Less than three days after their house burned down, the Morris family of Deerfield Township was able to pose in front of their charred, destroyed home and smile for a few photos.
Wes Morris, pastor of The Rock Church in Fenton, wife Erin, and their five children looked through the rubble for anything that survived the blaze on Saturday, May 18 that took the children and babysitter by surprise.
“We all found some stuff that we were excited about, but most of it was gone,” Wes said.
Looking through the rubble was “helpful,” the pastor said. “We talk to the kids about how God spared our lives. We’re able to use this for an opportunity to reach people that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to talk to.”
Wes and Erin were in Cuba when the fire destroyed their home and came home one day early from their planned seven-day trip. They were sitting in a van with their crew, headed to an event when Wes got a text at 4 p.m. that the house was on fire, asking if the family was okay.
“I didn’t know if he was right, that it was my house. I didn’t know where my kids were. It took about 45 minutes to confirm that not only that it was my house, but that my kids were out,” he said, adding that those 45 minutes were long and quiet. They had sporadic cell service in Cuba, and sending and receiving texts took time.
“It was a blaze. I was just praying for the safety of my kids,” he said. Initially, Wes didn’t tell Erin about the text, but she could tell something was wrong. “When I got out of the van, I told her. I said ‘our house is burning to the ground.’”
Their five children, ages 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4, were with the babysitter and the dog in the house when the fire started. They don’t know the cause for sure, but the likely suspicion is a chimney fire.
“We had an attic that was on fire and they didn’t know. They couldn’t smell the smoke,” Erin said. A neighbor drove up to the house, honking the horn, and told them the house was on fire. “My daughter was napping so my babysitter ran up and grabbed her, got all the kids out, and they stood and watched it burn.”
The kids were a “little shaken up but pretty good,” she said. They tried to facetime, but the reception was too poor. “They handled it very well, I think,” Erin said.
Wes said they’ve used it as an opportunity to point to their faith in Christ.
“It’s what matters. It anchors us,” he said. “I think that has helped them minimize the materialistic loss and the older ones in particular seem to be understanding that.”
Erin said they’ve been trying to show their kids that their life “is not built on stuff, it’s not built on our house or money, it’s built on Christ and that doesn’t change whether our house is standing or not.”
They’ve gotten “overwhelming support” from The Rock Church congregation, Erin said.
“We are overwhelmed with the love of the body of Christ that is our church,” Wes said. “It’s hard to even understand.”
There’s still uncertainty for what exactly will happen, and the family is currently staying in a temporary home. They plan to rebuild on the same lot. They used the week after the fire to settle and get things in order. Wes met with insurance agents last week.
Because the kids are homeschooled, summer started a few days early for them. Wes plans to go to back to work this coming week, which he’s excited about.
“There’s a foundation of sand and there’s a foundation of rock, and this has really allowed us a chance to declare that to people and we’re pumped about that,” Wes said.
“That sounds strange, but we’re glad because they ask ‘how can he have joy, how do we have hope when everything is literally burned to the ground?’ It’s because the Bible says your life is either built on sand or built on rock. The rock is the Lord Jesus. We want to reach people in their heart for the sake of their own soul through this experience.”