In the midst of the heartbreak and destruction caused by the various California wildfires comes a story of hope.
In the ruins, one town found a miraculous sign of encouragement to help lift them from the depths of their pain.
And it showed up right where the devastation seemed total.
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Approximately 95 percent of the town of Paradise was obliterated by wildfires, according to Fox News. Images of the catstrophe are heartbreaking.
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Among the buildings destroyed was the 54-year-old Our Savior Lutheran Church. However, the church’s wooden cross stood untouched by fire. Pastor Brandon Merrick shared the stunning photo on Facebook, along with his message of faith and hope.
The overall message is lengthy and details things such as how he, his wife, Wendy, and their children got out safely. He also included things more specific to his congregation.
But he also shared his feelings about discovering the cross was untouched. With that came touching words to uplift others.
“Wendy sent me this picture yesterday. I hate this picture. However, I also love this picture,” he wrote.
“Over the past 48 hours I have seen both the worst this world has to offer and best things found in this world. I have been scared for my life and lifted to a place only God can reach…
“For me, this picture is not just a heartbreaking reminder of what can happen to the things and people of this world, this is our one true hope in the midst of tragedy that cannot be destroyed by anything. God is with us.”
“God is holding you right now as you read this note and He wants nothing more than for you to see Him through the cross where He draws us to the only place His mercy and forgiveness are found. In this picture I understand how in the cross we see both the ultimate consequence of our sin in death and the new life we have with Jesus.
“The hard work of the people of Our Savior Lutheran over the last 54 years, some who are still with us, was not lost in the fire because the cross still stands. God is still with us and on the foundation of His promise and sure Word, we will continue to stand.”
“I cannot begin to imagine what will happen in the next few weeks, months or years. The good news is that we don’t need to.
“We have God and His promise that whatever we do, we will not be doing it alone … I encourage you to go to church this coming Sunday wherever you are in order to be with God, to receive His good gifts and to cry on the shoulders of friends and family.”
Merrick added to the poignant symbolism of the picture in his statement to Fox News.
“I told our church I really hope that that picture can be used as the picture for the fire, because, as the church, everything that man builds with our hands is perishable, but what God does for us through the cross is imperishable and cannot be taken away or burned up.
“And that’s what I love about the picture.”
Many who commented on the Facebook post also loved the picture and message, finding hope and inspiration in it, as well.
The U.K. Guardian created a video that showed the devastation suffered by the town and included some interviews with residents. The YouTube description noted, “The Camp fire wiped out the town, killed at least 85 people, and scorched 150,000 acres. But in the face of a dark new reality, shellshocked residents are displaying resilience.”
It may seem like a little thing, but one can’t help but wonder if in the midst of the ashes, seeing the cross standing tall, perhaps helps at least some of the townspeople find the strength to carry on. It is reminiscent of the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 when Americans found hope and strength in such symbolism.
One such moment was the discovery of the World Trade Center Cross, now housed in the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum noted on its blog that, “The intersecting steel beam that came to be known as the World Trade Center Cross was lowered today by crane into the 9/11 Memorial Museum.”
“First encountered by construction worker Frank Silecchia in the vicinity of where 6 World Trade Center had stood, the 17-foot-tall cross became an icon of hope and comfort throughout the recovery effort in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.”
To this day, visitors still marvel at the symbol.
— Helene Robinson (@HeleneRobinson) September 12, 2018
As human beings, we lean on symbols of hope to help us get through some of our darkest moments.
For many, the cross is the ultimate symbol of overcoming all, as well as a symbol of God’s unfailing love. And that can make a huge difference in the face of tragedy.
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