The Grange Co-op was on fire. Steve Shafer and two other firefighters drug a hose line through an open bay door and disappeared into the thick black smoke. The thick smoke severely limited their visibility. They were feeling their way, peering through the darkness, looking for any sign of light from the flames that waited for them inside. It was all textbook so far, except for one thing, they couldn’t find the fire. They could feel the heat, there was dense smoke, but try as they might, no fire could be found.
Because he had only been on the department one year, it was Steve Shafer’s job to operate the nozzle on the 2 1/2 inch line taken into the Grange Co-Op, on South Pacific Highway, in Medford, Oregon. The Grange, as the locals called it, was a large retail store and warehouse that sold agricultural supplies.
Steve’s crew took a path that resembled the letter J. After working their way 150 feet deep into the structure, and still finding no flames, they decided to retreat back outside. In a situation such as this, firefighters are trained to follow the hose back out of the building, but Steve thought he could take a short cut across the hook of the J. So he dropped the nozzle, and headed for what he thought was the way out. He didn’t make it far. After a few moments he bumped into a wall. “Not good,” he thought to himself. He turned around and headed back in the general direction of the hose line, but somehow he missed it.
“By now I was totally disoriented,” Steve said. “I had no idea which way to go.”
He felt his way until he found a large roll up door, but it had a padlock on it. It was around this time his low-air warning-bell started ringing.
“So my low-air bell’s going off, and the roll up doors had these little narrow 4″ x 12″ windows in them,” Steve said. “I’m looking through them to the outside, but I can’t see anybody.”
Then he found another roll up door next to the first one, but it too was padlocked. Then he found a third roll up door, but that one was padlocked also. He thought about trying to break one of the windows so he could stick his air hose out into the relatively clean air. But he couldn’t find anything to use to break the glass. Anyway he couldn’t stand the thought of just standing there, with his air hose out the window, waiting for the fire to consume him.
It was all too much. He could feel the panic start to rise inside. Then, behind him, he just barely made out the sound of someone else’s low air warning bell–off in the distance. Because his own bell was ringing so loudly, it was difficult to tell where this other bell was coming from.
He thought about trying to follow that sound, that other bell. But if he stayed where he was, at least he had a window. Maybe someone would walk by. On the other hand, even if someone did walk by and see him, they might not be able to force the door before he ran out of air. And as soon as he ran out of air, he was dead. But, if he left the bay door, he was leaving his one point of reference and venturing into the unknown. All he knew about moving toward the interior was it would be hotter, and blacker, than where he was now.
In the end, he decided to take a chance, and follow the sound of the bell.
In Steve’s own words, “Through the Lord’s guidance, no brilliance of my own, I came walking out (of the building), about fifteen feet behind Milligan.” (Milligan was Steve’s crewmate)
How Jesus Loved People
Jesus prayed for the people he loved. He prayed for Peter to be delivered from Satan, he prayed for Lazarus’ resurrection, he prayed while he hung on the cross for those who put him there, he prayed for his disciples, he even prayed for those who would believe because of his disciples. (Luke 22:31-32, John 11:41-42, Luke 23:34, John 17:6-19, John 17:20-23)
Jesus loved people by praying for them.
The Curious Case of Doris Wolmesdorf
I don’t know about you but there are times when I become discouraged in prayer. It just feels like I’ve been praying for something forever, without results. Or it feels like my prayers aren’t getting through at all, as if my prayers have wings, and their wings are clipped, and they aren’t even getting off the ground. When you feel this way you might be tempted to think prayer is just a waste of time, but before you make up your mind, you might want to consider the last chapter in Steve Shafer’s nearly fatal fire story.
At the end of my interview with Steve he said, “Three days later I saw my aunt Doris, Doris Wolmesdorf, and she asked, ‘Where were you on (and she named the date of the fire)? Because the Lord woke me up at three in the morning on that day, and said, Pray for Steve. After praying for you about a half hour, I thought, ‘OK, whatever it was is OK,’ and I went back to sleep.”
And that was the time, and the date, when, as Steve puts it, “I was reasonably sure I was going to die.”
Curiously, Steve describes his aunt as, “One of my lesser favorite people in the world. It was just her personality,” Steve says. “She was kind of a pushy self centered gal.”
Love Like Jesus
Steve’s story makes me wonder what might have happened had his aunt Doris ignored the Holy Spirit’s promptings and rolled over and gone back to sleep, without praying. I wonder if Steve would have made it. And that makes me wonder about my own prayers. Who might be saved, and who might perish, depending on whether or not I’m responding to the promptings of God’s Holy Spirit? And how might I be held accountable, for ignoring those promptings?
Steve’s story also makes me wonder why God chose Doris Wolmesdorf in the first place. She was pushy, and self centered. Not the kind of Christlike person I would have picked to intercede for my friend Steve. I’d have looked for a saint. God chose someone who seemed to me to be obnoxious. That blows me away. And it encourages me, because if God used Doris, maybe He’ll use me. And maybe He’ll use you. But for Him to do so, you have to pray, for the ones you love.
So pray for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to pray.
And pray for the people you love.
Pray even if it interrupts your sleep, at 3 AM.
Pray for the people you love because Jesus did.
And your prayers will make a difference–just ask Steve Shafer.
- Firefighter Cliff Conner-Coash entered the building by himself without a hose line and set up a large monitor. The smoke was so thick, afterwards, it was discovered that the monitor stream never penetrated into the fire. It was bouncing off a wall twelve feet away the entire time.
- Firefighter Conner-Coash commented after the fire, “If God himself told me to go back in there, I wouldn’t have gone.”
- After they changed air bottles, Steve’s crewmate Mike Milligan wanted to go back inside. Steve said, “Nnnnnn, no. I don’t want to. I almost died in there. I’m more interested in staying out here right now.”
- Milligan understood, so they took a seat outside. Within ten minutes there was a roof collapse.
- After the roof collapse, Milligan and Shafer entered back into the building where they encountered Battalion Chief Doug Dawson. He was ordering all fire personnel to evacuate. Milligan asked for one more minute to fight the fire. The Batt Chief gave him three. Milligan and Shafer found the fire, and extinguished it. The Grange Co-op still stands today.
Jesus Prays for His Disciples:
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave meout of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me,for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Jesus Prays for All Believers:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
[Image via Ross Beckley – Creative Commons]