“Tested by Fire”

A 40th Anniversary Flashback

This is the picture of what we found the morning of  March 9, 1982, after our first church building burned down on March 8. You will notice that the only things standing are the chimney and the cross that was on the platform wall. It just fell straight down on its own and stuck upright in the rubble.  It’s the cross we have on the wall by the main entrance now. The article below, written by Pastor Marlin a couple of weeks after the fire, was printed in the local papers.

“Tested by Fire”

April 1981 – Dedication of land
May 1981 – Groundbreaking
June 1981 – Donated building is moved to Embarrass
July 1981 – Basement construction begins
August 1981 – First services in our own church building
September 1981 – Construction begins on a new addition
November 1981 – Cedar siding provided and put on the addition
January 1982 – New addition is totally insulated
March 7, 1982 – Attendance reached 100 for the first time
March 8, 1982 – Entire structure burns to the ground

“The genuineness of your faith, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 1:7

This verse was the text for the March 7th message at our church. We thought about crisis situations and how we, as Christians, ought to conduct ourselves in the midst of them.

The very next night, we had the opportunity to apply what we had learned! The fire had started in a small room off the sanctuary, possibly originating in the wiring. By the time the fire fighters arrived, the building was engulfed in smoke and the entire attic was burning. A very helpless, empty feeling was experienced by those of us who stood watching this special building collapse and crumble. As one man said, “I haven’t felt this way since I watched my father die.”

Indeed, it was like a death. The initial response was one of disbelief, the perhaps a little anger, then the grief and mourning. So many hours! So many people had labored voluntarily to construct the building – now it was gone! As I stood watching the walls fall, I thought, “Am I ready to spend this entire week counselling depressed people?”

I was in for a pleasant treat. Our people responded beautifully! You see, God had prepared us for this crisis through the teaching of His Word the day before. The people remembered and applied. “The building is gone, but the church is still alive,” is what many of them said. They are right. The church at Embarrass is people – people who have proven to me and this community that their faith is genuine. They passed the test by fire!

As I reflect back on our experience, some of my thoughts are:

  1. The church is not a building. The Church of Jesus Christ is people, and not even the gates of hell can stand against it!
  2. It is very difficult to measure the reality of our faith during the smooth times. The reality of faith is tested in times of crisis.
  3. I love the people of our church family for their response, their support and their vision for the future. We have been drawn closer.
  4. The Christian community has had an opportunity to react to brothers and sisters in need. It has been a test for them also.
  5. God prepares His people for the tests. He led us to 1 Peter 1:7. I have learned that, when God’s Word is taught, it is important that I am listening.
  6. This crisis has opened the door for us to testify of our trust in God before the entire community.
  7. God is in control; He is to be trusted. He will receive glory, praise and honor even through the crisis situations experienced by His people.

A loving thanks from the Evangelical Free Church of Embarrass to all those who will be praying for us during the coming months.