Joy Through Fire
Mark and Chris Arni were in an Amish antique store, a few hours into their weekend getaway, when they started getting calls from Chris’s mother and her pastor. The cell signal was so bad they couldn’t answer the calls, but finally found a landline and were able to call back, wondering what the emergency was.
Courtesy of the Arni Family
The burned-out remnants of the Arnis’ log home.
“The children are fine, but the house is gone.”
Mark and Chris dropped everything and drove the three hours back to find their log house destroyed by fire. Their six children had left the house to go to the library around 1:45 that afternoon. By 2:15, the first neighbor was on the scene and the house was engulfed in flames.
Investigators said a propane explosion was the most likely cause of the fire. Just that morning, a man from their propane company had been at the Arni house and said he had sealed off a leak and everything was good to go.
Chris said it was a miracle the house didn’t blow up when her daughter turned on the stove to make lunch for the rest of the children. And, she added, if the children had been home when the fire started, “they would have been gone in a blink of an eye.”
“We can’t ever praise God enough for preserving their lives. We truly believe that there were angels on duty, holding back the forces of evil that day until those children were out of the house,” she said through tears.
The children had been alerted about the fire by their grandmother, who lived nearby. They returned to her house, having to walk part of the way because firefighters had the lane blocked off. Rolling smoke could be seen from miles away.
Firefighters from five departments responded to the alarm, but it still took four hours to put out the fire. Red Cross volunteers brought the family essential items and provided temporary hotel accommodations.
“We’re all safe, praise God,” Mark told a local paper after the fire. “We were blessed and we’re willing to go through this one day at a time for the Lord. This makes you realize that God, family, and friends are what’s really important.”
Courtesy of the Arni Family
Mark and Chris Arni and their six children, ages 7–16, are one of the many families HSF helped in 2011 through the Emergency Fund.
“Multiple times each day, items come to mind that were lost in the fire and can never be replaced: my wedding dress, baby books, every snapshot from almost 23 years of marriage, heirloom Christmas ornaments, love letters, and the list could go on endlessly,” Chris later wrote. “As the hurtful memories surface and painful moments come, we simply say, ‘Jesus, I am offering this up to you.’ The joy that Jesus gives is not dependent on our circumstances.” The family also lost several pets in the fire.
The local Christian community helped the Arnis purchase new clothing and basic necessities, and the Arnis were given permission to stay in a local, fully furnished missionary house.
A leader of an area homeschool group encouraged the Arnis to apply to the Home School Foundation Emergency Fund. “I knew about the Foundation, but I don’t know that we ever would have remembered on our own,” Chris said.
The Foundation helped with an emergency grant to assist them in rebuilding their 20-year-old homeschool library. “We felt the Lord was calling us to a new level of family discipleship, so this was an opportunity to start from scratch and build a brand-new curriculum,” Chris said.
She said the slate was wiped clean and they were starting a new foundation for their homeschooling. “You know, we might not have chosen this, but if someone gave us the option now to go back, we’d have a hard time doing that,” she said. “There are many things about this new life that have been such a huge blessing.”
The Arnis are rebuilding their log house and hope to move home before the year is out.
If you would like more information about the Foundation and how we help, please visit our website, or call us at 540-338-8688.
|About the author
Cherise Ryan Curby is the Home School Foundation website project manager and editor.
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From the Director
When Sarah’s family received a grant from HSF, they knew exactly what to do with it. Sarah, who was 11 years old, needed vision therapy. She writes,
We spent it on vision therapy, which has been a good investment. My peripheral vision has greatly expanded (I didn’t run into anyone this year in dance class, like I did in last year’s recital), my handwriting has improved, and I am finding school work easier. In short, I—and my family as well—have benefitted, and it was all because of you.
Of course, we at HSF know it’s all because of you—our generous supporters who give, pray, and let others know about the work of the Home School Foundation—that we are able to help young ladies like Sarah.
In a sense, I think the more we help meet the needs of others, the more we strengthen our personal peripheral vision so that we can see more clearly the needs around us and how we can help. Thanks for seeing the value of this work!
For more details on how you can help, please call HSF at 540-338-8688, visit the Home School Foundation website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.