As I write this, I am tapping
away on my laptop upon a makeshift desk crowded in the corner of the
dining room between several stacks of boxes. Usually I hate moving, but
not this time. After camping out for over a year and a half on a corner
of our property in our small motorhome, you couldn’t slap the smile off
my face. We finally finished building our new home. Praise God!
For the sake of those who are
new to my column, turn back your clocks to the early morning of
December 21, 2008. My youngest son, then sixteen, burned down our home.
To make a long story short, Johnny is severely autistic and did not
understand the danger of playing with matches. Within two or three
minutes, the entire house was engulfed in flames, and we barely made it
out with our lives. Making things even worse, we didn’t have insurance
(another very long story).
What followed has proven to be
nothing less than a long parade of blessings and God’s miraculous
provision for our family. Before the fire was even extinguished, the
Red Cross arrived, providing us with temporary shelter, a set of
clothes for each of us, and enough food to last for a couple of weeks.
After a short visit to the hospital for smoke inhalation, I was
released and allowed to join my family at the motel. What followed was
a blur of interviews by the fire marshal and the Red Cross
When the whirlwind of the day’s
events had finally come to an end, our family huddled together in
prayer and thanksgiving to God for sparing our lives and protecting us
from serious injury. Late that night, I sat down at a borrowed laptop
and typed out a short note explaining what we went through to a few
special friends, including our own Bonnie Calhoun, Annie McDonald (our
ACFW NW Area Zone Director), and my Kiwi editor and longtime friend,
That night while I slept, each
one of my dear friends went straight to work getting the word out, and
even set up a special fire fund for our family. That very next day,
Annie called me to tell me that a few hundred dollars had already come
in. For the next few weeks, I was blown away by the love and support
that flooded in from fellow writers from every corner of our country,
and even a few from the other side of our planet.
It seemed like everywhere we
turned, we encountered the blessings of God. For instance, the next day
after the fire, I went to Best Buy to see if the accidental damage
insurance plan I had purchased on my new laptop included house fires.
As I expected, the store supervisor shook his head, but then to my
surprise, he offered to refund the cost of my extended warranty; and if
I wanted to, the store was willing to replace my laptop for whatever
the warranty refund came to. Without my paying a single dime, Best Buy
gave me a top of the line Sony laptop identical to the one I lost. They
even threw in a printer.
I had barely made it back to the
computer department to pick out my laptop when the manager found me. I
could tell by the flood of emotion on his face that something had
happened. He handed me an envelope. Inside it was a five-hundred dollar
gift card and a few others for ten to fifty dollars each. It seems
a few of the customers who had
been in line behind me had overheard me
as I explained to the manager about our ordeal. As soon as I left to
get my new laptop off the shelf, they came forward wishing to donate
money to help replace our children’s Christmas presents that were lost
in the fire.
By the time I walked out of the
store, not only did I have a new laptop and all-in-one printer for
myself, but I also had a shopping cart full of Christmas presents for
my children. The Best Buy employees all pitched together and adopted
our family, buying even more presents for our kids. Somehow Old Navy
got word and they too adopted our family for Christmas.
Our church, where I serve as
youth pastor, quickly rallied to our aid and organized a community-wide
auction/spaghetti feed fund-raiser to help us replace our belongings.
Soon there were several churches also coming to our aid. Within a few
days after the fire, we already had a houseful of furniture collected
and stored at the church, awaiting the replacement of our home.
Moreover, without exception, every item we received was far better than
what we had lost in the fire.
The same amazing outpouring of
love and support came through the hospital where my wife works. The
hospital, the union, doctors, nurses, and employees from every
department started bringing in blankets, new clothes, housewares,
furniture, and even financial aid to help us get through our tragedy.
An old friend and former board
member from my years with Youth for Christ, Mark Plumber, called and
offered his expertise and the use of his excavation equipment, free of
charge, to help us prepare a site to put the new house. A few days
later, a nearby neighbor whom I hardly knew came forward offering to
demolish and haul away the wreckage of our old home—also, free of
I still get choked-up thinking
about how the Lord has taken care of us through the love and sacrifice
of His people both near and far. And the list of miracles and blessings
is far too long to tally in just one article. I’m not saying that there
have not been trials along the way. I had another minor heart attack
and various other trials that we have had to contend with. Perhaps the
hardest of which has been the long wait to get into the new house. But
that too is now behind us.
We have much yet to do around
the old homestead, such as planting grass, flowers, etc. It might take
another year to make things look the way it should, but if any of you
who read this ever make it to the Puget Sound area of Washington State,
I’d love to invite you over for a visit. We can sit upon rocking chairs
on our covered porch and watch the eagles soar against the backdrop of
the nearby Olympic Mountains. The coffee is always on.