When I was a child, I often had nightmares about fires spontaneously erupting in my living room. I would usually wake up terrified, in a cold sweat. Amazingly enough, last week, I found myself running toward 20 foot flames in the Sudanese bush!
Apparently, some little neighbor boys were trying to hunt bush rats, and – as we all know – the best way to get the bush rats to come out into the open is to burn their bush! So, the young hunters (a.k.a. “little arsonists!!!”) set a fire. What they may not have expected was that the high winds and dry grass would prove a very formidable foe. As the fire picked up, the kids got scared and ran home.
Meanwhile, all of us were going about our Saturday morning business around the base, when we saw the telltale smoke on the horizon. “Hmm… it’s well beyond our border,” the older boys agreed. We all thought the fire would die out in the bush beyond our land. Then, we all noticed the wind change, and we began to hear the ominous cracking sounds that a fire makes as it consumes everything in its path. So, we raced into the bush, hopping logs and dodging trees as we neared the flames, which had crossed through our outer fence and into our plot of land.
We weren’t wearing protective gear or wielding hoses – we were dressed in a t-shirts, shorts/skirts, and sandals, beating at the fire with long, leafy branches! What plants the 40 acre heriga (bushfire) didn’t destroy, we killed by uprooting to fight the flames! Some of the oldest boys and I barked out orders for the littlest kids to go into their houses and for those a bit older to bring water. The kids took turns pumping furiously on the well as the other children ran out to us with buckets and basins of water.
The wind didn’t let the water do its job. At several points, we had to abandon our positions and run as the wind furiously swept the fire wherever it pleased. There was one point when the fire nearly closed around us! Needless to say, I was praying with every breath that wasn’t spent coughing from the smoke!
We praise the Lord that no one was seriously burned, and all of our houses and belongings were spared! It was an exhausting five-hour firefight, but we won, and we thank God heartily for bringing us through the flames!!!