I called for help and as I stepped outside I could see a huge mountain of black smoke coming from the direction of our mission base and home. Someone from the office tracked Jerry down in town and before I knew it, we were in the car. All he could think of to do, was go to the airport because it had just received its very first fire engine! It was brand new and strictly for use at the airport. (Maun airport is the 2nd busiest airport in the southern hemisphere due to tourism. Mostly small planes sport its runway.) The river next to the house was dry from drought and we had no running water on the farm. We had to haul all the water we used for the 3 years we lived there.
Jerry ran in and used his best negotiating skills, while trying to keep calm, to get them to come out and salvage what might be left of 10 years of pioneer work in Maun, Botswana. Meanwhile, I was in the car and had one of our sweet, older students, Shevaun, in the back seat holding the baby. All I could do was pray. As we sat there, I overcame the feeling of totally loosing it by starting to speak out praises to God. We have been taught that “if you put the word of God in you when you don’t need it, it will be there when you do need it!” As I started, I couldn’t think of a thing to Praise God for in that situation, so from deep down inside, I began to worship Him for Who He IS, for His faithfulness to us in all things, for his great grace, for what he did for us on the cross, and for his mercy.
Gradually, I felt a super charge of power as I focused on God and God alone in the midst of this tragedy. About that time, Jerry returned to the car with a big, yellow fire truck in tow. As they followed us out to the farm, Jerry tried his best to prepare me for what was ahead. He could see from the smoke that it was very bad. The main house was thatch and went very quickly. He said, “Jana, you need to be prepared that there is likely to be nothing left”. I continued in my heart to worship and focus on the Lord. Shevaun and the baby were crying in the back seat, Shevaun because she realized the severity of the situation and the baby, because he was hungry!
We arrived at the base, with only smoldering ashes left. Jerry and I got out of the car, took hands and started a walk around the house. That walk together was a history-maker for the both of us. As we walked around the perimeter of the house, we came to the window of the room we had slept in the night before. As we stood there, Jerry said, Honey, I am so sorry. It’s all gone. He really didn’t know what to expect me to say or fee. You see, we had everything in that house. No more was this a short term thing, we were it it for the long-haul! Jerry was trying to console me when a Holy anger came up from deep down inside me. As we held hands tight, I said, “Devil, we won’t stop! We won’t quit, we won’t give up! We are going to go further and do more than ever before!” It was a declaration and it was clear who our enemy was and where a ‘holy anger’ should be directed! Jesus said in John 10:10 “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (The Message Translation)
It was all gone, 10 years of life in Africa- the tangible and the worldly possessions at least. Photos from our lives, musical instruments, guitars, keyboard, music, journals, bibles we’d had from the time we had given our lives to the Lord, my mother’s wedding ring and special family jewelry, $10,000. (usd) was hid in a shoe in the closet awaiting deposit for the expenses of the outreaches and teams we had that season. I didn’t even know it was there. Everything was incinerated. Later, when we began rummaging through the debris, we saw a neat little stack of the remains of the bills that Jerry had tucked in an old shoe, and with one touch of the finger it turned to dust.
There is a little song that has filled my thoughts many times and became even more dear to me than ever, “More than anything, More than anything, I love you Jesus, more than anything. More than worldly wealth, more than life itself, I love you Jesus, more than anything.”
One day I was thinking about all that was lost and remembered something precious to me. It was the Fender guitar that my daddy gave me when I was 16. I loved that guitar. It had a sound like no other. I was a serious sentimental sap all my life, but I then heard the Lord whisper to me in my heart, “Jana, we love people, not things”. Another famous quote is so true: “Only one life on earth is passed, and only what’s done for Christ Will last”.
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