If you follow us on social media or get our family newsletters, you know that this beautiful area that we live in deals with wildfires frequently. The very night we moved into our South African home we watched a line of fire from our bedroom window as it creeped down the closest mountain. And while these fires are devastating and cost the city millions of rand, they do not compare to the recent fire in Masiphumelele.
On November 29 – just days after the Extreme Response Christmas team left and just hours after we celebrated with a Christmas concert and grade R graduation with God’s Little Lighthouse – a fire swept through Masiphumelele. We heard the news on the way to church on Sunday morning. As I sat in worship with tears streaming down my face, I prayed that none of “our” children lost their homes, that African Hope Trust was not affected, and that no lives were lost. People who have lived in the valley there entire lives were shocked; knowing that this disaster was the worst in recorded history for the area. 2500+ “shacks” burned to the ground faster than fire trucks could even get to the wetlands! 4000+ people lost their homes and all of their belongs.
The next day there was a sense of helplessness as a community shifted through the ashes. As one of our partners and community leaders stated “The devastation is like a movie scene out of the Apocalypse but it sadly is not a movie – it is reality.” Where do you even start? How do you help? What can you do?
We wondered! We prayed! We loved on purpose. We felt helpless. We prayed. We began to move. The community – this small area known as the valley; often segregated by colour and differences – began to rally. Donations were given. People of one group got their hands dirty helping people from another group. Just the organization of the donations and finances given was an amazing feat that disaster management and Living Hope, our biggest partner in ZA, seemed to handle without difficulty.
All this time – for weeks – we wondered how we could make a bigger difference in the lives of people trying to put their lives back together. We were overwhelmed with the support of people in other countries who were willing to provide financial support for this disaster. We were blessed by body of Christ coming together to reach the ends of the earth. And still we wondered our role in this response. We were responding but how could we do it better?
Then as the Lord often does He began pulling His plan and His people together. People from different backgrounds who were all willing to work together. Through many Facebook messages and phone calls and conversations, we knew how we were to respond. A month after the initial response, families needed to prepare for the new school year. These families who may or may not have their shacks rebuilt have to prepare to send their children to school.
We partnered with Masi community leaders, Risk Reduction teams, St Peter’s Church, Media 24, and many more to provide school uniforms and school supplies to approximately 500 learners. Early this week, we were honored to help distribute the supplies.
We are thankful for an opportunity to serve, for a community that pulls together when things are hard, for partners to serve alongside, for new friends, and for people “back home” who makes this type of response possible.
If you gave to the “Masi Fire Fund,” please know that your donations made a huge difference in the lives of these families. Your generosity overwhelms us – in a good way 🙂 Since the Masi fire, there has been several other fires in the area – some have affected homes and some haven’t. With the remaining funds and new funds given for emergency response, we will work with our partners and community leaders to respond as needed and wherever needed. You can give to this fund at Extreme Response and designate Masi Fire Fund knowing that we will respond when appropriate to any of our local areas including Oceanview, Capricorn, Red Hill, etc.
Wherever HE leads, we will follow!