Tragedy & Triumph Auburn's Nelson Hall Is Destroyed by Fire

We have lost so much, but there is so much for which to be thankful. Things may not be pleasant, but they could be much worse. And for that we here at Auburn Adventist Academy are continuing to thank God. In times of great loss, it is often hard to see past the pain, but it is clear in this situation how close God is. The head girl’s dean, Kay Sanborn, having lost much herself, reminded the girls on Nov. 18, the day following the fire, that although many things are now gone the most important things are not. “You are not replaceable,” she said. And many others have echoed her words of love and showed in numerous ways their support.

I have been overwhelmed with the blessings we have received on this campus. A resourceful staff, a brave student body, a loving community and an embracing worldwide church family have all helped to make this time of distress one of thankfulness. As soon as the fire began, generous students from the boy’s dormitory began sharing blankets and coats with shivering, “homeless” girls. Teachers shared tears and distributed hugs with those in need of encouragement. Local church members and caring people from the community rallied around the students, and a profusion of personal items poured in for the girls in the days following the disaster. Volunteers appeared out of nowhere and have continued to donate their time to do much needed jobs such as preparing food in the cafeteria, painting rooms in the recently emptied east half of the boy’s dormitory, and organizing the abundance of clothing donated to replenish the girls' lost wardrobes.

Although this is a painful process, valuable lessons can be learned from the experience. As Bill Roberts, Academy Church pastor, told the school during the assembly on the morning following the fire, when you lose everything, you are forced to reevaluate who you really are. We often form our identity by what we have. When all we have is taken from us, as is the case for many of these girls, we are forced to ask, “Who am I? What is really important to me? What do I have left?” And then we realize that it is not what we wear or what we have or even what we do that makes life worth living. It is simply that we are children of God. We have our family, we have our school, we have our church, and we have our God. It is my prayer that through this experience all of us will gain a clearer view of His love for us, that through this we can once again be reminded that this world is not our home, but, yet as we are here, God is protecting us so that we can share with others the wonder of His love and excitement of how truly spectacular our forever home will be.

Featured in: December 2003