Our staff regularly works for children and adults around the world who are in crisis; we equip local Christians to serve them. In recent days, however, disaster came to our doorstep.
Along a popular hiking trail during late June a fiery spark, caused by either nature or man, ignited a reign of terror in Colorado Springs. Before firefighters contained the blaze, more than 18,247 acres of wilderness and city burned, claimed two lives and 346 homes. Heavy smoke saturated our offices, but the flames spared the David C Cook headquarters.
At the height of the Waldo Canyon Fire, the government employed more than 1,500 firefighters and evacuated 32,000 people. Colorado Springs is a small city and many of us know someone who lost a home – everyone has a story. Two houses rented by our IT staff burned to the ground. The fire stopped just 400 feet from our Global Mission Program Director’s home.
No one seemed safe as the fire which had burned steadily beyond the mountain suddenly exploded over a ridge and devoured scores of houses. Another friend of the ministry texted and called friends for comfort while trapped in standstill traffic for three hours as flames licked the side of the road and wildlife including elk and deer ran panicked and wild-eyed between cars. She had mere minutes to collect family keepsakes and important personal records before fleeing from her home. By the time the flames died out days later, this proved to be the worst wildfire in Colorado history. There is much to glean from this event, especially the impact of natural disasters – and the importance of community and sacrificial service in the midst of and in the aftermath of crisis.
As the community came together to aid evacuees, the Church truly shined. Many Christians already engaged for years in providing help and assistance to those in need (locally, nationally, and globally) instinctively sprang into action. Friends and neighbors took in friends and neighbors. Churches organized housing networks to provide a comfortable and safe housing for evacuees and, in the end, very few used the public shelters. Churches also attracted crowds for prayer, some meetings lasting around the clock. Care centers, many staffed by believers, continue supplying childcare, home-cooked meals, and prayer in support of those who are still displaced while dealing with insurance companies and the remains of their homes.
In our wealthy nation, most Americans have a number of built in protections. We usually feel secure with good municipal services, even something as basic as paved roads. The houses torched in the Waldo Canyon Fire were often large and sturdy with deep foundations. Yet, our sense of security crumbled on Tuesday, June 26, when residents realized that virtually nothing stood between the fire’s erratic, aggressive behavior and their homes and loved ones. This vulnerability gave us all a small taste of what many in the world experience every day.
Natural disasters disproportionately impact the poor, especially globally. Many have little buffer against disasters, be they earthquakes, tsunamis, seasonal droughts, flash floods or cyclones. In some areas, natural disasters coupled with war and cultural strife lead to famine and disease and keep families in constant motion and struggling with catastrophic loss.
Our Colorado wildfire experience reinforces our conviction that loss is rarely limited to physical possessions. People who are victims suffer emotionally and spiritually as well. In fact, those needs are often the deepest. While there are many secular and Christian organizations that provide for basic physical needs for those impacted by disasters, who will care for the great spiritual and emotional deficits? This is a big part of the unique calling for David C Cook globally. We help churches in many of the world’s hardest places engage with hurting people. In areas where superstition or repressive beliefs dominate, we provide the Story of Jesus so churches can effectively share the good news of the Gospel. Our J127 Outreach readies churches to help orphans, street kids and other abused children. And in over 100 countries, our Leadership Development resources strengthen pastors and other teachers. Please take a moment to read about these efforts.
Thankfully, here in Colorado Springs, the beauty and majesty of the Rocky Mountains on the edge of our city remain. Many proudly wear T-shirts proclaiming “Community is not burned.” And, as followers of Jesus, we once again see the power of our Lord in action. If you lifted up prayers for our city in recent weeks, we thank you. Please continue to intercede for those who’ve lost everything.