I am amazed at the blessings in my life. The most obvious five would be the balls of energy running around my house between the ages of 4 and 14! Being married to the man of my dreams for over 16 years is another one. I am blogging to begin a written record of God's goodness to us so that one day my children will NOT be able to forget!
Sunday, February 10, 2013
A New Beginning
Today was the third Sunday that we have been displaced.
It seems like a lifetime ago that we watched our church building burn, but in reality it was a short 2 1/2 weeks ago, January 23, 2013. It started off like any other school morning--the oldest two children were getting ready for school. Jason and I were up and quietly beginning our day, until I hear Jason shout, "Oh, my goodness!" "What?" I ask as I look out the kitchen window. I am looking for a crazy person or animal roaming around outside but I see nothing. By this time Jason is running into the kitchen, looking for shoes as he says, "The church is on fire!" Finally I see it--smoke coming up from the south end of our church. "Who do I call?" I frantically ask. "911!" as he runs out the door. In the few short minutes that it took for that dialog, for me to run get the phone and call, and for the operator to answer the phone, flames had begun leaping out of the sanctuary windows of the church. I yell into the phone, "The church is burning!!!"
Over the next few hours, we watched as years of hard work and lots of memories go up in smoke. The sanctuary went down fast. I have never seen anything so powerfully out-of-control. . .but no one could stop it. I kept repeating, "It's gone! It's all gone! Oh my gosh! The church is gone!" We cried as we watched the stained glass windows shatter and flames consume our beautiful sanctuary. Then the fire reached the front doors and I cried as I watched them melt down from the heat. In the end, 3 different towns sent fire trucks, manpower, and equipment to fight the fire that would leave our beloved building in ruins. Eleven hours after it started, the last fireman left. . .but they were called back in a short time and hot pockets kept flaring up throughout the night and even the next day. The annex is the only thing left standing but it has so much smoke and water damage that it is a total loss, too.
The morning after, reality began to sink in as Jason and I stared at the burned remains of our first pastorate, the church 4 of our children were baptized in, the building where so much of our service to the Lord and this community has taken place. Then Jason remembered--all of his journals were in his office. His office was on the top floor at the opposite end from where the fire originated, but it was where the fire lingered so long. The day after, a fire truck came back and continued to unload countless gallons of water into his office window. "Please stop putting more water in there and let us see if we can recover anything!" was the cry on my heart the day after. Anyone who would listen to me, I would say, "Jason lost everything! His Bible, all of his library, his kindle, and years of journals." By that afternoon, the fire marshall went in Jason's office and handed out the window everything he could find that looked salvagable. A couple of journals, several calendars with lots of personal notes, church records, and Russian books from Moldova. That brought some relief to my heart but to Jason, it was reminder of all that he lost. I worked to save what I could by placing papertowels between the sheets of his journals and calendars. Other papers we laid out flat to dry. They may always look and smell burnt, but we still have some of his thoughts from years past.
Over the next several days, other items were pulled out as Jason went in looking for more church records and his Bible. Most everything was burned or waterlogged, but every now and then--a little treasure. Just a few days ago it was the small photo album of Taylor between the ages of 5 and 8 from his many fishing & hunting trips. It wasn't very hard to unstick the pages and I hope to get it reprinted sometime. Precious!
The investigation is still not over and we hope that next Wednesday, the 3-week marker, will bring some closure for us. A big meeting is planned here at the site with insurance investigators, insurance high-ups, lawyers, and such to wrap up this investigation. This is necessary before we can move on at all. The state fire marshall has been ready to wrap up her investigation within 2 days--she could tell where the fire originated and doesn't believe there was any evidence of foul play. The insurance investigator wanted to be more thorough (although we haven't seen him in 2 weeks!) because there is a fairly hefty insurance settlement at play here.
So, we have grieved the loss of a friend and are now ready to figure out how to continue the ministry God has called us to here in the community of Hickman. We are in need of a more "permanent" temporary meeting place and finding one large enough for us is a challenge. We run about 120 in morning worship and have need of 10 separate S.S. classrooms. For the time being, we are meeting in the middle school gym for Sunday morning service and use their classrooms for S.S. Each evening service (Sundays and Wednesdays), we continue to use the Methodist Church facilities, since they don't have evening services. We would like to find something more suitable in the next few weeks, but we are very grateful for everyone's hospitality during this difficult time of transition.
We are eager to see what God has in store for His people as we come to together in love and unity to make His name famous in Hickman, KY!!