Last year, this blogger was personally affected by the Colorado wildfires. This year, she chose to volunteer with Samaritan's Purse to help those who were left with nothing after the fires.
by Elizabeth Mayberry, a Colorado Springs resident who served her community after it was impacted by two devastating forest fires within a year of each other. She is also the author of Until Only Love Remains, a lifestyle blog.
Forest fires were a natural event that I didn’t think much about until these past two summers. Most of you are aware of the Colorado fires that have been burning in our waterless state. Last summer, the Waldo Canyon fire came right on up to the city that I live in and rushed down the mountain — 347 homes were destroyed and two lives were lost. I wrote my journals of life as an evacuee here as I spent a week evacuated from my home and was lucky enough to be able to walk through the doors that I grew up in again. Many of my neighbors did not have the same privilege. That day was June 26th, 2012.
Less than a year later, the unthinkable happened again in the city of Colorado Springs. The Black Forest fire burned 486 homes, killed two people, and trapped countless animals. We didn’t think that it could be as bad as the Waldo Canyon fire ever again, but it was. The area that burned this year was on the other side of the city — about a 15 minute drive from the burn area from last year’s fire. It greatly impacted another community in our city.
Community Doesn’t Burn
If you live in Colorado Springs, you know this to be the case. Natural disasters tend to bring everyone together for a cause, uniting us on a deeper, more authentic level. My office (Life Network) was greatly impacted by the fire last year as over half our staff was evacuated along with one of our two pregnancy center locations. This year it felt like the rest of our staff was evacuated, and to keep it lighthearted, we joked that it was a requirement to work there.
Community does more than just watch the news and “feel bad” for the victims. Real community puts their heartfelt connection to action. Samaritan’s Purse is a ministry that does just that. It organizes and provides an opportunity to serve those affected by the fire (or the tornado/flood/hurricane/storm). They rely heavily on volunteers from the community, and they train them to meet some of the needs of those impacted by the disaster.
A couple of my coworkers and I took the time out of our schedules and volunteered to sift through ashes looking for anything left behind. The homeowner we worked with had lost everything she owned. The old lady panicked and left with nothing — no photos, no journals from her late husband, not her grandfather’s Bible — nothing. We tried to come in and give her and her family some memories back, such as her late husband’s coin collection that we dug up one by one and some china she received as a wedding gift. Sifting through the ash is an overwhelming and daunting task for the homeowner, and it is such a blessing for them to not have to lift a shovel and still get some of their memories back. All the while we lifted up that family in prayer and got to sign a Bible to give them when the work was done. We prayed that the Lord would make beauty from the ashes — in the ground and in their hearts.
You don’t have to wait until a natural disaster to get involved in your community. There are so many who are hurting who would be changed forever by your prayers, your notes, and your service. I encourage you to look for places to serve to experience loving your neighbor by being the hands and feet of Jesus.
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40, ESV).