Dispatches

Message from the Flames

Among the national headlines from the last two months of 2016 was the heartbreaking wildfires affecting five southeastern states. A record-setting drought, coupled with suspected incidents of arson, robbed thousands of their homes and claimed dozens of lives.

Cleaning under a charred park bench, Isaac McCord, a Dollywood employee, found a water-soaked Bible, incredibly opened to Joel 1:19. 
Photo by Isaac McCord

But from the smoldering ashes comes one unforgettable iRony, proclaiming a message of God’s unfailing mercy and grace.

The disaster began in north Georgia in mid-November and within hours began spreading into North Carolina and South Carolina, with high winds polluting the air as far north as Virginia. Within a few days after Thanksgiving, a new fire battlefront  broke out in the mountains of east Tennessee, with the twin-tourist towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge suffering catastrophic heartache.

Known to locals already as “The 100-Year Fire,” the conflagration ignited some eight miles south of Gatlinburg and marched mercilessly northward. Winds topping 20 mph drove the flames to Chimney Tops Trail (Great Smoky Mountains National Park), eventually blackening 500 acres. By this time, ambers were airborne and were threatening communities many miles away.

Overnight, wind speeds doubled as flames tore through Gatlinburg, prompting authorities to evacuate some 14,000 tourists. Burning trees toppled across roadways, taking down power lines and sparking new fires wherever they fell. Even the mayor of Gatlinburg lost both his home and business.

Pigeon Forge, some nine miles north of Gatlinburg, was now in the crosshairs—fanned by winds approaching 90 mph. The devastation there was just as heartbreaking. Although an overnight rain helped somewhat, firefighters from as far away as Oregon were still battling fires well into December.

Although Dollywood was spared, the wildfires came dangerously close to this tourist-favorite. One Dollywood employee, Isaac McCord, made a remarkable discovery when the cleanup commenced after the danger subsided by the arrival of desperately-needed rain.

Cleaning under a charred park bench, McCord found a water-soaked Bible, incredibly opened to Joel 1:19. The scorched  pages surrounding the verse seemed to highlight for him the desperate plea to God in the midst of calamity—causing him to share his discovery on FaceBook.

Lord, help us! The fires have consumed all the wilderness pastures, and flames have burned up all the trees.

This Appeal to Heaven is a reminder that we can call on Him at all times.

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