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Photo courtesy of Mountain Springs Church

Called to action

Disaster | Church members rally to serve their community during the Colorado wildfires

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.-The congregation at Mountain Springs Church may enjoy a postcard-worthy view of Colorado's majestic Front Range, but two weeks ago, when a wildfire blew into town, the church's 3,500 members proved they aren't mere spectators.

On the morning of Saturday, June 23, 20-year-old Deborah Holt woke from a nightmare. She had dreamed there was a fire in nearby Manitou Springs, forcing the town to evacuate and closing Highway 24, the city's main thoroughfare. Her dream ended with King Soopers, a local grocery store chain, somehow stopping the fire.

Later that morning Holt's dream came true.

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"God doesn't give dreams randomly," Deborah's dad, Steve Holt, told me. Holt, who is the lead pastor of Mountain Springs Church, added, "The dream was a prophetic word. … It wasn't King Soopers that would stop the fire. It was the Super King-God. He was the only one who could stop it."

As the wildfire's flames spread that day, Pastor Holt received a call from Jeff Myers, president of Manitou Springs-based Summit Ministries, a nonprofit organization that offers worldview education to students. Myers asked Holt if his church could house Summit's 300 evacuated youth.

Holt agreed, and Summit's students started streaming in at 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Using phone, email, and social media, the congregation was called to action, and just four hours later, the church had enough sleeping bags for all the evacuees. In addition, the church provided more than 300 towels, hundreds of cases of bottled water and paper products, clothing, and thousands in cash.

Mountain Springs ended up hosting the students for a week, working with a dozen local businesses that donated meals, toiletries, bedding, and shower facilities. And the students showed their gratitude by cleaning the church facility and doing landscaping work.

But Mountain Springs' outreach and aid did not stop with the students. A group of church families decided to head to a local shelter, armed with a large load of clothing and food items. Because of procedural rules, both the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army had to turn them away. But as they stood in the parking lot debating what to do, people began to rush up to them asking for help. Over the next two hours, church members prayed with dozens of new friends and gave away all their supplies.

Impressed with the church's ability to mobilize quickly, the El Paso County Department of Human Services asked Mountain Springs to help organize a toy drive for children who had lost all their playthings in the wildfire. And the congregation responded again by collecting, sorting, and giving away new toys that filled 50 45-gallon bins.

After meeting those immediate material needs of the community, the congregation was called to action again on Tuesday, June 26, as 65-mile-per-hour wind gusts began to blow the roaring wildfire into Colorado Springs, burning hundreds of homes completely to the ground. That day Pastor Holt scheduled a two-hour emergency prayer meeting for 10 p.m. Three hundred church members gathered in the sanctuary, with 200 more joining in from around the world via live online streaming. The wind gusts died down at midnight.

The next day, an 11 a.m. prayer meeting brought hundreds more to their knees on behalf of their community. At noon, it began to rain, and the fire retreated.

"I signed up to build a church that was an army, not an audience, and I saw them go to work," said Holt. "The air war was fought through prayer and the ground war was fought through those who served."

Related stories

Relief online: Technology has played a key role in assisting families affected by the Colorado wildfire | Sarah Padbury | July 19

Devastating view: Their house was spared, but a Colorado family now must rebuild their life | Sarah Padbury | July 16

Winning against wildfires: Colorado Springs faces hundreds of homes and millions of dollars lost to the record-breaking Waldo Canyon fire, but with a renewed spirit of togetherness | Sarah Padbury | WORLD July 28 issue (posted July 13)

Concert haul: Benefit performance aids wildfire victims and firefighters in Colorado | Sarah Padbury | July 6

Burning blazes: Some Colorado Springs residents return to homes, but with Obama visit underway, wildfires continue | Mindy Belz | June 29

Sarah Padbury
Sarah Padbury

Sarah is a writer, editor, and adoption advocate. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Sarah and her husband live with their six teenagers in Castle Rock, Colo.


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