In the Face of Fire, 'I Belong to God'

Abundio Reyes is a single, 76-year-old farm laborer who came to the United States many years ago. A hard worker, he never attend school and doesn't speak English. This faithful member of the Medford Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church in southern Oregon learned about God from an Adventist friend who taught him to read by studying a Spanish Bible.

“It’s been hard being a church member this year,” Reyes says. “COVID-19 made it so we couldn’t have services, and I do not have a way to Zoom the videos. But, I have studied and prayed much.”

As difficult as the pandemic was, on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, life got a whole lot harder for Reyes. A small fire started near his mobile home. With perfect, horrible timing, a 45 mph wind blew up from the southern mountains, fanning the fire like a blowtorch, its swirling flames consuming everything for 8 miles between Interstate 5 and Highway 99. That blaze, now known as the Alameda Fire, burned through the communities of Talent and Phoenix in short order.

Reyes' mobile home was in Talent, right by Highway 99. The fire took everything he owned except the clothes he was wearing.

His mobile home? Gone.

His clothes? Gone.

His hat and jacket? Gone.

His medicines? Gone.

Church members immediately made a temporary home for him in the church, worked out his medications, brought him bags filled with necessities, and made sure he had a new jacket and more than enough to eat.

“Abundio was very sad," they explain.

A couple days later they had found a small apartment where Reyes and a friend could stay. That afternoon Reyes found his pastor, Angel Cuenca, at the church and handed him a fat envelope.

“My tithes,” Reyes told Cuenca.

Inside the envelope was $920.

“I have not been able to come to church this year and so have been keeping my tithe in the bank waiting for when I could bring this money to the church," Reyes said. "Is it OK to give this to you today?”

He continued: “Yes, I have lost everything and have many needs, but I read in the Bible where Jesus says we are to give to God what is His, and my tithe is His holy money. It is not mine.”

In the face of complete destruction, Reyes' faith was firm. “Do not worry, pastor," he said. "I belong to God. He will take care of me.”

Featured in: January/February 2021