It has been a tremendous up and down whirlwind over these past three weeks. From a great moments of generosity to frustrating moments of thinking about all that needs to be done, we have felt a wide range of emotions. Ready or not, life goes on, and we are so grateful for the grace God has bestowed upon us through others, and how the prayers of the saints are sustaining us.
I will start by showing those of you out there who haven't had a chance to see them yet, some pictures of our house as it was burning. For the record, these "great" photographs were taken by Bobby Petkau, who came to the fire with his Dad Henry and I about 45 minutes after we were dropped off at the Petkau's place by the firefighter at around 1:00 am on Tuesday, January 27th. I am thankful he was willing to take pictures, as they are a stark reminder of that night.
First our house, in all its former winter wonder.
This is what greeted us as we walked up the driveway about 1 1/2 hours after the fire stared.
The north side of the house, which is where our bedroom was located, and the balcony that we exited the house from, was the furthest from the source of the fire and was the last to burn.
Pretty crazy pictures, eh? I still sometimes shake my head when I see them. It is amazing to think how fast and completely a house can burn, and the fact that God in his mercy got us out of there without too many serious injuries. In regards to what caused the fire, I met with the fire inspector to discuss the possible causes for insurance purposes. While it could have been the wood stove (which had a fire burning in it when we went to bed), it could just as easily have been the fan plugged into an outlet behind the stove, or 6 receptacle plug in that we had put in a normal outlet to plug in our VCR, TV, DVD player and Nintendo a few feet away. (By the way, the inspector asked if it was a white one, and I said it was, and he replied "Those are bad - you should use a power bar with a surge protector instead." I told him I would pass the warning along!) Basically, the real world isn't like TV where they solve everything in an hour (actually 45 min if you count commercials), and thus the cause of the fire is not fully known.
Since we moved into the parsonage about 2 weeks ago, we have had a steady stream of people dropping things off for us. Lois had the help of some friends, and her sister and Mom who were here for a weekend, and together they went through at least 50+ bags and boxes of clothes, towels and linens. With so much coming into the house, much of it ended up going back out. So, the generosity of the community has not only blessed us, but also the local Mission House (a thrift store in the Anglican Church here in Emo), the Fort Frances Salvation Army, and even Union Gospel in Winnipeg, which received two car loads from people going back to Winnipeg after visiting here. The result of all the clothes we have received is that the Dueck 4 kids are now pretty shick dressers, with Lorianne especially benefiting from very cool and name brand clothes given to her by many of her peers at school.
In the many things we have received, there are some that just make the house a home. The boys' room looks like it has been that way for years, but everything was given to us, and much of it we can keep! (I am thankful I won't have to make another bunk bed!) The amount of homemade quilts we have received is overwhelming. The boys love their winter ones which they use now, and are really excited about their summer ones (with cars and hockey team logos!) that we are saving till the weather gets warmer. Lorianne has received quilts as well, and we have an entire bedroom set as, complete with sheets, and a pillow sham (and the colors are great too!). With so many people asking us for specific ways to help, we were often overwhelmed and couldn't come up with anything. But when we did (like when we asked for garbage cans) they usually showed up, with the tags still on them, by the end of the day.
February 11 was a special day for us, as it was the 1 year anniversary of our arrival in Emo. We bought some sparklers and celebrated with a nice dinner topped off with an apple pie that someone had given us. It was a chance for us to talk about all God had done this year, and while we wouldn't have thought we would be back in the house we started in a year ago, we all were very easily able to share something that we were thankful for about moving to the country. Everyone was thankful for new friends, the beauty of God's outdoors which is literally just outside the door, and the pets.
Many of you have asked about the pets, and how they fared in the fire. Caleb's dog Kelly was sleeping in her doghouse just outside the front door the night of the fire, and came out when I called. The run we built for her is still here at the parsonage, so the transition hasn't been to bad. The cats ran out the cat door in the garage the night of the fire and came to town with us a few days later. (We actually just had to take them back to old house site because they were wandering too much here in town and trying to get into the neighbours' houses!) Unfortunately the hamster, guinea pigs and Caleb's crabs did not survive the fire.
The question most often asked of us, especially now that we are out and about more, is "How are the feet?" And the answer? Much better!
We are very thankful to God for how our feet have healed. No infections, the old blistered skin came off easily, and no cracks in the new skin. I was only on crutches for about a week, and as of last Saturday, I no longer had to bandage anyones feet in the morning. Lorianne and Joseph can now join their brothers in walking to school, and the wheelchairs will be going back to the hospital in the next couple of days. The kids were real troopers, crawling around when they needed to, wheeling down the halls at school, all prior to being able to hobble around. Tonight we actually went back to "the Property" as we now call 583 George Rd (it is a common local expression for a piece of land without a house on it) and took a family walk all together for the first time. God is good, the snow is covering the rubble, and it is still a beautiful spot live.The Fundraising Tea- The generosity of the area, was as I reported in my last blog, overwhelming. The steady stream of things and money that we received at first stunned us, and truly helped soften the loss we felt. And the fact is, it just kept coming. We had received so much from so many, that the Tea that was held for us this past Sunday seemed almost unnecessary (we were told however, that it wasn't an option - "It is what we do in small towns.") Well, it was a truly great time, and another amazing display of generosity.
A writeup on the event put in the FF Times by our friend and local newspaper guy David Ogilvie came out yesterday:
Over a hundred people from across the district attended the fundraising tea for the Dueck family at the Emo Legion on Sunday afternoon. The Duecks lost their home and all of their possessions, as a result of a tragic fire, which happened in the sub-zero weather of January 27th. The tea, which was organized as a fundraiser for the family, quickly turned into a thank-you from the Duecks to the entire district. Two of the children opened the afternoon by playing some pieces on the piano. Pastor Dueck then presented a slide show which included dramatic pictures of their home before, during and after the devastating fire. He also explained to everyone how God has blessed his family with the love and generosity of so many people across the district.
The money collected at the door, to pay for the light lunch, was donated to the family by the Emo Legion. Other donations and cards were also given to the family. Pastor Conrad, as he is known to many, his wife Lois and the children would like to express their gratitude to each and every person, community group and church congregation that have given them so much and helped them cope during their time of need. At the end of the tea each person who attended was given a small memento of the occasion; a cross-stitched cross which contained a bible verse and a personal thank you from the Dueck6. For more information about the faith journey of Conrad, Lois and their kids, please check out the family blog at http://dueck6adventurewithgod.blogspot.com/
We had been praying a great deal (and thanks to all the rest of you who prayed for us as well) about the event, and really felt called thank the people the best way we could - by sharing the Gospel. So after having warned them that since I am a pastor and I like to talk, I did a PowerPoint presentation of pictures of the house, the generosity of people, and the beauty of not only being saved from a fire, but being saved from sin. God is good, not just because of the fact he blessed us through the kind hearts of the people of the Rainy River district, but because of Jesus. I shared some verses, including the following. Christ sacrificed his life's blood to set us free, which means that our sins are now forgiven. Christ did this because God was so kind to us. Eph 1:7
We had a chance to meet many new people, and I pray God used what was said to plant the seeds of the truth of his love and the hope of Christ in their hearts. After we shared (Lois talked as well, and Joseph and Lorianne played a piano song each), we handed out some special crosses that were made by our dear friend Nancy Robertson from our former church Gospel Mennonite. God, in his sovereign wisdom, had her make those well in advance, and she sent them just in time for us to hand them out as thank yous, both at church and at the tea. We included with the crosses the following note:
After our talk we were presented with an envelope containing $525 collected through coin jars placed at local businesses by our friend and bus driver Ken Fisher. We then received the ice cream pail in this picture stuffed full of money that we thought was the $ going to pay for the lunch, as well as the box with cards and other loose bills and change. We received almost $3500 just that afternoon! While that is astounding, what is even more astounding that in the 19 days from the fire to the tea we received money every single day in amounts ranging from $2 to over $2000! Since the first part of our insurance money only came in last Friday, this money really helped us through the first few difficult weeks.
Lois and I have struggled with the outpouring of gifts, and being seen as the "needy" family in the district (It is pretty humbling to go to your kids school and see a food drive box labelled "For the Dueck 6" just outside the office door.). God has been teaching us to not be so independent and to just accept his grace as demonstrated by others. Going to the bank with so much money that they have to get a special okay from the manager just to let you deposit it isn't something I have done before, and it feels strange! So many of the gifts were from churches in the area, and many individuals gave us hundreds of dollars and told us to spend it on anything we wanted (since we have lived on a pretty limited income for years, that is a bit of a foreign concept!). Wise friends have told us the expenses will come, so we better just hold onto our money and just wait till we see how much it costs to build a house. So we will probably spend some, and save most. And there is a lot to save. Including some checks that came in this week, we have received gifts of money from over 100 people totalling almost $25,000.
So, pretty much all we can say to God, and to everyone else is . . .
God has provided so richly for our physical needs. Though we are often still tired, and we have a long road ahead in the areas of insurance and rebuilding, we will make it because He is faithful. Personally, I feel weak many days, and am adjusting to not always being the happy Energizer bunny I usually am. Lois and I have been communicating well, and I praise God for how he has given her energy for setting up house, dealing with many visitors, and looking after us when we were hobbling around. Thank you for your prayers, and we ask that you continue to pray that we stay focused on God's goodness and mercy show in Jesus Christ, that we would be wise as we plan for the future (both in how to have fun and do our day-to-day tasks, and in any kind of house plans when we get there), and that we would continue to make the most of this amazing opportunity to share His love with a watching and wondering community of Emo.