The August Fire

“It was Thursday. August 31.  I’ve just arrived from school and was telling my Mom how excited my friends were for Christmas!”, began Aira.

(Christmas celebration in the Philippines officially starts as soon as the “ber” months kick in. As early as September, colorful decorations line up the streets, Christmas carols start playing on the radio and everyone just starts greeting each other with a cheerful “Merry Christmas”!)

“I was telling Mom that we need to decorate our house with last year’s Christmas lights when suddenly, there was a loud noise. Suddenly, there was shouting! So I ran outside and the scene which greeted me gripped me with such fear!  Our neighbor’s house was caught on fire! I saw some of our neighbors rushing towards the house throwing large buckets of water, hoping to quench the fire but to no avail! There was fire everywhere – the roof, the doors, the windows. It looked like as if there was a demon breathing fire inside the house! It was such a terrible sight. And when the wind blew, I screamed! I saw the fire spreading quickly to adjacent houses! And it was moving towards our house!”

“I stood there, paralyzed! I looked back at our dilapidated house (more of a shack really) and the few things we had. To think that any second from now that little piece of heaven will go up in ashes broke my heart. My mom’s shouting pierced through my muddled thoughts!  Aira! Run! Save yourself!  I turned to get inside the house but my mom grabbed me and together, we ran! A few seconds after that, I found myself standing with my mom, with tears falling from my eyes, watching the fire gobbled our home! It burned every single thing that we worked so hard to have!

“Well, at least not one of us was hurt! We’re still alive! Jesus must have been there!”  Fifteen-year-old Aira was telling us about her experience when the fire broke out in their neighborhood around 11:27 a.m. on August 31, 2017, at Barangay Bakhaw, Mandurriao, Iloilo. It quickly spread to the houses at the adjacent village of Bolilao. According to the official report the Bureau of Fire released, forty-five houses in Bakhaw and 26 in Bolilao were totally burned by the fire.

The fire was put under control at 12:18 noon and the fire was out at 12:50 noon. Investigators said the fire started from the house of 60-year-old Jona Kasigna-signa, located at the boundary of the two barangays. She apparently went out, leaving kids to play house and cook. Kids have left unused fire, which quickly consumed several houses, mainly made of light materials and built very close together. One of those houses was Airas.

I hugged her tightly to comfort her. I was trying so hard to hold back my tears but they flowed anyway! I was at the evacuation center together with the OFL Philippines Children’s Ministry team (Lofel and CJ) and some of our children in the ministry.  We had a chance to visit and extend help to those who were affected by the fire. Miraculously, none of them were hurt. We also had the opportunity to share the  Gospel to every single member of Aira’s family, including her relatives and other families who were staying with them.   That day, many gave their lives to Jesus Christ.

That day, I believe, God started a fire in the hearts of everyone present in the gym. But unlike the fire that destroyed the people’s houses, this fire brought hope and healing!