It was just another crazy week… once I grabbed my travel bag.
I boarded my flight in Orange County – my local airport – last Monday morning, headed to Minneapolis, through Dallas. Tuesday morning was an introductory briefing for the new cohort for The Master’s Program in the Twin Cities, and – beginning Tuesday evening – I would serve as the emcee for the annual forum of the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication (GACX), a consortium of ministries working to launch 5 million churches by 2020.
About the time my first flight left, the Canyon Fire 2 began its destructive march, about 10 miles northeast of our home. By the time my second flight landed in Minneapolis, Cheri answered the robocall with the mandatory evacuation order: “put what you need in your car, and leave now…”
As I hustled from the gate to baggage claim, we were on the phone together: what should she get from my office? What did I have in the “essential” category? For her, family pics and a few heirlooms from her childhood were it. For me, tax returns and records were critical. In the back of her Explorer was 46 years of life together. Daughter Erin and her family – three blocks away – were under the same mandate; they all headed to Daughter Shannon’s house – three miles away – and became fire refugees.
I did the news search from 2500 miles away and got an update. The fire – driven by 25-40 MPH Santa Ana winds – was burning fast, toward the southwest, in the general direction of our neighborhood. I called the GACX leadership – 18 hours before the Forum convened – and obtained their gracious relief from my role with them. The next morning, I was back to MSP airport making my appeal – and throwing my 9 million mile American Executive Platinum status around – to get a flight home.
Word was out; a friend from the east called to tell me that their network news led with the Canyon Fire 2 story, featuring live helicopter coverage over the fire and naming my street. Air tankers were dropping retardant two blocks away; prayers were being lifted from two thousand miles away. It was a battle, fought on the ground, in the air and – known to us, but not the fire or news crews – in the heavenlies.
I landed at 3:30p on Tuesday; by 5:00p that evening, the mandatory evacuation was lifted. When we drove back to our home, there were six fire trucks/crews on our block. The bottom of our street – six doors down – is an entrance to a county wilderness park, with thick natural vegetation that had never burned. Though burning on a wide front, the path toward our home – through Peter’s Canyon Park – was a critical grab for the firefighters: they stopped the fire 175 yards northeast of our home, with the wind driving it directly toward us. Yay, fire crews; yay God; yay, friends who prayed!
Tuesday night, we moved the essentials back into our home. What a great reminder of what’s still coming: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3)
That’s Peter, doing a robocall: all of what you see around you will be consumed by fire. What are the essentials to grab? What will you grab on your way out the door, to rescue from the inferno?
Here’s the best advice: grab as many people as you can possibly persuade. The fire of judgment is real, and it will come without warning. The people are the valuables in need of rescue.
There’s no time to lose…