Runaway Fire Triggers Act of Confidence
By Bernard Tuffin
Is it not strange that when things go wrong, they go wrong in a big way and so many other things go wrong at the same time? I was pondering this as I raced from George, Western Cape, to our family guest farm, The Country Garden, outside Ladismith.
My son, Dominic, and I were two hours away from our farm, home and SA Needs Our Lady’s offices in Ladismith, Western Cape, when my daughter’s panicked call came through.
A major fire was tearing through the Voorbaat Valley threatening farm and home. My wife, Gerda, was away in Cape Town and two of our five children were alone at home…
It just so happened that the house was bursting at the seams with stocks in preparation for a large mailing of the inspirational work The Book of Confidence and all I could imagine was everything going up in smoke…
Was this not ironic? Such a profound book going out and a fire bearing down on all we hold dear!
I raced for home and did all that was available to me: I made an act of Confidence in the goodness and mercy of Our Lady, entrusted my dearest to Her protection and prayed the Rosary continuously.
The story took interesting turns. As fate would have it, the telephone landline was on the blink and some of the water facilities on the farm were malfunctioning! It is almost as if the demon, always lurking in the background, chooses the perfect moment to strike a death blow…. I felt this strongly as I tore through the hot and drought stricken countryside, fire vehicles passing us by at slightly higher speeds than my own!
There was the natural sinking feeling, the gnawing in the stomach, the mind turned fearfully to the nightmare of a blackened landscape, smouldering ruins… I perished the thoughts and prayed all the harder. Already calls had come through saying that it was impossible that one of our guest cottages had been saved. I resigned myself to this loss and rationalised it away, praying only that the main dwelling might have survived, without injury to any of my loved ones and that the mass of letters, envelopes and thousands of Books of Confidence might have escaped unscathed…
Please my Mother, help us!
My daughter, Bernadette, with her baby brother, Anthony, fearing the worst hung a scapular over the front door, grabbed our large Pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima and fled for the relative safety of the neighbour’s farm, praying fervently on route. My dear wife, Gerda stuck in Cape Town and with the desperation of a parent unable to make a difference, frantically phoned all and sundry for assistance and prayers. Catherine, our youngest daughter with her in Cape Town, prayed rosary after rosary begging Our Lady to save our house – finally resigning and placing all in the hands of the Blessed Mother…
As with so many disasters – silly, innocuous, even innocent beginnings… it all started with some minor controlled burning down on another farm in the valley. All of a sudden it was no longer minor and totally out of control! The fire, fanned by a strong, hot wind, ripped through some small copses of poplar and blue gum trees, and that was it. Feeding off the tree-oils, heat and bone-dry terrain, it made a beeline for our farm and rushed up a strip of land alongside our row of guest cottages. Suddenly all was threatened in the conflagration!
Arriving finally at the farm, the fire was already in the hills behind the house. Contesting a rural “traffic jam” of fire protection vehicles and sundry neighbours’ vehicles, the situation was stark and the scarred landscape set alarm bells ringing. But as I drew closer to home it was clear that miraculously, the fury of the fire had passed us by; scorching, singeing, ever so close, all along our boundary fence, but everything still standing, unscathed and intact!
Coincidence? I think not!
We were protected in a most profound way and I like to think Our Lady cast Her mantle over our farm and dwellings – taking care of those who had so trustingly made an act of Confidence and faith in Her extraordinary solicitude. The fire miraculously stopped at the bottom end of the farm – no-one had been there to fight it (except the angels!) We cannot explain it. It also just died at our gatepost and didn’t enter! The fire brigade could only enter the property once it was halfway up the property. They managed to save the wooden cottage seen in the photos and then the fire took its fury out on the mountains behind us.
Needless to say, the mailing proceeded full speed – a whole family effort. The routine was interrupted intermittently by the odd fire flare-up, necessitating an “all hands on deck” scurry. For 12 days the fire raged around the general vicinity in and over the mountains covering a huge territorial arc, turning back on itself and re-approaching from new angles. On the 12th day we all rushed off again to assist a neighbour whose property was in the path of a line of fire. We’d really had enough when out of the blue and literally unscheduled, on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the heavens opened up and deposited 10mm of rain on the parched earth – extinguishing the entire long-festering business in just 10 minutes. What a lot of lessons we learned from all this! First and foremost, how puny we are and how powerful is Almighty God. He could have done this at any time, but chose to let us know that He is in control and how dependent we are on Him and how much we ought to pray and trust in His Providence.
One forgets sometimes that the demon is working feverishly and overtime in our days to cause as much mayhem, destruction and damnation as possible, before the heel of the Virgin comes down on him. He attempts to steer us off the path of virtue and instil opposite tendencies. I feel almost convinced that this terrible fire may be viewed within this perspective. The Book of Confidence is an inspirational study – it is destined to help people and make a difference to souls and lives. It could all have gone so horribly wrong! Maybe you have already received your copy in the mail …? Our earnest prayer is that it be a source of great courage, grace and consolation to you and your loved ones in these trying and difficult days we are traversing!