Chuck and Jackie Kwasny lost their home in the Thomas Fire in 2017. Jackie didn't even know there was a fire until a friend called from Santa Paula saying she might have to evacuate. Jackie learned a fire had started near Thomas Aquinas College. Little did she know how that same fire would impact her own life.
At about 10:30 pm that same night, the Kwasny's power went out, so they started their generator. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door, and they were told that there was an immediate evacuation. So, Chuck and Jackie packed up their two dogs, some pajamas, toiletries, important documents, and Jackie's computer. As they left, they prayed for the homes on top of the hill in Clearpoint where they lived. Jackie says she wasn't worried about their home since it was toward the bottom of the hill. She just assumed they'd be back the next morning. But while she was watching TV that next morning, she saw her house burning. That was the beginning of the journey they've been on for the last two years.
Jackie has seen God's presence in this journey from the very beginning. Her son, Brian had bought a motorhome six months earlier, and her other son, Mark, had an RV space right next to his house. It was such a blessing, because it would have been difficult to find a place to stay that could accommodate their two black labs. Though staying in a motorhome for two years was challenging for Chuck and Jackie, the dogs had a place to run in Mark's yard.
Mark's daughter, Audrey, wrote Chuck and Jackie a note that they treasure. It said, "Nana and Pap, I'm so sorry you lost your home, but I'm so glad that you're here, because we get to spend more time with you." "That," Jackie says, "is one of the blessings - that we got to spend more time with our youngest granddaughters."
But the last two years haven't been easy. There was so much that was lost - photos of their children and their wedding, family heirlooms from England and much more. There were only a couple of things that were salvaged from the ashes, but those two things were gifts from God. One of the firemen found Jackie's mother's wedding ring. It was completely black and looked "just horrible," but a jeweler was able to restore it. The second item that was spared from burning was a little bird figurine. It says "faith" on its wing, and Jackie felt like it was God telling her and Chuck to have faith, that they are His children and that He can work everything together for good. And Jackie says that God did just that.
Some of the hardest moments for Jackie were during the construction process of their new home. There were times when things just seemed to take longer that what she thought they should, and for some reason, those were the times she cried.
Jackie laughs when she describes the two-year experience living in the motorhome. The printer she used for her ministry with Good News Clubs was positioned on the dash of the RV. The close quarters provided no personal space. She says, "It's a good thing Chuck and I like each other!" The couple will soon celebrate their 52nd wedding anniversary.
One of the things that has brought Jackie the greatest joy since the fire is being able to continue serving in the Good News Clubs where she is able to share the good news about Jesus with children. Her experience has afforded her the opportunity to share with the children the importance of hiding God's Word in your heart. She tells them that she lost all of her Bibles in the fire, but because she has memorized Scripture she always has His truth with her. She also tells them that it's so wonderful to have a loving heavenly Father who Himself is always with us. Jackie says, "It's just impossible to be sad when you're serving God...and that's especially true when you're working with children!"
Chuck and Jackie's new house is finally completed. They have moved in and will be "home for Christmas" for the first time in two years. Jackie says that before the fire their home had always been the hub on holidays, so it will be so special to have all the kids and grandkids together again in their new home. Jackie says that "it will be a wonderful time to praise and give glory to God."
As Jackie shares, she exudes joy. She is a living example of Psalm 16:11, "You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand." Jackie is keenly aware that God's presence has been with her every step on this journey, and she is not only filled with joy, it overflows onto those to spend time with her.