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May 16

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They cleaned the house from top to bottom, refinished floors and painted. “I have never felt God’s love that much,” Maricruz says.

As Colorado Wildfires Rage, Branch Members Gather to Pray

by Elizabeth Grams and Sean Connolly

Colorado Springs June 26, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

As the massive Waldo Canyon wildfire raged on the edges of Colorado Springs, branch members gathered at Pat and Kara Hrbacek’s home Wednesday night to pray for their city and region. Everyone in the branch is safe and unharmed, but 10 brothers and sisters left their homes this week to avoid the encroaching blaze. Evacuees include Judy Allgeyer, Phil and Carol Ehemann, Keith and Cathy Houin, Bren and Karen Triplett, Sean and Kellee White and Jon Grams. (Jon has already returned home.)

By Wednesday night, branch member Jennifer Ortiz had heard no official word on whether her home had survived after the fire spread to the Mountain Shadows neighborhood, where it burned at least 300 houses. John and Katherine Brophy, who live outside the burned area, own a rental house next door to the Ortizes and were also awaiting word on its status on Wednesday afternoon. The Ortizes learned of the fire early in the week while on vacation in the Washington, D.C., area. Before a mandatory evacuation order was enforced in Mountain Shadows, branch members pulled some of the Ortizes' valuables from their house and covered it with tarps to protect it from flying embers. "We're just so grateful to everybody for their help and prayers," Jennifer says.

Events took a turn for the worse on Tuesday afternoon, when 65 mph winds caused the fire to leap over a ridge and move toward occupied areas. Kelly McMullen took in evacuee Judy Allgeyer on Tuesday evening. “I was still up around 12:30 when a strong waft of smoke came through the open windows," Kelly says. "I went outside and walked near Cragmor Christian Reformed Church, where we have our branch meetings, looking to the west to see if the flames were getting worse. I found four other neighbors doing the same thing. You could hear sirens in the distance, a constant background noise.” Kelly spent Wednesday glued to the news reports on TV. “Even the calm among us are watchful, as we pray for safety and deliverance from the danger."

Sean and Kellee White put on breathing masks and Sean handed out spare masks to neighbors as they packed their truck and van full of possessions amid thick smoke, prior to leaving their home on Tuesday. The Whites and their five children are staying with Rick and Betty Busekrus. “Not knowing when or if we'll be able to go home is strange,” Kellee says. “But we’re just trusting in the Lord.”

The Ehemanns had to move out the same afternoon, along with several relatives who are visiting Colorado Springs for a family reunion planned for this coming weekend. Keith and Cathy Houin stopped by Judy Allgeyer's house before they left the neighborhood to make sure she was taken care of. The Triplett family voluntarily left their home on Sunday. All three families are staying with friends in the city.




Jon Grams left his Manitou Springs home south west of the city early in the week, but as the fire moved north, he was able to return home, in time to assist the Whites with their evacuation. “It will take dozens of years for vegetation to come back in burned areas,” he says, pointing to one of the fire's long-term effects on the city.

Kelly McMullen noted a number of ways Colorado Springs residents are pulling together, offering rooms to strangers fleeing the fire and praying publicly for the safety of all. “The whole city is acting like community,” she said. “I know the urge to pray for rain is strong, but rain usually comes with wind here, and so what we really need is stillness. If the wind is still, the fire will spread more slowly. Firefighting planes can’t fly when the winds are high.”

Branch leader Pat Hrbacek could see the smoke and fire moving down toward occupied areas from his office on Tuesday afternoon. “Branch members are looking out for one another,” he says. “People are good at getting on the phone and checking in. The hardest part was confirming that everyone was okay. Kevin Ranaghan (South Bend) has been sending out email updates, and knowing that people are praying for us is very comforting. It means a lot to everybody here.

“Pray that the people of Colorado Springs, especially the evacuees, will be able to get through this time with some peace, knowing that the Lord will take care of their homes and take care of them. Pray against fear and anxiety and pray for the Lord’s guidance in terms of what we can do in our own neighborhoods to help rebuild wherever rebuilding is needed.”






Responses

  1. Elizabeth Pease says:

    Love you guys in Colorado Springs! We're all praying here in Minnesota. So sad to see those mountains burning in my childhood home!

  2. Dianne Cuningham says:

    We have you on our hearts and minds continually. Checking in often to see and hear the lateness and praying lots. So good to get this report. I am so grateful everyone is safe. Thank you Lord!

    Blessings,

    Dianne

  3. Bob Chukinas says:

    I'm praying, I'm praying, & I'm also praying and getting others not in the community here in South Bend to do the same. We luv yah.

  4. Celilna Vicknair says:

    We are with you in our hearts and prayers. Praying for you for the Lord's peace and strength.

    Blessings!
    Celina POPNO

  5. George Cramer says:

    Praying for all of you and your city.
    George and Laurie Cramer

  6. Frances Gauthier says:

    Our prayers are with you. May His angels surround all of you and protect you.

  7. John Banks says:

    Our prayers are with all of the people in Colorado Springs, especially members of the People of Praise branch there. May God send rain and cooler weather to assist the firefighters in controlling the forest fires.
    John & Sandy Banks
    South Bend Branch

  8. Carmen Glaeser says:

    Lord, keep everyone safe in Colorado Springs. Give us trust in you to give us what we need at the right time. Praying for all of you. God Bless...

  9. cathy says:

    Prayer works! POP is alive & well in Colorado Springs. Community is new to me but I see the strength that it brings to those who are hurting. May the strength God gives flow to all who live in Colorado in POP or not. May His peace rest on a community that will take quite a while to recover.
    God has a plan & it will be interesting to hear what He is doing with everyone as this horror passes.
    God be with you!

  10. Carol Ehemann says:

    The strength of community here in CS plus the extended community of POP like all of you is a mighty bulwark against the enemy of fire in this case. The outpouring and response through many avenues is so reassuring. We thank God for bringing us all of you.

  11. Marcie Rosencrantz says:

    Our Prayers are going up for all the people who are in danger from these fires.

  12. Terry Bomkamp says:

    prayers and thoughts with our brothers and sisters in CS
    the Bomkamp's

  13. Paul & Mitsy Sweeney says:

    Dear Brothers & Sisters

    Be assured of our prayers daily for you all and your family,friends and neighbors. Our most Loving Lord continue to protect and grace you in many unexpected ways. Paul & Mitsy Sweeney
    Servant Branch

  14. Anna-Lisa Rodriguez (Kingston) says:

    The members of the Colorado branch have been on my mind daily for the past 2 weeks so i am grateful for this news. Continuing to pray for the stillness needed to calm these fires.

  15. Linda Finke says:

    God bless all of you as you watch and wait. God's ways sometimes are not our ways.

    May the Spirit give you peace.

  16. Susan Weilbacher says:

    You are all in our prayers at this very difficult time! You are a beautiful witness of Community at work in the ways you are helping & sheltering each other, and others no doubt. May the Lord make you strong, resourceful through the power of HIs Spirit, and guide you continually. I"m praying for stillness of wind and that the fires are put out swiftly. Much love, Susan Weilbacher

  17. Bruce Wansart says:

    The Lord is there in the middle of the turmoil and is using

    The people of praise members and other Christians as

    witnesses to reach out too neighbors who are in need. We

    all- in this situation together. With many prayers an

    efforts of those on the scene a crop of new believers will

    spring up. Its a huge opportunity for the spreading of the

    kingdom.

  18. Nancy Grams says:

    After nearly 11 years of calling Colorado Springs home, it was devastating to watch these wildfires take over so much beauty and life. However, the love of brothers and sisters does conquer and establish an even stronger witness of the Father's love and care. God be with you all in the waiting to return to your homes and move forward in His peace. You are ever in our thoughts and prayers.

  19. theresa shriver says:

    We were alerted as we left for Buffalo camp and have been asking the campers and staff here to be praying for all of you this week.

  20. Kelly says:

    We are so blessed by everyone's prayers - another good day, with much stillness in the morning that really allowed the firefighters to work - and favorable winds in the afternoon, that became a tool for the firefighters - please keep storming the gates of Heaven!!! We are at 25% containment - and saddened that 2 bodies were found in one of the houses in the burn area. Please lift up those families, whoever they are...kjm

  21. Jennifer Ortiz says:

    I am so grateful for the prayers of my sisters and brothers who have been praying for all of us in Colorado Springs! My house as well as the Brophy's house was spared from the fire. But my heart is breaking tonight as I learned earlier today the names of some of our church members who lost their homes. Please continue to pray for our city community. We are also having problems with buglaries of homes in the evacuated areas of the city. At least 22 homes so far have been broken into. Our street is still under mandatory evacuation. The fire is still burning just west of our neighborhood so a change in wind could put us in harms way again. Please continue to lift us up in prayer and especially for those who have suffered losses and the 1,000 firefighters still battling this fire.

  22. Karen Heintzelman says:

    I'm praying for you! God brings beauty from ashes and I'm counting on that for you!

  23. jim ingram says:

    Count on our prayers as the fire rages. The Lord is with you.

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