"Daddy, Poway is on fire! Where you started your first church! They say the Santa Ana winds are blowing so hard that the fire is uncontrollable!" It was my youngest daughter Lora calling from Southern California.
Terribly alarmed, I called Pastor Nikoley. With downcast voice, the Pastor informed me that they had just been advised to evacuate, and were packing up their valuables. Fire trucks screamed to the eastern part of Poway where houses were currently in flames, joining the eighty-five to a hundred already in ashes. Burning embers were jumping the fire breaks to restart the fires once put out. Trying to drive to a “safe place” was a risk, for some people stopped on the highway had actually witnessed the fire burn up their cars. Although friends had gotten a hotel room and were willing to share it, even the hotels were in “the line of fire.” With the concern of a prophet whose woeful prophecy was being fulfilled, Pastor Nikoley related that in his Sunday morning message, he had said that if California did not repent, the Lord would judge them. The fire started that afternoon. The Santa Ana winds blew with hurricane force, eventually getting as high as 100 miles an hour. In northern San Diego County, the media called this fire storm “the Fire Witch,” for it was humanly uncontrollable.
Earnestly desiring to encourage him, I reminded him that Jesus’ name means “He will save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21) and that we were His people. I further reminded him how Jesus stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee. All He said was: "Peace, be still!" Immediately the wind ceased and there was a great calm. I began to pray over the phone with the Pastor for the church. I felt the passion of a father's heart surge through me as I prayed.
After I hung up, I prayed as never before. I pleaded with the Lord with everything within me. I claimed every promise that came to my mind. I even reminded the Lord of the time I wrote in the soft concrete footer of our first building: ". . . for word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev 1:9).
Now, most people don't believe in miracles. Even church-goers think anything irrationally good is just dumb luck, especially if the event happens within a short time span. However, through the years I had witnessed too many “lucky co-incidences” in immediate response to earnest prayer to deny any possibility of Divine Intervention, particularly in regard to the Poway Church.
We had been given a free lease to use a portion of land to put our first building, and were given a war surplus housing unit. Later the Lord enabled us to buy the land out from underneath the church building. Other miracles came as labor and materials were supplied from sources unknown before we needed them. Often these came when there was no time to spare. So I earnestly prayed: "Lord, we give us another miracle!" I prayed that the Lord would still this wind as He did on the Sea of Galilee.
Believing the biblical promise about the power of community prayer, I requested prayer from several churches, the prayer link of the Regular Baptist Ministries for whom we had started the Poway Church, and our closest friends throughout the United States. Pastor Nicoley did the same.
I called the Pastor again the next day. The wind had shifted away from Poway, but was burning out of control in other areas. In a later phone call, he verified what David, my son-in-law, had found in checking the computer internet showing a fire map of northern San Diego County. The fire map showed areas where the fire was burning and those other areas that were under immediate evacuation orders. Only one place was specifically exempt. That place was western Poway, composed of an area of only two to three miles in diameter — the area around our church and its members homes. Furthermore, Poway was the first area to be allowed to return to their homes, even though the smell of smoke was so thick that the Pastor had to wear a mask to avoid an asthmatic attack. Everywhere else in northern San Diego County, the smoke blotted out the sun, even out to sea, but, in the area around the Church, the wind was fairly calm and the sun was shining.
True, some will describe this as just a freak of nature, but it was undeniably a miraculous answer to prayer for a “Passover.” When the Fire Witch came to Poway Church, she was met by the Lord Jesus who said: "Peace be still!"
Related reading: Digging Dirt By Faith: A true story; Launching a Blog About Discipleship