On the morning of November 8, the sky above Paradise, California was colored with bright red and orange. Tammy Golter stood at her kitchen window, mesmerized by the slowly intensifying colors – believing it to be a stunning sunrise.
As smoke began to cloud the horizon, her awe suddenly turned to dread. There was a fire in the nearby canyon – and it was moving quickly.
Tammy ran to wake her daughter, and they gathered invaluable personal belongings, setting them by the door. Before they could transfer much of it to their car, the power went out in their home, and any light from outside was obscured by a dark plume of smoke.
She questioned whether she should grab a flashlight from the car or if they should leave with what they had already managed to load. As she walked outside, the answer became clear.
“I stepped back and looked at the house and up behind it was a pine tree and the whole top of it was engulfed in flames,” Tammy said. “The wind was swirling every which way with big embers in it.”
She and her daughter got in their separate cars and made their way to safety – small fires lining their gravel road. As Tammy neared the end of the drive, she saw a lady still dressed in pajamas, frantically waving her arms.
“She had opened her car, went back in to get her dogs, and she dropped her keys,” Tammy said. “The lights were out, so she couldn’t find her keys, and she had no way to get out of there.”
Because Tammy had not been able to load much into her car, she had just enough space to fit the woman and her several large dogs. They made their escape with minutes to spare. “You could see the glow on the other side of the trees, and you could even hear the trees falling,” Tammy said. Yet, she felt the presence of God with them as they made their way to a nearby shelter. “I had such a peace, it was amazing.”
“In this place I will grant peace”
Tammy prayed that, as she returned to her home weeks after the fire, she would find at least one meaningful treasure among the ashes. Soon after, she received a phone call from Samaritan’s Purse – offering to help her do just that.
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers recovered several pieces of Tammy’s grandmother’s china, her children’s ceramics, and a stunning porcelain nativity scene. “It was painted beautiful … but when they brought it out, it was pure white,” Tammy said. “All the paint had burned off and only two of the pieces were broken … that really touched me.”
The most meaningful find, however, was resting on her former doorstep. There, with just the edges burnt, was a torn Bible page revealing Haggai 2:6-9 (NIV):
This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.
Tammy was overwhelmed with how fitting the verse was to her current situation. When she shared the story with the ministry team at her church, her pastor said that he had been thinking about that verse and praying over it for a week.
Tammy says she’s at peace knowing the items that once filled her home belonged to the Lord and that her true home is in heaven. She has faith that God will continue to provide for her as he always has. She thanks him for the comfort He’s already given – and for sending Samaritan’s Purse to her home.
“That is so comforting that someone would go out of their way to come all this way to help us in a time of disaster,” Tammy said. “That is where the love of God gets to real life. To do all that, to travel so far and to do that, is just awesome.”
So far, Samaritan’s Purse has helped nearly 200 California families recover precious personal belongings, like photos, wedding rings, and ceramics from their homes.
Please continue to pray for those affected by the devastating Camp Fire – the deadliest in modern California history – and for our the teams of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers who will be working for many weeks to come.