‘When He Told Me I Had Lost Everything, I Collapsed’

Adventist church member in Australia recounts God’s mercies amid her worst ordeal.

Stephenie Bailey, for Adventist Record
‘When He Told Me I Had Lost Everything, I Collapsed’
Seventh-day Adventist church member Stephenie Bailey lost everything in a bushfire in early 2020. She thanks God for the ways others have stepped up to assist her during her worst ordeal. [Photo: Adventist Record]

A deadly bushfire raged through Mishtalem in January 2020. Mishtalem is the rural retreat my daughter and I had spent two years developing in Batlow, New South Wales, Australia. The inferno destroyed all buildings and belongings, fences, irrigation, and half the apple orchard. We only saved our 30 animals.

Caleb Lawman, church member and Rural Fire Services firefighter, was delegated to phone me at our evacuation accommodation. When he told me I had lost everything, I collapsed onto the motel bed. And into that numb, terrible silence, I heard a whisper, I suppose from an angel, “Wait and see that the Lord is good!” I did not feel courage or hope, but I clung to that challenge in the bleak, impossible days ahead. Could my faith survive the trauma? Could it believe God’s good intentions toward me? Could it rebuff the temptation to feel that He’d abandoned me in that dark day of losing everything?

God displayed His faithfulness through human hands and hearts. My pastor’s wife activated the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) emergency funding while we were still staying in evacuation accommodation. My local church in Tumut, a small country church, sent us money. Church members two hours south whom we had never met lent us their precious little caravan. Pastor Justin Lawman roared up the track in his gutsy 4WD. He strode through our charred black remains, surveying the devastated bush and blackened paddocks. He declared, “What you need to go on with is a 10-by-6-meter (33-by-20-feet) rural shed.” By the end of that week, he had raised funds at his church in Canberra, and the shed was ordered!

Two weeks later, on March 1, 35 Canberra church people converged and put up the shed in just one day. Twelve hours of construction plus seven hours driving — God bless them! The shelter is an amazing gift. Then Ian Gilroy from Tumut church applied his skills to outfitting a large room in the shed as living quarters.

After we lost everything, other denominations and agencies have helped us get back on our feet with funds and volunteering days. But the most precious and the most comforting was that early help from Adventists.

As I pause to take a breather from the relentless demands of rebuilding a farm from the burnt ground up, I can reflect. Tonight, I ache all over from chain-sawing a huge burnt log to make way for my replacement machinery shed. I sit by an encouraging, warm fire blazing brightly in the wood firebox that the Canberra men salvaged from the fire demolition site. This winter, I can be thankful for the fire in the firebox instead of being retraumatized by it — fear welled up inside me every winter’s night last year.

My faith can now affirm that Adonai did not abandon me. He is building this retreat with His resources and trusty volunteers to welcome young people, sustainable-living enthusiasts, discipleship trainees, refugees, and wounded ones. He wants them to meet Him here and, right on target, experience His faithfulness!

The original version of this story was posted by Adventist Record.

Stephenie Bailey, for Adventist Record