I’m afraid this is going to be a single-issue missive.
I had planned to tell you more about our trip to Syria next week and about plans for the next Boot Camp and a whole variety of other things, but I’m afraid everything was turned upside-down for us on Sunday morning when a fire gutted our gym and youth centre!
I’ll try to be brief in my description but I can tell you that it was quite a drama!
A Cat in the Yard?
I didn’t get to bed till after 3 am on Saturday night/Sunday morning. I’d been attending a “Hands Off Syria” function that evening and hadn’t returned till near midnight, and then had to work on my sermon for Sunday morning.
I’d been sitting in my study, which looks out across the road at our Youth Centre and gym. I turned off the light a little after 3 am as I was exhausted. On reflection, I wish I’d stayed up just a few minutes more!
It was 3.45 am when the dog started barking uncontrollably. I thought there must be a cat loose in the yard again. Suddenly there was a powerful flash of light across the bedroom! When I looked out my bedroom window, I was struck with an awesome sight!
I ran out on to the balcony and was hit by the wall of heat!
I’ve never been this close to a fire like this before. I always thought that if I saw a house on fire I’d run inside and check if anyone was there. I couldn’t have gone anywhere near that fire even if my children had been in there! The wall of heat was impenetrable, and I was on the other side of the street!
I went to call 000 (our emergency number) and had no sooner dialed than a police car screeched to a halt in front of our house. Evidently someone had already called, and thank God they had! The police were followed by the fire-brigade within about three minutes.
It took the fire-brigade two hours to put the fire out! It was a raging inferno! The miraculous thing – and I’m not using the word ‘miraculous’ metaphorically – is that no one was hurt!
On the right-hand side of our blazing Youth Centre is the house of a Vietnamese family. Six people had been asleep in that house. The heat was so intense that it melted both glass and metal, but not a single hair on any of their heads was burnt!
Look closely at the first picture above. Is that the hand of God I can see, holding back the flames from their house?
I spoke to the father of the family this afternoon. He said that he’d had a phone call from his mother-in-law in Vietnam the night before, telling them that she’d been down at the church praying, as she’d had a premonition that something bad was about to happen to them! Moreover, the father told me that he always sleeps soundly, but that night he was wide awake at 3.30 am and heard some noise coming from the Youth Centre. He got up to check out the noise and saw that some lads had broken in and were starting a fire. He called the police and mobilised his family!
It may be that this good man’s prompt action saved the lives of his family and neighbours! On the other side of the Centre are a series of mechanic’s workshops – each storing large quantities of highly-flammable fuels – while above those workshops numerous elderly people and families live in small flats. I hate to think what might have happened if those fuel-tanks had caught on fire while all those people slept! Truly, It was a miracle!
The End of an Era
And so the sober light of dawn revealed that the Youth Centre was completely gutted BUT not a single dwelling on either side, nor at the back, had been affected!
People have been asking me why I am so up-beat about what is obviously a tragedy, and I am concerned about the impact this is going to have on all the young people for whom the Youth Centre is a second home, and for the boxers from Father Dave’s Fight Club, and for the mums and kids in the playgroup, and for everybody else who’s been using the facility BUT, having experienced the intensity of that raging fire at 4 am on that Sunday morning, I just can’t believe that nobody was hurt! To God be the glory! Great things He hath done!
The other thing that has been extremely gratifying is the outpouring of warmth we have received from the community. It has been absolutely overwhelming!
I’m afraid I have not been able to keep up with the phone calls, emails, text messages, Skype calls, people coming to the door, etc. And it hasn’t just been warm words either, but casseroles and home-made biscuits and even a bottle of red!
I think that some people have been a little confused, as they’ve been expecting to find me tearful, sitting on the ash-heap, scratching myself, but I know that we can rebuild, and that this time we’ll be able to involve the whole community in consulting with us on a facility that will be tailor-made to respond to needs across our area!
And of course we are not going to abandon our young people nor our fighters while we wait for the building to restart. We will find ways to keep the work going. Indeed, offers have already started to pour in from people who want to offer us support and space.
To be frank, the most exciting proposal I’ve had thus far has been from the Imam Husain Islamic Centre, who are looking to see whether we might be able to use a part of their property for our gym! It might not be possible, but if it doesn’t work it won’t be for the lack of goodwill from these wonderful people!
We’ve also had other offers from other churches and community groups, and it won’t be easy to keep both our Youth Drop-In program and our Fight Club going. Even so, the opportunities for working alongside other people of goodwill in our community are mind-blowing, and I’m excited by the possibilities!
I’m going to leave off here with a TV News report. We’ve had extraordinary media coverage thus far and, to tell you the truth, I haven’t even looked through it all yet. Even so, Denning tells me that the Channel Seven coverage was the best so I’m featuring that one.
- Check out all the TV coverage via our YouTube Channel (click here).
- See the full slideshow I put together on our member site (click here).
Lend a hand!
I should say something in closing for those who wish to get involved in helping us get back on our feet and keep going.
As I say, we are entirely committed to continuing to do what we do best. We will eventually rebuild and there may be numerous fundraisers to come, and we will no doubt be looking for trades-people who can contribute their skills to that process. Even so, in the meantime you can help in one of three ways:
- If you are a local and you have space and you’d like to see that space used for a gym or youth drop-in centre, come and see me or Pastor Caine!
- If you’d like to make a one off financial contribution to keep the youth drop-in going, there’s a donate button on the church website (follow the ‘News’ link).
- If you’d like to support the work of Fighting Fathers (who run the gym side of the work, the boot camps, and all the online stuff) please join our member site.
It only costs $10 per month but it’s what keeps us going (click here).
I’ll try to touch base with you again next Monday before we head off to Syria.
Until then I remain …
Your brother in the Good Fight,