I heard the sirens but didn’t think much. Even though we live in the country, we still live on a pretty busy road. It connects two counties. There are a lot of sirens. I heard a second siren. I wondered if it was the elderly lady again. I went back about my business.
I saw the lights. This time I didn’t think, I ran. Out my front door and onto the lawn. “Rick!”, I screamed, “there has been a terrible wreck or something right in front of our house!” At that moment I turned and saw what had happened. To my right, our neighbors house was completely engulfed in flames. A two story farmhouse was nearly gone. I immediately thought of the little boy I had heard squealing and playing a few days before and I dropped to my knees. “Please God, please let the family not be in there. Please God, keep them safe.”
For the next hour my husband and I watched and could do nothing. The driveway is very steep and it took the Fire Department several tries to get close enough to begin trying to get the fire under control. The flames were now coming out of the roof and the chimney side of the home was transparent. Leaves in the back yard were beginning to catch fire and the silhouette of the swing set was visible through the flames. Again, we prayed, and watched, and prayed.
These were neighbors we had never even met. They had moved into the rental house only a few months before. Normally, my husband is our neighborhood social butterfly and makes it a point to meet and get to know everyone. I am the baker of bread and delivery person of items. These neighbors had slipped through our lives and we didn’t even know their names. They lived next door. I was ashamed of myself.
Around 9 pm I decided that I had to at least offer some comfort to the police and firefighters. I set up coffee and cups on our front porch and talked to a kind police officer in the process. I asked if he had any news on the family, he didn’t. Again, I prayed for these people I had never met. A little while later another neighbor came over with more coffee and more cups, apparently she had the same idea. While we were talking, I received a message that the family was safe. They had made it out. While I rejoiced, I also began to think about how quickly everything had happened.
Overnight, the house caught fire again and emergency personnel were back to work. My husband and I slept fitfully, worried that the dry leaves could catch our own home on fire. We prayed and tried to rest.
This morning the sun was shining and life went on for us the way it always has. We drank coffee and got onto little boys to behave. Around 9, I saw a car pull up. Still in my pajamas, I pleaded with my husband to go talk to them. He gave me that look that said, “what do I say?” I took a few moments to think about what I would want someone to say to me if I had just lost my every earthly possession. I looked up at my handsome husband and told him to go ask them if he could pray with them, tell then we care, and listen to their fears and concerns.
The story that the neighbor told us was a lot like what we had expected had happened. The back bedroom had caught fire. The man, having just worked 3rd shift was asleep on the other side of the house. By the time he had heard the smoke alarms, the house was already full of smoke and too hot to try and rescue any personal items. They lost everything. They didn’t even have time to get the keys to their vehicles. The man who had been asleep didn’t even have a pair of socks. It was 27 degrees outside.
Smoke alarms saved him from being burned alive. Jesus Christ did that for us as well. He is our smoke alarm. He came to earth and died for all of us to save us from being burned alive for all of eternity. I praise him today for keeping the family safe. He has a purpose for them. I can’t help but think about how fast things happened. In less than an hour, their lives were turned upside down. Their home and all of their earthly possessions were destroyed. It was so fast. Our lives can be taken from us in an instant. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. So, 1. Make sure you know Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you know someone who doesn’t know Jesus, please make time to let them know what he did for us and 2. Have an emergency escape plan.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:13
P.s. Also, get to know your neighbors!