It was a beautiful mixture of sun and clouds on Father’s Day this year. It was around 7:00pm and I had gone to the bakery to buy some pan de dulce for my dad. When I returned to the car, my friend from church who was with me was scrolling through Facebook. “Is this our church?” As I looked, I saw a video post from our Pastor, Jeff Harris, with the caption “Pray Grace Point”. The video rolled and all you could see was the front parking lot lined with firetrucks and smoke billowing from what must have been a building but it was so thick you could hardly see. We rushed over to the church to see what was going on. Several people gathered in the parking area, looking at the 11 firetrucks and over 150 firefighters battling the blaze. Apparently, an A/C unit froze up on the roof of the sanctuary, caught fire and fell through catching over 700 fabric chairs on fire. The sanctuary and main building were a complete loss. This was also home to the offices, classrooms and birth-5 children’s area. Three buildings sit on our campus but this was the largest. When the firefighters went to turn on the fire hydrants, it caused the pipes to burst in the Student Center causing massive flooding in that building as well. I hugged Pastor Jeff and he smiled. He didn’t speak but his watery, spirit-filled eyes communicated his thoughts well. We are the church. This building is not the church. God is in control. It’s going to be o.k. I did hear him laugh and say to someone “Well, the fire chief said we get to completely remodel!!” I watched my Pastor that day be exactly who I always knew and trusted he was; a faithful, steadfast, anointed, courageous man of God who leads common people to uncommon life in Jesus with passion, integrity, and truth. Later that night as he struggled to sleep, he remembered a lady who two weeks before came up to him after a service at the other campus. He had been preaching on Galatians and that week specifically on the Holy Spirit. She said that God told her to tell him “Wildfire”. Just one word. She didn’t know why or what it meant. She was just being obedient to His instruction. At the time Jeff had no idea what it meant either but now as he recalled the events of the evening the word “wildfire” burned in his mind. The morning of the fire, as he finished up this series, he preached using an illustration of us being spiritual firefighters and running into the fire. He had told his dad the night before, who is a retired Pastor watching the church he helped establish be sold and relocated, that it is only a building being sold. What he had done was eternal.
Stories like this began to pour out after the fire that week. The daycare had to close for a day and one of the best stories I heard came from there. A grandmother came to pick up her 7 year old from the daycare the following Monday morning. Parents frantically trying to find childcare because they didn’t know daycare would be closed since staff could not access parent info. This grandmother offered to also watch another 7 year old that day to help another mother. She had the boys in the back seat running errands when she realized her grandson was talking about Jesus to the other boy. He told him how Jesus died for us and we needed to have Jesus in our heart. The boys ended up praying together, no adult interference, purely the Holy Spirit at work, and the young boy received Jesus that day. If this was the only amazing story of how God used the fire, it would be enough to know this young soul was transferred to the kingdom of the Beloved Son. But there are many more. Our church was all over the news that week, from our parking lot worship to our first Sunday worship in the small student center that will now be our sanctuary for possibly a year during the rebuild. God’s name was glorified each time the news broadcast and I loved hearing His named proclaimed to thousands each time. Facebook took the events nationally and several churches have come together to help us. Jeff had been praying for unity. I and my fellow intercessory prayer team had been praying for our church to be consumed with the Holy Spirit and baptized with a fresh fire and living water. We got all we had prayed for that day!! As I stood out there watching the firetrucks I couldn’t help the feeling of excitement that came over me. God was up to something big.
Driving home that night, I was praying and I said “no weapon formed against us will prosper!! The enemy can’t have our church!!” and I clearly heard God speak “This was NOT the enemy. My hand is in this.” I took great comfort in that moment and as I have reflected back on all this I am reminded of many things. The fires of our life don’t have to consume us. They can be refining if we allow them to be. Sometimes God will burn a building to save a soul, and sometimes that soul is my own. Sometimes we have to lose physical things to expose the true position of our spirit. What is our reaction when the fires come? Do we trust? Do we get angry? Do we get shaken by the damage or do we focus on the unshakable Throne of heaven? When the fires and floods come in my life I want to look at them with the same excitement that I got that day because I fully trust the One whose hand is in control. Perspective is everything. Either we can see a burned building or the fact that we get to remodel. The same is true in my life. I can lament over what is lost, painful and overwhelming or I can choose to remember that God brings beauty from ashes. I can see God’s hand all over the details of this fire but it’s a choice to see Him and not the tragedy. The pictures of the burned sanctuary chairs show that only the frame are left. The fabric burned. To me this was symbolic. What is left of my spiritual “chairs” when I go through a fire? Is my “frame” solid enough to withstand the heat? How much of my “chair” is made up of wood, straw and not of the gold Paul talks about? We now sit in rented bridal chairs for our worship service. Another symbolic moment since we are the bride of Christ and I can feel His spirit reminding us of what is truly important during this time and who is the Head of our church. Wildfire has become our inspiration during the rebuild. Being consumed by the Holy Spirit’s fire. Hebrews 12:29 our scripture to remember “for our God is a consuming fire.” Fires are scary in the physical nature but spiritual wildfires are what turn us into something beautiful, warriors and worshippers,
by His grace and for His glory!!!