Hope Still Lives Here
For many, home is our safe space. In our familiar surroundings, a favorite chair, the kitchen table, and the people we love, we climb into bed at night feeling safe and secure.
On May 23, 2020, just before 1:00 a.m. this sense of security was shaken for two families when a storm tore through Lexington South Carolina.
Shaken, but not lost.
Tony and TK Woods were up later than usual, because their comforter was still in the dryer and they couldn’t finish making the bed. Zoe, their dog, began acting strange, and then they heard a very loud noise - the crack of lightning.
The strike triggered their smoked detectors and knocked out their Wi-Fi. Tony quickly checked the attic and the garage. Nothing seemed wrong, until he opened the back door and smelled smoke. As he ran to the front door, he told TK to get Zoe and get out of the house, thinking their house was on fire. Once on the front porch, he realized the fire was actually coming from his neighbor’s house.
Inside the neighbor’s house, 15-year-old Lauren Suthard had just finished praying and reading her Bible, when she noticed a strange light coming from under her bedroom door. Hearing her mom’s footsteps, Lauren opened the door and told her parents, Scott and Paula Suthard, to get up because there was fire.
About the same time, Tony was already at their front door, banging and hoping he wasn’t too late.
“What had made me nervous is that when you see that much fire, your first thought is their house is filled with smoke and they’re knocked out,” recalled Tony. “It was such a blessing when Scott answered.”
“I heard pounding. It was Tony pounding at the door. I came toward the front of the house and at that point, I can see flames. This is not a small fire; this is a big deal. So, I let Tony in,” added Scott.
While Scott let Tony in, Paula ran to another bedroom where their 13-year-old daughter, Emily, was asleep. Tony ran in, scooped up Emily, who is severely autistic and unable to speak, and carried her to safety. Paula met them in the front yard while Scott backed one of the family’s cars out of the garage and moved it across the street. Mere seconds later, the Suthard’s roof collapsed, destroying everything they owned.
In those moments Scott could think of only one thing, “It was just getting everybody safe and to know that everybody is safe. At that point, I realized the house was a goner, and I told Paula, ‘Everything is gone.’”
As they stood across the street watching the fire ravage their home, God quickly demonstrated his faithfulness. Fighting back tears, Paula described the first of many demonstrations.
“Before the fire was out, our neighbors were bringing us clothes. Someone handed me an envelope, and it had $100 in it,” remembered Paula. “We didn’t have our purses; we didn’t have anything.”
But, what they did have was the very tangible expression of love and support delivered through other people serving as the hands and feet of Christ. Many people, including those who didn’t even know the Suthards, have been used by God to meet their needs in the hours, days, and weeks since the fire.
“God has shown up,” said Paula. “From Tony running in our house, when He didn’t even know if he was going to be in danger. He got Emily out. God has met every need before we even realized it was a need.”
With all of the donations, including clothes, household items, and even a new iPad to help Emily communicate with her family, the Suthards have not gone without. They haven’t feared a lack of provision or protection.
The morning after the fire, Lauren noticed that a sign they had placed in their front yard to remind people not to fear the COVID-19 pandemic, suffered zero damage. The sign stating, “Faith Over Fear – Hope Lives Here,” was staked in the ground, very close to the house. Somehow, the sign was moved and did not burn. They were quick to put it back up, for the truth of the sign became even more real.
Several days later, Paula came over to sift through what was left of the place she and her family called home. Through the salvaging process she found another reminder. In what was the master bedroom, she found a piece of paper from a devotion book. Some of the only words still visible were, For I, the LORD your God, hold of your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you” (Isaiah 41:13, ESV
The Suthards know they could be mourning much more than what they lost. Their hearts are full of gratitude to still have each other. Their parents have copies of sentimental items like their wedding video and professional photos of their daughters from every stage in life. Those special memories are not lost, and neither are the new ones forged in the fire.
Lauren, their oldest daughter, loves to play music. While going through the rubble, they found her guitar – beyond repair and covered in ashes. From those ashes, God brought great beauty when Lauren’s youth pastor gave her one of his baby Taylor guitars. A few weeks after the fire, she helped lead Sunday morning worship at her church for the first time. Another reminder this family will not forget, that God cares about the things we enjoy.
The Suthards plan to rebuild on the spot where their home burned to the ground. They choose not to fear what happened but to trust God in whatever comes next.
“I know God still has plans for our family, because there is no reason we should have survived,” explained Paula.
The only thing we can feel is gratitude. I am hoping the Lord is blessing all those people who blessed us, and that we won’t forget that we need to be a blessing to other people. — Scott Sutherford
loves to tell stories. She spent 13 years working in television as a news anchor and reporter. She presently serves as the Director of Strategic Communications for a SC state agency. As a proud preacher’s wife and mother, she loves to use her writing skills to share God’s goodness.