(June 29, 2012) At least two mission organizations in Colorado Springs, Colo., faced some tense days this week as the fast-moving Waldo Canyon Wildfire threatened buildings, prompting temporary office closures and forcing some staff members to evacuate their homes.
Both HCJB Global and The Navigators, located in northwestern Colorado Springs, have been affected by the fire which continues to rage out of control since it first started about noon Saturday, June 23.
HCJB Global’s office was closed Wednesday and Thursday as police sealed off area roads, and The Navigators evacuated its facilities at Glen Eyrie and set up temporary offices at Focus on the Family.
“Thank you for your concern and prayers for the safety of our staff and our offices,” said HCJB Global President Wayne Pederson. “The fires are still raging today, but well to the north of our facilities.”
“While smoke is visible, fires remain well to the north and west of the Ministry Service Center,” said Dick Jacquin in a message on Thursday. “The office closed for two days because of the mandatory evacuation restrictions. It is in the evacuation zone as we are within two miles of many of the houses that have been destroyed. On Wednesday the smoke was horrible. All the roads were closed in the area of the office to allow emergency equipment free access.”
At least four HCJB Global staff members were given mandatory fire evacuation orders Tuesday afternoon after the wind changed direction and increased to 65 mph, blowing the flames down the east side of the foothills below Pikes Peak and entering the Mountain Shadows neighborhood. The inferno forced the evacuation of more than 32,000 residents and burned an estimated 347 homes according to media reports. One person died in the blaze, and one person is missing.
It is believed that none of the homes owned by HCJB Global staff members were damaged or destroyed, but they are still in jeopardy as the wildfire remains active with hundreds of firefighters battling the inferno and dozens of aircraft dropping water and fire retardant. “The fire is still totally unpredictable and is changing daily depending on the wind,” added Jacquin.
Vice President of Personnel Pete Jenik, one of the evacuees, is keeping an eye on the elements. “If we get a west wind [again], then my worry is if it comes toward us and we’ll get a lot of embers. Ute Valley Park could light up because of all the dry grass.”
Senior Editor Harold Goerzen and his wife, Linda, were also among those who had to evacuate. “We sat stunned late Tuesday and into the early-morning hours of Wednesday, focusing on the horrifying images flashing before us on our hosts' wide-screen TV,” Harold recounted. “We felt sick to our stomachs as we watched the news coverage of dozens of houses engulfed in flames, blazing like torches in the darkness. Could one of those buildings be ours?”
Live satellite images indicate that the flames came within a block of the Goerzens’ residence. “We still don't know for sure if our home is still standing,” he said. “But either way, we commit this situation to the Lord. He is in control, and we will move on, knowing that He had a purpose for everything that has happened.”
It appears as if The Navigators’ property also came through the fire nearly unscathed, but that could change if the winds increase or change direction.
“The fire is still active and dancing around our properties,” said Gary Cantwell, chief communications officer of The Navigators on Tuesday, June 26. “On Saturday we were ordered by the fire marshal to evacuate everyone from Eagle Lake Camp, Glen Eyrie and from our international and U.S. headquarters.”
The evacuation order affected “several hundred people,” including staff and those attending a conference. “Local churches opened their doors for all the evacuees, local businesses provided food and a clothing ministry provided clothes,” Cantwell explained. “A lot of people helped to take care of us.”
“The organization’s international and U.S. headquarters are in the evacuation zone, so we contacted Focus on the Family, and they opened up a space in their international building to use for offices to maintain operations and house our crisis management group,” he continued. “I greatly appreciate the body of Christ working together. We don’t know how many days we’ll be here, but Focus has offered to let us stay indefinitely.”
When asked how he felt when he sees huge clouds of smoke and flames in the hills about Glen Eyrie, Cantwell replied, “God has done so many great things in people's lives in this beautiful place, and we pray that He would protect everyone from the fires. We have been comforted by Psalm 46:1-2, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (NIV).
Sources: HCJB Global Communications Department, The Colorado Springs Gazette
Photos: Duane Birkey, HCJB Global