On December 30 of last year, my wife and I sat stunned and helpless as we watched our community of Boulder County burn from 1,000 miles away. Our church leaders scrambled to contact our people who were in the path of the fires. How could this be happening? The weather report was hopeful the 100+mph winds would die down, but God needed to intervene. The wind was driving the fires and burning homes at an alarming rate. We gathered with our family in prayer, and in the evening, the winds changed, and turned toward the neighborhood 1 mile from Reclamation Church.
Gene and Betty Prince, a couple from Reclamation in their 90’s, lived in that neighborhood and I was concerned they would not be able to get out of their home. Reports came in from our church that 3 families in our immediate congregation had most likely lost their homes that evening. Praise be to God, that none of them lost their lives, but their homes, their memories, nearly every earthly possession was wiped out in a matter of moments. The fire raged all night destroying 1,000 homes and structures along the way, almost choosing at random. Devastating.
There are so many stories from that day… neighbors driving down the street honking and shouting for people to leave their homes, nurses and hospital staff staying at Avista hospital with hoses watering hot spots from the ash raining down from the sky, firefighters, policemen and first responders alerting homeowners, leading people to safety. Then finally, midday December 31, the Lord sent snow that covered and extinguished the fire. It was a miracle! I spoke with several home owners, and they all expressed gratitude that it happened during the day and not in the middle of the night. Devastation would not have been a strong enough word if the fire had started while people were sleeping.
Phone calls starting pouring in from all over the country. National and local Christian leaders praying and asking how Reclamation Church, its people and the community were doing. They asked how they could help. Local pastors gathered together to pray and discuss what to do. In the wake of the tragedy, we prayed, we waited on the Lord to speak and lead us.
After a few days, we connected with Dennis Belz from Colorado Disaster Relief. This was an opportunity to show our community how much we loved them and what extent we will go to serve and care for them. We agreed to house the teams at our church and waited for Boulder County to approve the help DR was offering to the community— sifting through the ashes to find any valuables that could be salvaged.
We had about 100 people from teams all over the nation pouring into our church to eat, sleep, and serve. We loved hosting, praying, serving alongside them. They worked tirelessly for 3 months, showing up early, staying late, sharing the love of Christ, listening to the stories of the homeowners and praying over the families and for their future. They provided closure as they searched and sifted through what remained of their homes.
One homeowner gathered us all in for a group hug and prayer after we had finished sifting.
Another family wasn’t hoping to find much and seemed a little reserved. As they were about to leave, I asked for the names of their children and the mother shared them and then began weeping. I told her I would be praying for them by name as we sifted.
I am so thankful the work DR did in our community. It was an honor to partner with them. The volunteers were incredible, and I am so glad the Lord allowed us to share the building that He gave us.
Reclamation was able to connect with 20 families that had asked for follow up from the church after DR ashed out their homes. Our staff prayed over every name, and I called each of them individually and was able to talk and pray with many of them. We had 5 families join us for a special lunch we hosted to bless and encourage them.
One DR team came back and shared that while they were serving in the town of Superior, a town counsel man said they had spent a lot of time chasing off churches. But after seeing the work that the church did, he admitted that maybe they were wrong and actually need a church in their community. We loved and served people so well that they just couldn’t help but recognize the need for a church. What an encouraging testimony! Praise be to God and Lord make it so!!!
I know that DR, Reclamation Church, Connection Church (Longmont) and all the other partners we served alongside did not seek anything other than the glory of God expressed in being his hands and feet by sharing the Love of Christ to a world in desperate need of Jesus.
Reclamation’s focus is helping people find their way back to Jesus. The church is more than a building, bigger than a denomination, greater than any earthly kingdom and when we work together and really act like the church, we truly are the radiant bride that points people to the overwhelming perfect love of Christ.