by Susan Walter
As I sipped my coffee one morning recently, my thoughts wandered back to a time when we had no cups, no coffee, no chairs to sit on, or even a home. In four hours, we were left with no material possessions except our car and the clothes we were wearing.
It happened on a cold, clear night in January 1969. We were enjoying a choir concert at St. Paul Lutheran Church in St. Joseph, Mo., when a neighbor called the church. We heard the devastating words, “Your home is on fire!”
We drove home in silence, finding comfort in the words of Matt. 28:20: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
When we arrived, we could do nothing except watch dense smoke spiral from the windows like great black tidal waves as flames destroyed our home. Only the gushing water from the fire hoses and the crackling of ice broke the night’s silence.
We stayed with friends until we found a house to rent. Sleep was difficult at first, but we were thankful all of us were safe.
Like a young child, we learned to take one step at a time. The insurance adjustor requested an itemized list of the contents of each room. I entered the desolate structure with a pen, pad, and a flashlight (the windows were already boarded up). The first thing I saw was the huge blackened wall clock Norm, my husband, designed for me. The kitchen was easy to itemize. After all, where else had I spent so much time cooking for our family of eight?
I stepped carefully on the ice-covered floors as I shuffled from room to room. When I glanced around, my vision blurred with tears. The much-used blonde sewing machine had changed to a charred grey. Our children’s fingers would no longer play the big piano I had named “the monster.” As I touched the girls’ clothing, it fell to the floor in charred heaps. The boys’ mattresses had soaked up the water like huge sponges. A memory notebook of the children’s antics over the years was forever lost, and I knew it would be impossible to retain all the stories in my personal “memory department.”
As each day passed, the sunshine of love broke through to warm our hearts. The generosity of relatives and friends unfolded unbelievably. There were dinner invitations, gas fill-ups, gifts of household items and clothing, hair appointments, sewing essentials, shopping sprees, funds from the PTA that had been collected for the school library, one Sunday’s church offerings, and donation of time by workers to roof our new home. How blessed we were!
Out of all the kindnesses bestowed upon us, one special moment stands out. A sweet, elderly, frail friend from church presented us with a used coffeepot with two dollars tucked inside.
“This is all I have to give you,” she said sadly. What a wonderful gift! It reminded me of Mark 12:42: “A poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others’” (NIV).
We moved into our new home on our 25th wedding anniversary. A few months later, two sons were discharged from military service. Thankfulness was rooted deep in our hearts.
Out of ashes came kindness—and the love of our heavenly Father through the generosity and concern of His people. We remain thankful today—for all our blessings.
About the Author: Susan Walter is a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, St. Joseph, Mo.