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Christian Family Responds to Loss of Home in Colorado Fire

by: Stafford North | July 17, 2012

by Stafford North

On July 3, Anita Kritz, a member of the TriLakes Church of Christ in Monument, Colorado, emailed me about John and Terrie Gardner who lost their home in the recent Colorado fires. While she was so sorry about their loss, she was also very impressed with the way they had handled the situation, particularly with the great faith they had shown in the face of such difficulty.

John and Terrie have been married for twenty-three years. He is an electrical engineer and she is a high school counselor at Pikes Peak Christian School.

The fire commander told them he had to make a tough decision about their home. Since it had a large wooden deck and a lot of vegetation in the back yard, he said he had to decide whether to save it or to use his limited resources to save several other homes. He made the decision to save more homes and to let theirs burn. Terrie commented, “I’m OK with that decision since it saved a lot of other houses.”

In a very interesting turn, Terrie was the assistant director of the congregation’s VBS last week in which the topic was “F.R.O.G.” –Fully Rely On God. Terrie said that it was only through everyone’s prayers and support, along with the peace found in the Holy Spirit that they were able to make it through their loss.

Here is the account of the event which Terrie sent as an exclusive to Good News. She and John are great examples of how God can help us in difficult times and in how we all can respond to hardship. Read this and be encouraged.

It all started on Saturday, June 23. When our nephew, Chris, came for a guitar lesson, he asked John if he had noticed the smoke. John looked toward the mountains and saw a huge column of smoke. John called me upstairs to see and I immediately decided to check local television to see what was going on. After learning that evacuations were beginning around us, we decided to send our nephew home, and we began packing up some pictures, important paperwork, and a few things we wanted to get out. As we were packing up the cars, a policeman was driving through the neighborhood and he told us to evacuate. We finished putting the last few things in the cars and headed to my parents house in Black Forest. After two nights, we learned that our home was not actually in a mandatory evacuation area so, on June 25, we left the pictures and a couple of other little things at my parent’s house and headed back home.

Monday night, as we headed home after VBS, we could actually see flames in the mountains, but the fire was still a fair distance from our house and we still were not under evacuation, so we weren’t worried. On Tuesday, as we got busy around the house, I ran across a website on twitter that was streaming the fire fighter’s radio transmissions. We set up a computer so we could listen to what was going on. About 3:00 p.m. we heard that the fire had reached the bottom of Queens Canyon. We knew at that point the fire could head up the canyon into our neighborhood. At 4:00 p.m., when I ran upstairs to check on something, I looked out the window and saw flames coming over the ridge. I called to John come up to look and we decided it was time to start throwing the bags in the car. As we were doing this, a TV news conference announced we were under mandatory evacuation. We were able to get a few bags packed and John saw flames in a neighbor’s back yard a few houses away. At that point he said we must go. I put the last couple of things and the dog in my car, and John grabbed the laptops and cables and got in his car and we were gone. As we drove away I could see the red glow of the flames coming down the ridge, and I began to cry because I knew our house and our neighborhood wouldn’t survive. As I cried, however, I thanked God for the house he had provided us to use when John was the youth deacon. We hosted so many youth events and our annual formal Christmas dinner, and I know we were so blessed to have all that space for the kids, a 3800 square foot house. I also prayed fervently for our neighbors. I was so concerned that the people up the hill from us were not going to have enough time. I knew I couldn’t allow myself to fall apart completely while I was driving, so I began to ask God for the peace I knew only He could give at that moment. As I prayed I could feel His comforting hand, and I settled down. All I could think of was praise and I began to sing “How Great Thou Art.” By the time we got to our destination, I had come to terms with the fact that we had probably lost everything. I was still rather shell shocked, but I was ok.

A few days later, on Sunday, when we were able to go back into the neighborhood, we didn’t shed any tears. We were able to talk to the firemen that worked on our corner and thanked them for their efforts and the hard work they had done to save some of our neighbors’ houses. While we were there, a “grief counselor” came by and asked if we were ok. We said we were fine. When we jokingly asked him if they wanted to buy some charcoal, the counselor gave us a funny look and said “you’re really ok aren’t you?” We truly were. At that point we were at peace with the situation. It was all gone. There wasn’t anything we could do.

We have a wonderful church family that has covered us with prayer through this and I attribute the fact that we have been able to hold up to the power of those prayers. We had a great house with wonderful memories and a bunch of stuff. The stuff is gone, and we are a little sad about some of the mementos we lost; but in the end it was just stuff and we still have each other—the dog, our church family, and our physical family and a wonderful loving God that has promised to take care of us, and I know he will. We are still so richly blessed it is hard to believe.

We’re not sure what blessings are yet to come, but we know there are lessons to learn. Maybe, something about where your treasures are. Someday we’ll look back on this and have a better understanding. For now we are ok just knowing that God is in control. His will be done. We are planning to rebuild our house on the same lot and we are looking forward to making many more memories in it.