Out of the Ashes

In a burned-out tent, a U.S. Army chaplain in Kuwait finds a reminder of God's protection.

The central dining facility in Camp Udairi (Kuwait) is gone. A fire that began in one of the DFAC [dining facility] tents quickly spread to engulf all five tents and completely destroyed them in less than 30 minutes. No surprise there...the wind was blowing quite hard and the tents were close together.

After the smoke cleared, and all units checked the status of their soldiers, it was apparent that everyone had made it out alive. Amazing. It was Sunday morning and a service had just concluded, but most of the worshippers had left. A Catholic service was scheduled next, and one of the tents would have been packed. During breakfast, all the tents were packed, but not at the time of the fire. Some sharp NCOs pushed military and civilian cooks outside, and propane tanks were removed to safety. Firefighters arrived quickly and kept the flames from spreading to the rest of the camp.

What could have been a major catastrophe merely resulted in the loss of some equipment and soldiers eating MREs [meals ready to eat] for a few days. I call this a miracle. God takes care of his children, even when they are deployed far, far away from homes.



when they are deployed far from home.

But let me tell you the rest of the story. The fire occurred on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. This is the day many Christians observe the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a time of penitence, as we prepare for Holy Week and Easter. We mark our foreheads with ash as a sign of this penitence. I had planned to offer ashes for Protestant soldiers who wished to observe this ritual. I didn't have any ashes though. Traditionally, you burn palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebration to make ash for Ash Wednesday. I didn't have any. So it seemed to me that the most significant ash to use for this occasion would be ash from the DFAC.

The site was under guard, so I asked an MP to escort me to the firefighters who were working there. Things had calmed down, and they were just watching to make sure there were no flare-ups.

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Chaplain (Major) Barbara K. Sherer
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