Today, we welcome guest author, Beth Shank, who is sharing her story of how the Waldo Canyon Fires affected the Navigators. At the end of her story, I am adding a link for you to donate to the Shanks as they serve with the Navigators and Eagle Lake Day Camp, if the Lord prompts you to support them. May this article bless you! Holly
A week ago Saturday (6/23), I noticed a plume of smoke coming from one of the mountain ranges. I called James who was already trying to reach people at Eagle Lake because the smoke seemed to be in that vicinity. Eagle Lake Camp (the overnight camp) was evacuated that afternoon. I need to pause here and just say that God was NOT taken by surprise by this fire. His hand of protection was already over the camp, campers, and staff. The mere fact that this happened on a Saturday meant that there were not hundreds of 8-12 year old campers up there. Most of the counselors and many of the staff were down the mountain and enjoying their day off in the Springs. Our crew campers (high school students who work for 5 weeks during the summer) were off rafting far away from any fire danger. I believe I heard that there were only 15 or so people up at camp when this fire broke out in a nearby canyon.
The staff did a great job gathering all the counselors at a church in downtown Colorado Springs. We were able to get over 100 counselors, etc. into host homes that night. We were fortunate to live in a part of town that was not at risk from the fire and took in 5 guys. The days that followed seemed long and filled with uncertainty. The community rallied and provided a church for us to gather in for lunches and dinner and SO MUCH FOOD—haha! We watched and waited, hoping to hear that the fire was put out and camp could resume.
Everything changed that Tuesday. Despite the firefighters best efforts, the raging winds, heat and incredibly dry conditions created a perfect storm for the fire to crest one of the mountain ridges and come flying down a hillside. We watched in horror as the fire raced down and leveled homes. Growing up in CA, we have seen a lot of wildfires—I have never seen anything like what we saw on Tuesday afternoon. We went to bed that night certain that the overnight camp was gone and that Glen Eyrie would be decimated by morning. We grieved as we saw homes in flames, knowing that our community was experiencing a huge loss. When all was said and done, 346 homes were lost that night. 32,000 people were evacuated. Among those that lost a home, 9 were Navigators’ families. 1 was the US president of the The Navigators. Another was the COO and James’ mentor. My heart breaks for all these families.
Amazingly, the buildings on Glen Eyrie were spared. Most of the buildings at Eagle Lake overnight camp were spared. These “victories” can only be attributed to God’s hand of protection and the incredible bravery our firefighters have shown. The overnight camp was completely surrounded by fire and yet as we saw pictures, there was still green and the buildings were intact. The fire chief stationed at the overnight camp (along with 75 other firefighters) described a 75-100 foot wall of fire coming straight for camp. It literally got to the gate and miraculously turned left. He said it could only be described as the hand of God.
We continue to cling to the hope from God. We know He is good. We know He is at work, even in the midst of tragedy. There is still work to be done this summer—whether that is at Eagle Lake camps or in the hometowns of each of our counselors that went home. July 30 – August 3 is our 1st mobile day camp at Fort Carson military base. We will have 150 kids registered (our max #). Think of what God can do that week—I have chills! We do rejoice that God chose to protect our properties, but we also grieve for those that lost their homes. We also know that even once the fire is out, there will be much work to do. We are hopeful that Glen Eyrie will be open for guests on July 6th (this Friday), which would mean that we would resume daycamp on Monday, July 9th. Please pray that could happen. Overnight camp has been cancelled for the summer. On Friday the announcement was made to the counselors that all but a few of them were being sent home. We kept enough to run daycamp and some support staff. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye. I think my (Beth’s) favorite part of this ministry is my ministry with the summer staff. We were very sad to see so many of them go.
It has been an incredibly long and exhausting week, but God has provided so many opportunities to praise Him. In one of the (rare) quiet moments in our house this past week, God gave me Psalm 66. Verses 8-12 really stood out:
Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard
Who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.
For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
I love that—He is and will bring us out to a place of abundance. I am praying we see that this summer as we do daycamp and mobile daycamp. I am praying for the years to come as we rebuild and see new growth in both properties. I know God is at work. God has also really been speaking to me through the book of Nehemiah (which just happened to be our study the week before the fire). I have to admit that I started feeling like it was all too much. Our first summer out here, we found out our sweet Jer was having seizures. It’s been a long year of medical appointments, tests, and therapy. We were really looking forward to what would be our first “complete” summer in camp ministry and then the fire broke out and everything was changed. God reminded me that Nehemiah was called by God. He received permission from the King and yet he STILL encountered incredible opposition. Sometimes kingdom work isn’t pretty or easy, but it’s possible through God’s hand. God has shown me how much I have to be thankful for and however this summer turns out, I know I will be able to say, “Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!” (Psalm 66:20 ESV)
Thank you for all your prayers! We could not do this without you. I have attached a fire map posted by one of our fellow directors that will show you the progression of the fire and where Eagle Lake camp is.
We love you all,
Beth is wife to James and mom to 4 amazing kids: Matthew (7), Zachary (5), Eliana (3), and Jeremiah (1). While her main ministry is at home, she loves serving alongside her husband in their ministry with Eagle Lake Camps and opening their home to friends, family and summer staff.