At first I thought I wasn’t in the danger zone but before long, I started getting alerts on my phone. My stress mounted as the pillar of smoke thickened and rose higher. With dry conditions and hot temperatures, it didn’t take a whole lot to get it started. Thank God there was almost no wind!

It was Sunday, July 21. With all the snow and rain we had during late winter and spring, I thought we might escape fire this year. It was not to be. For a brief moment Flagstaff was the focus of national attention as the Museum Fire burned within a mile of town. As it moved eastward with prevailing winds, it became more of a danger to my end of town. By Monday the mountain in my backyard was all that separated my house from the flames. Our neighborhood moved from “ready” to “set” in the 3-step process of evacuation. It was a whole new experience. The backpack filled with essentials and sitting prominently on the couch continually reminded me of the imminent danger that lurked silently just a quarter mile away. Sleeping was difficult, at least the first night, knowing the phone might instruct me to get out at any moment.

As the days wore on I silently said good-bye to various treasured possessions: the painting of my Navajo Mom, weaving doll returned to me by my missionary friend before she passed into heaven, books, clock given by a friend from New Mexico. But the command never came. Slowly we began to relax again as the fire fighters started to gain control. Winds remained mostly calm. And now the rains have finally started, 3 weeks late, but better late than never. I unpacked my stuff. The smoke remains hidden behind the mountains,crawling lazily skyward after the flames of last night succumbed to the rains.

What a great reminder of how transient our lives are here on earth. What a great call to reexamine priorities and proclaim God’s mercy toward us! May that sense of restlessness and uncertainty not paralyze me with fear but propel me to greater efforts on behalf of our mighty God! I am determined to serve Him with renewed resolve moment by moment. I thank God that I am blessed with a place of service where I can make a difference in the lives of others. I thank God for your partnership that enables me to do so.

And life goes on. Work teams continue to ready the campus for the new school year. Floods are now predicted for the area around the school since the scorched earth will prohibit the mountain sides from absorbing moisture, but so far, the rain has been light and gentle. Thank you so much for praying as you heard about our predicament.

Thank you so much also for your prayers for my work on the thesis. I was able to complete it on the last day of “vacation.” It was approved a few days later and I should “graduate” in December. If you would like to read it, I can send you an electronic copy at your request. YOU enabled me to complete this through your generous gifts to my support! Thank you!

Please pray for an effective, refreshing, productive staff retreat next week (Aug. 8-11) as we prepare for the start of the fall semester. New students are slated to arrive August 21. I hope to attend the Getty’s Sing! Conference August 18-21. The new semester begins August 26. One more request: I would like to host a celebration, probably in September, for the completion of my Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies. I would like to invite those who helped me complete this degree by submitting to my interviews and providing information that led to the thesis. Pray for wisdom in how to go about this. In closing, join me in praying Psalm 90.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered.
We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Relent, LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing
love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have
afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.


Martha Gushee