It was the summer of 2002. I had just finished my first senior year at Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin (Yes, that’s right, I had two senior years). I was gearing up for another fun-filled summer working as a counselor at a Christian sports camp called Kanakuk Kamps in Bayfield, CO, right outside Durango in the southwest corner of the state. Before moving out west for the summer, I was working the month of June for my Grandpa as a carpenter, building a department store inside a mall.
A week into the job, I got tragic news that fires were raging throughout the entire state of Colorado and were slowly making its way to Bayfield. The fires were still a good ways from the camp, which was only in its second year of existence, but the director of the camp sent emails to all of the workers and future campers of the potential danger and ever threatening situation. He told us all to pray unceasingly. I thought to myself that surely God would spare a camp built to further His Kingdom and to tell kids about Jesus. So I prayed daily for the camp and that the summer would go on as planned.
Each day I received updates. And each day the fire crept closer and closer to the camp property. Then I got word midway through June that the area and the camp had to be evacuated. All the campers were sent home and the counselors were told to leave for a short period of time, but to check in daily. It was a sad day, especially with the pictures I had received of the fire and devastation in the area. I can still remember the pictures of Vallecito Reservoir, which was only five miles from the camp. The reservoir, which the camp used for skiing and tubing, was ever so low because the water was being used to contain the fire. In the background of the pictures, the entire mountainside was engulfed in fire and smoke, flames shooting as high as 200 feet in the air. I was shocked, saddened, and confused, and figured any day the camp would be burned to the ground.
I was sadly anticipating the dreaded email saying that K-Colorado was no longer standing. Finally the day had arrived. I woke up early, getting ready for work and checked my email. There it was. I was not ready to start the day on a bad note, but knew I had to read the somber news. So I opened it, and read it. And what do you know! The first words I read and I can still remember today were………It’s a miracle! The camp was spared! It truly was a miracle. I knew I had to experience the catastrophe firsthand and see the devastation with mine own eyes to truly believe how big of a miracle God had performed.
A few weeks later the workers returned, new campers arrived, and the camp resumed normal operations. I made my way to the Durango area in July. I was actually excited but also nervous with what my eyes were going to see. When driving through Colorado, I could see small fires throughout the state. But thankfully none were near the southwest corner.
After the 18 hour drive from St. Louis, I finally made it. Words can’t describe what I saw. Upon nearing the camp, all I saw were black and charred trees. There was hardly any green vegetation. Houses were burned. Grassy fields were black. I was in a state of shock. I thought to myself, how could K-Colorado be up and running with all the devastation around? Then I saw the most beautiful sight in the blackened forest. In the middle of all ugliness, there stood our camp – green trees, flowers blooming, clean cabins and buildings. It was like heaven in the midst of hell! A beautiful sight to behold!
The fire did actually reach the property and burned a number of trees, but only on the outskirts of the property. The camp is in a valley between two small mountains. We were told by the firefighters that the fire came racing down one mountainside at blazing speed, literally stopped when it reached camp property, sent flames 200 feet in the air shooting up and over our camp to the other mountainside, and continued its devastating path, bypassing us entirely. They said it was an amazing sight to see. I was told the evacuation happened very quickly; there was no time to pack the summer equipment away. Ropes on the edge of the property used for climbing and zip-lining were left out, as well as rubber walking mats used for traction to walk on the steep slopes. One of the coolest things I saw was the blackness of the trees surrounding the rubber mats and yet the rubber was not burnt nor molted in any way. The fire literally went up to the mat, singed the edges, and then stopped. The ropes were not burned, despite the trees around them that were burned to the ground. And not one single cabin or building had smoke damage or any type of damage whatsoever. God’s thumbprint was literally pressed down on the camp, and the fire skirted right around it. There are other stories and pictures I could talk about, but I think you get the point.
God is a miracle worker! Nothing is impossible for Him; especially stopping a raging fire that was destroying everything in its path. If He can do that, He can work the impossible in your life today, tomorrow, and the rest of your life. Keep the faith. The God of miracles has your back.