In Case of Fire

by Scott Vandeventer, ECCU Chief Operating Officer
(Originally published as a post within ECCU’s former e-publication, The Buzz.)

Riding up the Santa Ana River bike trail in Orange County, California last Saturday morning, I saw a picture that could have been stitched in from the Sierra foothills. In my imagination, this once ugly flood control channel had reverted to wilderness stream. Could I cast a fly in the water and catch trout?

Just over 24 hours later, driving along this same river bed, charred brush and trees and black ash yielded no recollection of my daydream. A firestorm, clocked at times over 70 miles per hour, had roared through here just minutes after I pedaled by the day before.

How often do we have to be reminded that what we imagine isn’t necessarily reality? We live in a tension, don’t we? On the one hand, we must envision a future and plan accordingly, or else we’ll just shrivel up and die. On the other hand, we must also recognize that our purposes are not necessarily God’s for this place and time. So, what we envision is always tempered by (everybody say it together) “if the Lord wills.”

If we are healthy, we are hope-filled creatures. Hope—that “joyous anticipation of the good!”—prevails because in the face of adverse trials we know that God is good and is working to lavish his goodness on those who love him, now and always.

This tension between our plans and dreams is relevant because today (Monday, November 17) fires are still burning to the north of our office, and I am asked to report to our Board of Directors how ECCU fared over the weekend. (We are fine except for a layer of ash in the parking lot. A few staff were evacuated from their homes. A traveling executive’s house was in the line of fire, but through some heroic efforts by family and friends, it still stands, though a bit scarred. Area churches are still reporting in.)

While this weekend is one I hope we never repeat, I am actually pleased with the Board’s request. Why? Just a few months ago, through some good reconnaissance by our staff, we actually chose to conjure up, plan, and rehearse for a disaster where the hills around Brea burned. Displaced and distracted staff, bad air, strained emergency resources. It was simulated mayhem. But, we discovered through that process how to be ready.

And that is, in so many words, the point. The basic idea is to keep learning how to be ready. To plan for the really ugly (from a human perspective) and envision a future that is tempered by that planning. In the midst of this planning, we are to hope for the good, expect the good, pursue the good.

We are all in the middle (or beginning or end) of a really interesting economic period. What are we envisioning? How are we planning? Are we prepared? In the next issue of The Buzz, we’ll share some insights gained from six financial forums we conducted across the United States involving nearly 600 ministry leaders.

I think you’ll appreciate the perspective we gained from these leaders on what it takes to be prepared as we seek to glorify God, when what we are hoping for doesn’t quite line up with what is happening.

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