On this beautiful autumn afternoon the kids were excitedly ending their week at Saint Irenaeus School. I could hear their boisterous enthusiasm just outside the Religious Education office. In the midst of everything I heard the fire whistle and noticed that it was a long one. The fire trucks came shortly afterward and I returned to my task at hand with barely a thought until another set of fire trucks neared... and then another. At this point we all knew that something was really wrong nearby. When I learned that Saint Paul's Baptist Church was on fire, I immediately called my Dad who lives four doors down from that church. Oddly enough, he was at my house and said it couldn't be Saint Paul's because he had just left his apartment. I walked to the end of the school hallway and looked over the trees and saw the smoke. With dread I said to my Dad, "Come and get me."
The roads were blocked off so we had to park in the next block. As we walked towards the church we realized how bad things were. This was a very different kind of boisterous activity.
The fire departments from Oakmont and six other communities were desperately trying to save the building. My Dad and I watched with that helpless feeling wishing there was something we could do to help. I prayed. I decided to call Father George, our brand new pastor at Saint Irenaeus, to let him know I was at the fire and would offer any assistance to the people of Saint Paul's.
Eventually, I met Pastor Shane Austin and expressed our sorrow for their loss and offered the help and prayers of Saint Irenaeus. Just then, the ground shook as the fireman pulled the back wall of the 130 year old building down. We walked around to see the charred remains of the inside of the church.
Talk about a change in perspective...
We continued our sad vigil as the fireman slowly made their way into the building. Just then I noticed one of our Oakmont firemen walking back to the truck. I hurriedly snapped a few photos hoping to capture him.
I quickly forwarded the picture to Pastor Shane with this quote from the Gospel of Matthew, "The fires of hell shall not prevail against it." Pastor Shane's response provided me and all of us with another change in perspective.
He simply answered, "Amen!"