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Out of the Fire


Three times. Three times we had to evacuate our home in Black Butte Ranch due to forest fires. The first time, we took absolutely everything of value with us. We filled three cars full and fled to a safe location. The second time, we took only artwork and documents, and the third time we just left. I had learned that stuff is just that. In the end, it isn’t really all that valuable. Twenty-five years later, I ended up in the middle of the 2018 Paradise Camp fire, in which more that eighty-five people lost their lives.

My mother was in a rehab facility at the time, recovering from a fractured pelvis. I was staying in her apartment in Paradise, preparing to move her back home. Things did not go as planned. The morning I was supposed to go get her I woke up to flames outside the apartment complex. When I opened the door, I saw residents in wheelchairs being evacuated. The employees told me that there was fire everywhere and I had to leave immediately. Adrenaline kicked in and I headed straight for my car.

View from the window when I woke up

By the time I got to the parking lot, the road was jam packed with cars barely moving. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I called my husband, Bob, and told him that I was in my car, and everything was on fire all around me. I told him that I loved him and that I was not going to make it out of this fire. I was inching along with the windows up and windshield wipers on to knock burning embers off the windshield: one of countless vehicles trying to move forward, surrounded by scorching flames. I could see fire jumping from treetop to treetop. It was in front of me, behind me, over me and next to me on both sides. I was driving over burning branches. How my tires did not explode I

will never know. Hearing my husband’s

voice on the phone, I knew this was goodbye.

But I was wrong. The Holy Spirit was working through Bob, who knows the roads of Paradise well. His calm voice instructed me to turn on the car’s GPS. I had never used it before. He told me to watch the map and tell him which streets I could see on it. Bob was more than 350 miles away at our home in Bend, Oregon. He turned on his iPad and tuned in to the Paradise Police, his computer was monitoring the Paradise fire, and he had my computer on to the news feeds covering the fire. Using all of this information, in a calm, positive, encouraging voice, he led me to safety. The 25 miles from Paradise to Chico, which should take no more than 30 minutes, took two and a half hours. But with his quiet, assuring voice directing me, I was able to locate my mother where she had been evacuated from her rehab center.

Barbara with her mother, Shirley

Later, I found out there were 26,000 cars trying to get out of Paradise that day. My mother and I were among the lucky ones. There is no doubt in my mind: we were like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Jesus was with us.

At the end of this ordeal, I came out of the fire and knew that God has a plan for my life. And life is what matters. I was given the gift of more time to share God’s love and be a witness to His loving kindness and saving grace.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

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