most of us think of Job. He lost everything. Yet, in the end he still kept faith in God. Even his friends didn’t know how to speak the truth, but because he kept his faith in the lord, he was blessed with more than he could have imagined. Just like Job, and other stories of courageous people in the Bible, good will come of this too. If the fire had not happened, our neighbors may have not been able to see what God is capable of. Not only did God protect us, but He prepared and guided us in ways that only he knew we should happen. For example, we recently payed a local boy to fill up our water reserve tank since we don’t have running water. We could have done that ourselves, no problem, but this provided a job and a chance to get to know him better. Not only did He provide an opening to befriend someone, but he moved the fan that caused the fire. Originally the fan was in one of our bedrooms. It had broken a week or so ago, and as a result it was taken down, fixed, and put in a different room because we decided to get a different type of fan for our bedrooms. Yes, it was hot and a little sweaty at night, but because the fan broke, all of us are still alive.
If the fire hadn’t happened, maybe one person, somewhere, may not have been able to see the glory of God’s works. Maybe, just maybe, that because we were late to church, someone saw our car full of foreigners go to church and got curious as to where we were going. In the end, only God truly knows the plans He has for us. “For the Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever- do not abandon the works of your hands” (Psalms 138:8 NIV). Maranatha! Maranatha! Jésus reviens bientôt!