This article is reprinted from the Owatonna People’s Press, November 8, 2014.
A week ago Sunday night, I received a phone call that police and fire units had arrived at Trinity Lutheran Church and were beginning the process of putting out a small fire that had ignited in the attic above our education wing.
While the fire was extinguished quickly, the resulting damage, mostly from smoke, is going to be an inconvenience for at least a few weeks. Still, we are thankful: the fire and its resulting damage could have been much worse. If the fire had taken place 6 hours later into the evening when there weren’t people here to smell the smoke and alert the Fire Department, it could have become a disaster for us.
But in the immediate aftermath of the fire, I have been overwhelmed by the response from those around us. The Owatonna Police and Fire departments were amazing. Their quick response and professionalism helped to prevent a major disaster. The State Fire Marshall’s office was very helpful. Our insurance company representative and adjuster were on the scene quickly and provided great assistance. The families from our Nursery School have been flexible and understanding. Our friends at St. John Lutheran Church graciously welcomed us as we relocated our Tuesday morning Religious Education program and a funeral to their facilities. And I’ve had many conversations in the last 48 hours with both Trinity members and non-members, who voiced their concern and their willingness to help.
Let this be my official “Thank You” to all of you who walked with us through this experience.
My family and I are new to Owatonna. We only moved here in July and my work at Trinity began in August. But we want to be a part of a community like Owatonna. The sense of a community “coming together” during times of difficulty is a wonderful thing; even more so when we recognize that it is God who calls us to live in relationship with each other.
We believe that God is present not just because of relationships, but actually within relationships. When people gather for a meal, for coffee, or for conversation, God is present. When people care for each other during both times of joy and times of difficulty, God is right there in their midst.
Those who walked with us this past week through this fire and its aftermath did so because of the relationships that God formed. And God was (and is) present in the care the emergency responders gave, in the hospitality of neighbors and in the calls to offer assistance.
No one wants to experience crisis. Yet from time to time, in some way, shape or form, we all do. This week I was reminded that at these times, “God shows up” in the form of the relationships with those around us.
Thanks to all of you who helped us this week. And thanks be to God!