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The Flames were headed straight for Jim and Sally Hohnberger's property, but would God allow their home to be destroyed?

Against the Flames

Jim Hohnberger explains how their home and lives were in danger, but their God was faithful

Friday had been a hot summer day with a fantastically blue sky. But when I stepped out my back door that afternoon, I knew something was dreadfully wrong. To the north and the south, the sky was the same beautiful blue, but directly overhead smoke obscured the sky, not just over my house, but trailing far over Glacier National Park. Sally and I stood outside, watching as ash, some of it still containing live embers, drifted down on us like snow. I got in the car and drove up Wedge Canyon, and about nine miles from our home, I found the fire! It was demonstrating what the professionals call "extreme behavior", and flames rose hundreds of feet in the air. Already about 50 acres were burning in just the first four hours, and it was expanding rapidly. Clearly this fire was going places, and like a loaded gun, it was aimed directly at our home.

Over the next two days, the fire doubled in size and doubled again, marching directly toward us. At this rate, it would reach us by Monday evening. Already one could face the fire from our back steps and feel the unmistakable hint of heat from the flames. Our property was prepared as best as possible, but we knew that against this monster only Divine power could spare our wilderness retreat. The sheriff and other officials tried to get us to evacuate. However, in keeping with our rights under the law, we signed a waiver and stayed. It was not that we would sacrifice our lives for our home; it was that the Lord had not made it clear that we should leave. A sign was placed at the end of our driveway in keeping with the regulations. It said in large letters, "Still Here".

The uniqueness of the sign brought the local TV station in to talk with us. They liked our story, and filmed why we were here when almost everyone else was gone. We gave glory to God for the peace and lack of fear that we had experienced through this so far. We truly were not concerned over the loss of our property or our home. Though it was not our desire to see them burned, we knew that if it occurred, our Heavenly Father had allowed this for our own good and benefit. We realized that our battle was staying content within the Lord's watch care and remaining at peace amid the storm of troubles surrounding us.

God is good always, regardless of the circumstances. When one-hundred foot flames, driven by 20 to 30 MPH winds reached our property line, God said, “Fear not for I am with thee.” (Isaiah 43:5) You see, nothing can touch us unless it passes through the throne of grace first. Even evil God can turn into good. (Romans 8:28) Ours is to exercise faith (Proverbs 3:5-6). That is a trust that, no matter what, the great I AM is ultimately in control.

As the fire moved in, Jim and Sally put their fears into God's hand

The Native American hotshot fire fighters assured us that when all others are running from the fire, they charge it. That's why on July 28th at about 4:30pm when we saw this hot shot crew come scrambling out of the woods, throwing their equipment into their vans and racing down the road to a “safe zone”, we followed suit. As the flames arched over our driveway we couldn't but wonder what God had in store for our future, our property, and us.

Would the Great “I AM” permit our beautiful setting and home to be consumed by this devilish fire breathing dragon that had harassed us for over 10 days? Would we loose absolutely everything we had? Was it time to re-evaluate or re-build? Had God deserted us? Would our critics use this to discredit us? Would this trial strengthen or weaken us?

Just south of our home, in a large meadow we met up with our “hot shot crew”. They were watching the large plumes of smoke rise over the area of our home. As we awaited word from the Division Commander and the three fire trucks he assigned to protect our home and buildings, this crew of brave men began to apologize to us for not being able to save our beautiful place. “We have a good record, one of the best in fire fighting, but there was just nothing else we could do, we're really sorry.”

At that moment our hearts were touched with sympathy for them. They had done all they could; now it all rested in God's hands. And that's exactly where Sally and I found ourselves; at rest in God's hand.


With the flames fast approaching, the Hohnberger's had no chice but to evacuate, but would God spare their home?

There was no fear, anxiety, or bewailing, just an impatience at not knowing. After about three hours we ventured back down our driveway where with reluctance we had evacuated. A joy unspeakable filled our hearts as the Division Commander said, “Your God works for you in mysterious ways. What I saw today is almost enough to convert me.”

Mike was not a practicing Christian. Many times he had attempted to persuade us to evacuate as others had. We'd share our faith and he'd only shake his head. But what he had just seen with his own eyes moved strongly upon his heart. Now a fire was being kindled in his heart. I don't know all that went through his thoughts that night as he lay in bed, but the next day he said, “I hear you're an author? I'd like to read your book.”

Such a joy filled my heart as I wrote in an “Escape to God” book, “Mike, God wants to work in a mysterious way in your life! God bless.”

Divine intervention is the phrase that circulated. It was as though the cleft of God's hand was put around our little oasis, saying, “This far and no farther.” The fire went around us like a horseshoe when all was said and done. What a testimony to the saving power of our God.

They told us later that not a hose had to be raised to defend our house. As the Division Commander said, "I’ve been in this business 30 years and this was definitely Divine intervention."

The fire had now burned a horseshoe shaped area around us, but the main body still lurked to the west and would continue several times to launch smaller scale attacks on us and the fire fighters who worked to defend us. By this time, the "Still Here" sign had become an icon, almost a battle cry for those defending our place. Everyone sensed that there was something special, something supernatural happening at our home. Amid the blackened ruins around us, we remained a green oasis -- a brilliant unmistakable indication of God's special protection.

Many of the fire fighters were amazed at the "Divine intervention" they had witnessed at the Hohnberger property

Now, when the danger seemed to be lessening, we got a new fire crew. One windy afternoon the fire again made a run at us, and to my astonishment, the fire fighters just stood there. I couldn’t believe it. I pleaded, demanded, and entreated for them to help me move the heavy fire hoses to the new threat, but it seemed impossible to get more than a handful to help, and that grudgingly.

Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Sally and our friend Janell knelt in front of everyone and prayed that God would help. God loves the prayer of faith, and rewards the prayer that grasps heaven’s promises. Jesus delights to answer such an entreaty. The wind shifted, a fire truck rolled in to help, but still the new crew mostly just watched me struggle. Oh, I can’t tell you how upsetting this was. We eventually got the hose where it was needed, and put the fire out; but because of the fire crew’s negligence, I had become extremely frustrated and was tempted to let go of my trust in God.

Mike, the Division Commander, heard about what happened, and was very upset and apologetic. He sent in his whole division the next day: that’s 200 men and 23 fire trucks and water tenders with orders to spend the whole day soaking everything around our property under his personal supervision. The situation had been a terrible trial. Yet, God used it to bring even more help to our little property than some entire fires receive.

God had the situation in His hand. He knew what He was doing. The question is: can He trust me to cooperate and remain in Him when things don’t look like He is in control? We were sustained and had peace with whatever outcome God would choose during nearly a month of uncertainty, and this is the issue in our personal lives, my friends. Have you tasted of such peace amid the fires and storms of your life? You can! Whether you are threatened by a marriage problem, an employment situation, poor health, or financial matters, God has a solution, no matter how hopeless it seems. To human eyesight, our property was hopelessly lost to the fire. Yet God spared not only our home, but also our views of beautiful green trees and majestic mountains.

He is willing to save you in or from the fires of life as well. The outcome of life’s crises are not always positive, but God will sustain you no matter what you are called to bear. He calls to you and me today, “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name: thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flames kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD, thy GOD.” (Isaiah 43:1-3)

Five times God put His hand out to stop the assaults of the Devil's destructive fire. This property stands as a testimony to many unbelievers that God lives. (Read the Fire Diary)

Jim writes from Empowered Living Ministries in Montana

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