'Next minute, he saw a wall of flame coming towards us'
Cecily’s story | What you take when your house burns
“I was always terrified by the thought of bush fires. I grew up in South Africa, where we didn’t have fires, so it was a new thing when we moved to Australia. We bought a house with bush on two sides of the house, and the real estate agent cheerfully pointed at the valley and said, “If a fire comes, it will come from there …”
“Years went by. Some summers were better than others, although I was always nervous. Then, on Boxing Day, 2001, my husband was pottering around outside. He saw a small spot fire in the bush and he tried to put it out. Next minute, he saw a wall of flame coming towards us. I was inside, putting the kettle on, for a cup of tea. He rushed inside and I looked out the laundry window. The door started smouldering. There was no time to get out. I thought, ‘Right, that’s it… our house is on fire.’ I closed all the internal doors and I could hear the windows shattering. Our daughter and son-in-law were also with us, and they started pulling down the curtains from the windows. There was fire between us and the car. The phone rang in the middle of it. My husband answered it and he said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t talk now, the house is on fire.’ Meanwhile, I was on the floor, praying like mad, as you can imagine, asking the Lord for mercy.
“The fire started coming through the internal doors. I said, ‘We’ve got to get out!’ We grabbed the dog and we all scarpered out the front door. The back part of our daughter’s car had already melted. We got in ours and we drove up the street, through thick smoke. By then, our whole house was in flames. We were totally amazed that we were alive. We could so easily have died. Maybe that made a difference to our attitude afterwards. The next day, the reporters came to our street and they filmed us. I said that it was all right with us. I said that we love the Lord, and we know that we are loved by him. We had lost everything we owned, but we were so thankful to be alive.
“There were a couple of Bible verses that I kept quoting to myself. One very meaningful line – that I also shared with the Governor-General when he came to visit our street! – was the second half of Jesus’ words in Luke 12:15. ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist of an abundance of possessions.’ How true that is. Life does not consist of an abundance of possessions. Losing everything has made us more generous. We were absolutely stunned by the outpouring of generosity, towards us. It made us realise that everything we have is a gift from God and we are to hold it lightly. We can enjoy our possessions, but we can use everything we have for God. We don’t need to hoard anything. And we know that God is good all of the time. His plans are always good. I remember saying to someone, at the time, ‘Well, I’m not taking my possessions with me when I die, so I just said goodbye to them a bit earlier than I thought…’”