It was 2am and someone pounding at my door, calling me in a panic. “Fire, Ate Cher. Fire in Escopa!”

I grabbed my phone and threw on my blue jeans, flashbacks of 3 months ago running through my mind when we had a fire and lost 45 houses in Escopa. I grabbed my phone and keys and ran…

Sirens screamed… this should have been a peaceful Christmas night… it was a nightmare.

The streets were lined with families… even in the dark, I could see the horror on their faces. Some were carrying sacks of clothes. There, a kettle, a pot. There a TV. One person had a wash basin… Everything they could save before the fire reached their house.

Mothers were crying. One woman passed by me 3 times… pacing the street, not sure where to turn, where to go… she mumbled and rubbed her eyes… hoping maybe, it was a nightmare…

I stood as close as I dared, watching the fire devour the houses where only 48 hours ago, we delivered food baskets and Christmas presents. The house we were building for a family from the last fire, was next, still standing. Lord, protect that house. All our hard work… the money we spent… please…Why were the fire trucks not coming?

The air was electric as crowds stood and watched the fire lap up the wooden shanties… suddenly, the power was out. The glow from the fire cast eerie shadows and people screamed and ran every which way… it was chaos.

Another person grabbed me… “We’ve lost everything… we have nothing left…” What could I do but hug them and coo… “I know, I know…”

A little girl, no more than 10 years old… holding her little brother… sobbing… she couldn’t find her mom. I sent one of our boys into the crowds to look…

So many faces… tears streaming down blackened cheeks… children naked and frightened, their parents too distraught to comfort them…

Finally, much too late, the fire trucks moved and after 5 hours, the fire was out… the entire community under the bridge, completely gone. Not a house standing.

A little boy, only 1, was brought to the hospital, his face and head badly burned. I sent one of our boys to get him… we have lost so many at that hospital. We had him discharged and we bandaged his wounds… After being in the emergency room for 3 hours, they had done nothing. He was so brave. He just wimpered…

Thankfully, only one mother and her baby died. There were only two burn victims. We don’t understand why things happen. We do know this community is despised because they are squatters. We do know the help from the government will be minimal and for sure, not enough. There are hundreds of people sleeping on the cold dirty cement basketball court. We are running a hostel on the first floor of our building and will set up a soup kitchen in our garage. In by 7 PM out by 6 AM. We expect to feed 50 to 100  people one meal a day. We are collecting clothes and other donations.

Please pray for the little boy, J.R., who was burned so badly. Pray for our families… they have lost absolutely everything… even their hope. Pray we will raise funds and donations. This is our community where we have been sowing seeds for five years… Pray that God will use this time… for His glory.

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