Sunday, April 21, was a day I will always remember. It was the day I lost the home I was living in at the time. But I also remember it as a day that God took care of me in so many ways.
My plans for that day were simple. I needed to run a few errands, go home, shower, have a bite for lunch, and pick up another believer in my area to drive to a home fellowship meeting that afternoon. On one of my stops, I got a call from another believer in the area whose landlord was having some work done on his house. This believer wanted to get away from all the noise in the house, so he was hoping we could meet for a quick lunch at a local restaurant. I agreed to his invitation. This only involved a small change in my plans, in that I needed to leave home about an hour earlier to meet him, rather than having my lunch at home. We met for lunch, and as we were leaving the restaurant, we heard the alarm at the fire station just across the street. At the time, I had no idea that the alarm was for a fire taking place at the apartment building where I lived.
From there, I went to pick up my other believer friend, and we drove to the fellowship meeting, about an hour away. After the meeting, we drove toward home and decided to get supper together. After supper, I drove her back home, then proceeded back to my home. This was around sunset, and as I entered the parking lot, I first noticed an unusual number of people outside the apartment building. I then noticed that the side of the building closest to the parking lot appeared to have collapsed. As I looked closer, I saw that all the apartment windows in that portion of the building were boarded up, including mine. I finally asked one of my neighbors what had happened, and he calmly explained there had been a fire in the building about six hours earlier. At that point, I realized that the alarm I heard earlier was for my apartment building. And I realized that had I not left home when I did to meet my friend, I most likely would have been home when the fire broke out.
The neighbor I spoke to suggested that I go over to the nearby community center, where an American Red Cross counseling team was stationed to help residents affected by the fire. These people were just wonderful. After checking my name on their list of residents, one of the counselors explained what she understood to be the cause of the fire, and that my apartment was either damaged by the fire itself, by the smoke, or by water used by the firefighters to prevent the spread of the fire. She also said that not one person was injured. In the midst of everything, knowing this fact was such a blessing to me, as it freed my mind to focus on other details. I thought to myself that because it was a beautiful early Sunday afternoon when the fire occurred, many of the residents may have been outside, just living life.
The conversation with the counselor turned to getting some of my immediate needs taken care of. First, she asked if I needed somewhere to stay that night. I believed the best place for me to stay temporarily was at my brother’s house. He was relatively close to where I worked at the time. I immediately called him, told him what happened, and asked if staying at his house was available. The counselor provided me with a generic gift card, so I could purchase certain clothing and other necessities. She was also able to arrange for an emergency replacement of some prescription medicines I was taking at the time. Finally, she reminded me to contact my insurance company in the morning to handle my long-term housing needs. There was an opportunity to witness to her, which I’ll elaborate on later.
After spending the first night at my brother’s house, I went to work at my job in the morning. My boss actually already knew about the fire from the local newspaper. He was very understanding and allowed me to take breaks during the day to make phone calls to my insurance agents and other people regarding my housing situation. I reached out to everyone in my fellowship to inform them and to ask for their prayers.
One of the benefits of my insurance policy was to provide temporary replacement housing for up to one year. The agent I spoke with took down some information, noting where I might like to live, and said she’d call me as soon as she had any prospects. My sister-in-law also looked online for rentals in the area. By Friday, April 26, five days after the fire, she found something that she thought would meet my need. It was a fully furnished, one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of someone’s house. I met the prospective landlord after work that Friday. He gave me the tour of the place, and I was amazed that the apartment included a large TV, with cable, and a kitchen full of dishes and utensils well beyond what I needed. We discussed the rent amount, and I agreed to move in the next day.
In looking back at the events of April 21 and the week that followed, I clearly see what God has done for me. First, He fully protected me by working in my believer friend’s heart to invite me for lunch, thus physically getting me out of harm’s way when the fire broke out. For this to happen, I also had to trust that God was working in the situation for me to change my plans.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Second, learning that nobody was injured by the fire blessed me by easing my mind and enabling me to focus on other details. The American Red Cross counselor I spoke with almost seemed surprised at how calm and composed I was. This opened a door for me to share God’s Word. I recall sharing II Timothy 1:7:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
This helped her to understand that even faced with a difficult situation, I was able to stay focused and avoid succumbing to emotions.
Third, my immediate basic needs were taken care of, starting with shelter. This brings to mind Matthew 6:31-33:
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Fourth, in a relatively short period of time, I found temporary replacement housing which was more than sufficient for my needs. This issue occupied my mind for a few days after the fire. But I knew that my prayers, as well as those of the local believers, would bring deliverance.
Be careful [Be anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
We have a great, big, wonderful God. And it’s just so awesome how He takes care of us in all of life’s situations.