Saturday, June 30, 2012

Charred

A week ago today, Andy and I headed toward Colorado Springs to visit friends and delight in beloved sites.  As early as Castle Rock we saw a little puff of smoke rising from the front range.

At 1:02pm I tweeted, "Colorado is on #fire #again :(" 

Photo tweeted at 1:02pm on Saturday, June 23rd

Little did I know this tiny puff of smoke would grow into one of the most devastating events in Colorado's history.

At 3:16pm while scarfing down the most delicious oatmeal icecream at Josh and Johns with my Florida friend Rachel, I received a text from Andy:  "Don't go hiking. They are evacuating Eagle Lake."

Eagle Lake Camp, Saturday, June 23rd
Photo by Andrew Brown



Around 3:50pm Andy was snapping photos atop the castle at Glen Eyrie with his friend, Daniel.  As they climbed down and they got word that it was time to evacuate the property.  The fire was coming.


At 4:15pm it was time to go.  Rachel got a text from her host home that they were preparing to evacuate.  She needed to go gather her belongings.  We hugged and said we'd always remember the time the fire made us say goodbye.

At 8:32pm we drove away from the Springs while I watch flames dance on top of nearby ridges.  My heart was anxious for how the land, the homes, the people, would fare through this event.

For the next five days I became glued to KKTV.com and the Gazette website.  I was hungry for up-to-date information and constantly searching for burn area maps.  I prayed and pleaded for the safety and protection of the places that were so dear to my heart, namely, Eagle Lake Camp, nestled in the pines of Pike National Forest.

Eagle Lake opened my eyes to the wonders of God, discipleship, ministry, and Colorado.  After serving there in the summer of 2003, my was palate was prepped for a more permanent western adventure.  I served there again in 2004, and after graduating from Florida State, I packed up everything I could stuff in my '93 Toyota Camry and headed west to serve at Eagle Lake for two more summers.

Eagle Lake, 2006

Each day the fire crawled closer and closer toward the camp property.  I had painfully clear images of flames licking up girls camp where a cough drop is still stuck to a board in Marigold cabin from when I was a sick counselor in 2004; and of flames tearing through the Dining Hall where I once yelled, "it dusty in here?" to give announcements to the campers; and flames consuming the path to Bear Rock where we led never ending lunch hikes with whiny voices only for their mourning to turn to joy when they approached the summit and stuffed their little mouths with pb&j's in front of a majestic vista.  It hurt to think about the pristine property, lying quiet, still untouched, while a fire pillaged surrounding acres.

Aftermath of Saturday, June 23
Aftermath of Sunday, June 24
Aftermath on Monday, June 25
I think the pain was magnified knowing what heartache comes in the aftermath of fire.  In August of 2009, I returned from a hike only to see a column of the thickest, blackest, most angry smoke I have ever seen coming from the direction of my home.  Instinctively I knew that my life was changing as I headed closer.  I ran through the maze of condos and into the sight of flames ripping through my tiny dwelling space.

My bedroom.
Photo compliments of Stellar Propeller Studios
Fight fires.
Photo compliments of Stellar Propeller Studios
I cannot describe to you the feeling of absolute helplessness I experienced I as looked on.  There was nothing I could do.  Even if I threw my body on the flames themselves, I would not have stopped their consuming power.  But louder than the sirens, louder than the clamor of the crowd, and the media frenzy, was the whisper of the Holy Spirit with these words,

"I will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in me."  Isaiah 26:3

The day after.
Photo compliments of Stellar Propeller Studios



The months to come were nothing short of difficult and painful.  I will tell you, rebuilding it all is a journey.  But there are untold blessings in each of those days.  Experiences I never would have chosen, created a channel so deep and directly to God.  The family of God rallied around me and provided for my needs.  My friend, Allison, looked me in the eyes as my condo burned in the background and said, "I want to be here for you, and I'll stay if you want me too, but do you want me to go buy you some underwear?"  Blessings all around.

My computer and glasses.
Photo compliments of Stellar Propeller Studios


I know a little bit of the grief, but I know the gift.  I know that if the Lord decided it was time to take Eagle Lake, that there would be his merciful hand there to bless the newness that would come.  I still wondered with a heavy heart, what God would do in the midst of this trial.

Throughout this all, I continually thought of the story in Daniel of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who enraged King Nebuchadnezzar by worshiping the Living God.  The King planned to throw these men into a fiery furnace to watch them burn alive.  Their response amazes me each time:

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."  Daniel 3:16-18

God is able.  But if he doesn't?  We will still worship him alone, because he alone is Good.

The infrared scans continued to pour in and on Monday, the camp was clearly being attacked and eventually surrounded.  Until yesterday I did not know the outcome.

By Tuesday, June 26, camp was surrounded.



At 3:22pm on Friday, June 29th, I received a text from my friend Jamie who was attending a Navigators meeting, "the cross at Eagle Lake is still standing."

A beam of hope.

At 4:35pm Jamie continued, "A firefighter said there were some truly miraculous things that happened."

I learned that through it all the damage to structures at Eagle Lake was minimal.  The forest melted in the furnace and has left some sad scarring, but at the heart of Eagle Lake, aspen leaves are dancing and stately pines grace the hill.

The cross at Eagle Lake, 2006

I praise God for his mercy and choosing to allow camp to remain.

With that said, the fire marched on.

I know that within a few hours on Tuesday, June 26th at around 4:30pm flames ripped down the foothills and devoured an estimated 346 homes, including seven homes of Navigator staff.  My heart aches for them and the moment the victims will lay eyes on the scarred properties where their homes once stood.  I can only continue to pray and hope with them that in the days to come God will be there providing the utmost care for their deepest needs.


I am so thankful for the power of God and continue to submit to the fact that his ways will always be above my understanding.

Praise the Living God.

4 comments:

  1. I am so sorry for the loss of your friends homes. Please let us know how we can help- I know Mission Hills is collecting money and donations-- I was going to bring some things on Sunday..... but if you know of somewhere else, please message me. Love you & your heart!

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