Heidi & Jeremy
disaster relief

Heidi and Jeremy Wardell in front of the scorched trees on their property in Black Forest, Colorado.

In the summer of 2013, the Black Forest fire burned 14,280 acres and destroyed more than 500 homes on its way to becoming the most destructive fire in Colorado state history.

On June 11, Heidi and Jeremy Wardell evacuated their “dream home” in Black Forest, taking the valuables they could gather in the 40 minutes fire officials gave them to get out.

While staying at a hotel nearby, they checked the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department website for the list of homes declared a total loss. For two days, their home wasn’t on the list. It was safe and they were thankful.

While watching a news conference about the fire on June 13, Jeremy refreshed his browser and there it was; their home was on the list.

He was devastated but Heidi was in denial about what it all meant. She tried to make the best of it, thinking instead about what she wanted in a new house. Maybe she could finally get the crown moldings she’d been wanting.

The couple met with representatives from their insurance company who confirmed that records showed the home was a total loss. They began to prepare for what seemed inevitable.

Ten days after it began, firefighters finally got control of the blaze. And about three weeks after that, people started returning to their neighborhoods to see what was left of their homes and belongings. Heidi and Jeremy were in the last phase of people permitted to go back in.

When they arrived, their house was still there: it was the only one in the whole neighborhood. Everything around them was scorched, right up to their driveway.

heidi and jeremy

The ground and trees were scorched up to the driveway in front of the Wardell’s home.

“The neighbors’ trees even looked like charred pencils but most of ours were still there,” said Heidi.

For Heidi, seeing their house and trees standing was like the Biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in chapter three of the book of Daniel. As the story goes, three men were thrown into a furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar because they refused to renounce their faith and bow down to the king.

But the king saw the three men walking around in the fire, untouched by the flames. He also saw a fourth; God himself — the one who spared them.

disaster relief

Later Heidi and Jeremy learned that firefighters had dug a trench around their home and tossed their propane tanks up the hill and away from the house to keep them from exploding and setting their property ablaze. The National Guard had even patrolled the neighborhood to keep looters from helping themselves to what remained.

“It was a miracle,” says Heidi. “I don’t know why God spared our home but we’re so grateful. This experience has made everything seem so much more precious and showed us that life can also be unstable. We can look back and remember that when everything seemed out of control God was — and still is — taking care of us no matter what we encounter in the future.”

When they returned to their neighborhood, The Salvation Army had set up nearby to offer their assistance, which included helping residents sift through the ashes on their property to find any possessions that might be left.

That day, The Salvation Army volunteers put their arms around Heidi and Jeremy, gave them hugs, and welcomed them home. They also gave them a clean up kit so they could get to work clearing the layer of ash that covered everything in their home.

“It was simple but the emotional and practical support meant so much,” says Heidi. “It was such a pivotal moment in our lives and we’ll never forget it.”

The whole experience changed the Wardells. One of the things from those days that reminds them of God’s grace is the damage assessment form they found tacked to their front door when they got home.

disaster relief

The form had four options:
— No obvious damage
— Cosmetic damage
— Limited structural damage
— Substantial structural damage DO NOT ENTER

The box next to ‘no obvious damage’ is checked. The form is now framed and positioned in the living room as a lasting reminder, complete with Heidi’s notes: “evacuated: June 11, 2013, total loss list: June 13, 2013, saved by God”

Heidi says they had no idea that The Salvation Army would be there to care for them when they returned but they’re so glad we were.

As always, it’s our calling — and pleasure — to stand with people when times are tough.

Find out more about The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services.

BREAKTHROUGH is based on the incredible true story of one mother’s unfaltering love in the face of impossible odds. When Joyce Smith’s 14-year-old adopted son John falls through an icy Missouri lake, all hope seems lost. But as he lies lifeless, Joyce refuses to give up. Her steadfast belief inspires people around her to pray for John’s recovery—even in the face of every case history and scientific prediction.

From Producer DeVon Franklin (MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN) and executive producers, Pastor Sammy Rodriguez and Stephen “Steph” Curry, and adapted for the screen by Grant Nieporte (SEVEN POUNDS) and from Joyce Smith’s own book, BREAKTHROUGH is an enthralling reminder that faith and love can create a mountain of hope, and sometimes even a miracle.

DeVon Franklin, Pastor Jason Noble, and John Smith recently sat down with The Salvation Army to talk about the movie, their ministries, and building deep relationships through faith in Christ.

John, how did this event influence your relationship with Pastor Jason?

John SmithI actually didn’t know Pastor Jason; we had never formally met. He was new at the church and had only been there for three months. But when the accident happened, he stuck by my family’s side and by my side. There were moments when I knew he was called to mentor me and ever since then, he’s been doing a great job of it. It’s just been a growing brotherhood throughout all of this.

Pastor Jason, what surprised you about this event and the way it has affected your ministry?

Pastor Jason Noble: Afterward, we had 150 healing miracles in our church. God just started us on fire. This crisis has brought families, church members, and communities together. Since last February, we’ve been going full–time on the film.

The movie is absolutely mesmerizing. How does it match what really happened?

John: That person Marcel Ruiz portrayed is what I went through. It was really accurate. From the point of the crisis to everything else, what he portrayed was true.

Pastor Jason: We’re thankful for DeVon. He told us from the beginning that we were going to do the best we can to maintain the integrity of the story and that’s exactly what happened. The timeframe may have been a little different, or in a different context.

The movie shows Joyce and I had a tense relationship, but we really never had an argument. Those were composite characters designed to show what we were facing as a 90-year-old Assemblies of God church with a 39-year-old pastor coming in and trying to change things around. At the end of the movie, a teacher says to John, “My husband died, but you lived. Why?” Some people say, that didn’t happen, but it actually did.

DeVon, your work as a studio executive, Christian author, and now movie producer has most recently included live clips of you praying on social media. How has this influenced your ministry?

DeVon: In the movie, you see Joyce Smith go into that emergency room and she prays and her son, John, comes back to life. She demonstrates the power of prayer. Throughout the whole experience, prayer is an integral part of John’s recovery. We portray that in the film.

So, organically and ironically, as I’ve been praying for people through Instagram, Facebook, and other social media, the response has been unbelievable. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve gained more than 100,000 followers. A lot of it has to do with the power of prayer.

I’m not saying this as a judgment, but so often our prayers are self-centered. So much of social media is “me, me, me” or “selfie, selfie, selfie.” But my prayers are about other people, rather than about me. I think people are deeply moved by that because so few people in their lives are concerned about them, are praying for them, and praying over them. I think that is where I’ve seen the power of prayer and social media come together. It wasn’t intentional. It’s just something that started organically. I’m just so grateful. In many ways, I’m subconsciously inspired by Joyce because she is a praying mother—every time I’m around her, she prays!

John, when you realized that the whole church and community was praying for you, how did you react?

John:I was in awe because, at that time, people were seeing Missouri in two lights; as a destructive light, and as a beacon of hope. The Michael Brown tragedy in Ferguson, Mo., was happening around the same time Breakthrough was taking place. So, they saw the destruction in Ferguson, but they also saw the hope coming from St. Louis. Families came together to pray for me; all of St. Louis came together with open arms, praying for me. From churches to schools to everybody in this community, people were praying for me.

During that time, I was struggling with thoughts like, what if I don’t get all my strength back? What if I’m not 100 percent anymore? But having St. Louis, my church, and my family pray for me and tell me it’s going to be okay, and walk with me through that, made the difference.

If there was anything else you’d want in this movie, what would it be?

John: I think DeVon captured the key points that needed to be told to make this story complete and to make BREAKTHROUGH what it is today—and that’s family. Within the film, you see everybody experience their individual breakthroughs: from my mom to me to Tommy to everyone. I think that’s so important because, if I would have seen heaven, it would have been just about me. But the story is about everybody’s individual story within the story—their own breakthrough. That’s what you see, and I think that’s what’s truly amazing throughout the film.

It’s interesting how in a breakthrough, something or someone has to be broken.

Pastor Jason: That’s the hardest part of it. Everyone wants a miracle, but to get to one is hard. There has to be something you need a miracle for. All the stuff God took Joyce through really happened. A month into my pastorate, we had a long conversation.

What would be your advice to a young pastor coming into a church?

Pastor Jason: I would have more advice for the congregation: give him grace, take time to know him, give him the benefit of the doubt, and give him a clean slate. Churches have many expectations, but the reality is if we don’t replace the pastors who are retiring with young pastors, who do we have? So, back him up 100 percent and give him grace—be his cheerleader!

John, how do you think this event will impact your future?

John: I don’t know my future, but I do know that God has a great plan for my life. He’s brought amazing people into it, from Pastor Jason to Pastor Sammy Rodriguez to President Scott Hagen to DeVon Franklin. He’s brought all of these great mentors into my life. We’ve been building relationships, building a brotherhood, and building a family. They’re going to walk me through this because God has brought me here for a reason.

So, is college your next step?

John: Yes, I’ve met Scott Hagen, president of North Central, a Christian university in downtown Minneapolis, Minn. That’s where I’ll be attending this fall to study to pursue life as a pastor.

DeVon, what do you want people to take away from this film?

DeVon: It releases April 17 all across the world and in time for Easter. We’re excited to see what God wants to do. My hope is that their faith will increase and that they’ll tell people about it. I want them to walk out of the theater saying, “you gotta go see BREAKTHROUGH! It was amazing and here’s why.” We, as producers of the film, have done all we can. It’s on the people now!

by Warren L. Maye

Original Article

BREWING-HOPE-1

brewing hope

When people come to The Salvation Army seeking food, shelter, or emergency financial assistance, they receive an application to fill out. Included in the application is a voluntary questionnaire that includes just two questions.

Our ‘Brewing Hope’ series will give you insight on what assistance men, women, and children in need are seeking when they come through our doors, and what it means to them to receive a hand up and a sense of hope in their time of need.

Name: James

What brings you to The Salvation Army for assistance? I am in need of help with my electric bill. I lost my wife in July and I had a stroke the end of October. My son has helped me, and him and his family moved in with me last month to help because I can’t work anymore. I drove a dump truck, but I’m not strong enough anymore. I am trying to get disability to help but it can take months. I am way behind. My son is trying to help me catch up and stay in my home.

What does receiving assistance from The Salvation Army mean to you? Help would be such a blessing and take so much worry off of me. I feel helpless now. I  can’t work and feel like a burden. I know my son and family love me and are trying to help, but I need to help, too. any help you can give will help me so much, you have no idea. Thank you all so much.

Thank you for supporting the programs and services of The Salvation Army, so we can help people find the hope they need to face another day.

Visit our Volunteer page or Ways to Give page for more information on how to get involved.

>>>> <<<<

BREWING-HOPE-1

When people come to The Salvation Army seeking food, shelter, or emergency financial assistance, they receive an application to fill out. Included in the application is a voluntary questionnaire that includes just two questions.

Our ‘Brewing Hope’ series will give you insight on what assistance men, women, and children in need are seeking when they come through our doors, and what it means to them to receive a hand up and a sense of hope in their time of need.

Name: Ana

What brings you to The Salvation Army for assistance? It’s the only agency in my community with availability of funds to assist the needy.

What does receiving assistance from The Salvation Army mean to you? Less stress and better sleep, for the time being anyway. It’s humbling and keeps my hope strong, I’m grateful for individuals that care and choose to help.

Thank you for supporting the programs and services of The Salvation Army, so we can help people find the hope they need to face another day.

Visit our Volunteer page or Ways to Give page for more information on how to get involved.

>>>> <<<<

BREWING-HOPE-1

When people come to The Salvation Army seeking food, shelter, or emergency financial assistance, they receive an application to fill out. Included in the application is a voluntary questionnaire that includes just two questions.

Our ‘Brewing Hope’ series will give you insight on what assistance men, women, and children in need are seeking when they come through our doors, and what it means to them to receive a hand up and a sense of hope in their time of need.

Name: Tamara

What brings you to The Salvation Army for assistance? Our rental burned down and we lost everything. We need furniture, kitchen utensils, toys for my son, clothing for both of us. We need help finding housing and finding a job.

What does receiving assistance from The Salvation Army mean to you? Since the fire, I have lost my life! All of my son’s belongings are gone, everything I’ve worked for since I was 18 years old is gone. Our cat died in the fire. I feel helpless living in a hotel and I want my son to have stability, so any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. God bless you.

Thank you for supporting the programs and services of The Salvation Army, so we can help people find the hope they need to face another day.

Visit our Volunteer page or Ways to Give page for more information on how to get involved.

>>>> <<<<

BREWING-HOPE-1

brewing hope

When people come to The Salvation Army seeking food, shelter, or emergency financial assistance, they receive an application to fill out. Included in the application is a voluntary questionnaire that includes just two questions.

Our ‘Brewing Hope’ series will give you insight on what assistance men, women, and children in need are seeking when they come through our doors, and what it means to them to receive a hand up and a sense of hope in their time of need.

Name: Alana

What brings you to The Salvation Army for assistance? I didn’t even want to ask for help. I’m so behind, I didn’t know where to turn to.

What does receiving assistance from The Salvation Army mean to you? A break! A chance until I get a first full paycheck to get caught up. I have NEVER been in this position and its very helpful.

Thank you for supporting the programs and services of The Salvation Army, so we can help people find the hope they need to face another day.

Visit our Volunteer page or Ways to Give page for more information on how to get involved.

>>>> <<<<

BREWING-HOPE-1

brewing hope

When people come to The Salvation Army seeking food, shelter, or emergency financial assistance, they receive an application to fill out. Included in the application is a voluntary questionnaire that includes just two questions.

Our ‘Brewing Hope’ series will give you insight on what assistance men, women, and children in need are seeking when they come through our doors, and what it means to them to receive a hand up and a sense of hope in their time of need.

Name: Ashley

What brings you to The Salvation Army for assistance? Utility assistance. The Salvation Army representatives are always friendly, helpful and nonjudgmental. The Salvation Army is dependable in my times of need.

What does receiving assistance from The Salvation Army mean to you? It means a lot. To know that there is an organization willing to help my family make ends meet is priceless. Thank you!

Thank you for supporting the programs and services of The Salvation Army, so we can help people find the hope they need to face another day.

Visit our Volunteer page or Ways to Give page for more information on how to get involved.

>>>> <<<<

BREWING-HOPE-1

brewing hope

When people come to The Salvation Army seeking food, shelter, or emergency financial assistance, they receive an application to fill out. Included in the application is a voluntary questionnaire that includes just two questions.

Our ‘Brewing Hope’ series will give you insight on what assistance men, women, and children in need are seeking when they come through our doors, and what it means to them to receive a hand up and a sense of hope in their time of need.

Name: Sylvia

What brings you to The Salvation Army for assistance? I need help with utilities and food. I also picked up bread from the pantry. I am thankful for the loving help here at The Salvation Army.

What does receiving assistance from The Salvation Army mean to you? Receiving help from The Salvation Army means love. Love is here at The Salvation Army. It is like a big hug, that’s how I feel. The Salvation Army means a lot to me.

Thank you for supporting the programs and services of The Salvation Army, so we can help people find the hope they need to face another day.

Visit our Volunteer page or Ways to Give page for more information on how to get involved.

>>>> <<<<

BREWING-HOPE-1

brewing hope

When people come to The Salvation Army seeking food, shelter, or emergency financial assistance, they receive an application to fill out. Included in the application is a voluntary questionnaire that includes just two questions.

Our ‘Brewing Hope’ series will give you insight on what assistance men, women, and children in need are seeking when they come through our doors, and what it means to them to receive a hand up and a sense of hope in their time of need.

Name: Andrea

What brings you to The Salvation Army for assistance? I need help paying my water bill.

What does receiving assistance from The Salvation Army mean to you? It means a lot to me and my kids that we can wash our hands, take a shower, and have clean clothes.

Thank you for supporting the programs and services of The Salvation Army, so we can help people find the hope they need to face another day.

Visit our Volunteer page or Ways to Give page for more information on how to get involved.

>>>> <<<<

brewing hope

When people come to The Salvation Army seeking food, shelter, or emergency financial assistance, they receive an application to fill out. Included in the application is a voluntary questionnaire that includes just two questions.

Our ‘Brewing Hope’ series will give you insight on what assistance men, women, and children in need are seeking when they come through our doors, and what it means to them to receive a hand up and a sense of hope in their time of need.

Name: Belinda

What brings you to The Salvation Army for assistance? I really need help at this time. I have absolutely nobody to turn to. I have two kids with no help from their fathers, and I recently took my little sister in because she had nowhere to go, and we can’t depend on our mother.

What does receiving assistance from The Salvation Army mean to you? It means a lot to me when I receive help, because I never get it. Sometimes I wish I wouldn’t have to ask for it.

Thank you for supporting the programs and services of The Salvation Army, so we can help people find the hope they need to face another day.

Visit our Volunteer page or Ways to Give page for more information on how to get involved.

>>>> <<<<