24 Summers

Dustin DeFord

Dustin DeFord

Twenty-four summers. If you’re old enough to have lived some years, and I suppose most of my readers are, do your remember your 24th summer? Dustin DeFord completed his. At least part of it. And, as you know from my last post and from national news, 24 was his culminating year! I told my sister what an irony it is that he with his youth, vigor, and dedication to Christ should have his life snuffed out, while I am 59,  physically weary, and am still alive. I would have gladly died instead. Of course, no Hotshot firefighter could I  have ever been! My sister’s immediate response was, “Karen, your job’s not done, but Dustin’s is.”

Such a thought takes one’s breath away. Ours is a providential worldview rooted in a recognition of  “intelligent design”  —  not just in the creation and maintenance of the cosmos, but also in the history of humankind in all its intricacies, twists and turns.  His Story. Intelligent Design directs our stories. God is LORD of His world, and I’m glad to belong to His kingdom.  “His kingdom come; His will be done.” As LORD, He is present everywhere and is graciously sovereign. In response, I am pleased to be His subject. Such a relief. The LORD is my Lord. No greater comfort and satisfaction.

God works through everything. His Fingers are in all our pies. Curiously, retrospective thinking reveals many fingerprints. I spy God’s fingerprints in Dustin’s passion for firefighting, gained honestly from being in a family of firefighters. His father, a pastor, is also a volunteer firefighter, and four of his brothers are.  Dustin was a teen when he began firefighting.  He longed to join a Hotshot firefighting crew. He longed for this for years and pursued it. He longed for it. Where do our longings begin? Some are “lusts of the flesh,” rooted in defiance against God. But others are rooted in the design of God. Those are the worthy passions that can shape a good life pleasing to Him (2 Cor. 5:9). God works through our desires, directing our personal stories within the constellation of His macro-story.

This week has been a whirlwind. Monday, July 1,  was my birthday. After writing my previous post that morning, Paul and I headed to downtown Prescott. We meandered the courthouse square and shops. We talked with some folks.  The Daily Courier headline boldly stated under my lovely birthday date, “Prescott Is in Mourning.” So were folks from our church, so that evening we had some of them over to spend the evening with us. Being together comforted us; praying together strengthened us as well as those for whom we prayed.

On Tuesday evening, we attended the vigil for the 19 firefighters and their families at the Prescott High School stadium. Packed out and tender, the night was comforting and gospel clear.  In the center of the field, rows of white chairs were arranged for the members of the immediate families. They were surround by our community and sensed the community outpouring of love. The sole Hotshot crew survivor, Brendan McDonough, sat quietly in the midst of the families. He was well honored.

On Wednesday night, our church had a memorial service for Dustin. His brother, Ryan, was there representing his Montana family. I think there is another salute tonight at the Fourth of July fireworks, and one this Saturday, but the big community memorial will be next Tuesday in Prescott Valley. All the families are being brought to the area, so the big DeFord family is coming in from Montana, and we have the privilege of hosting one of the brothers and his wife. A few days later, the DeFords will have a huge memorial in Montana at their hometown stadium involving representatives and firefighters from all over Montana.

Imagine. The other 18 families are experiencing all of this flurry of activity and attention also. What overload! Pray for their stamina, for their mental and spiritual health, and for anything you can think of. If you don’t know what to say to God, just say the names of the families with your hearts lifted to God. Pray for the Yarnell area and the hundreds of firefighters still working. The last I heard, the fire was at 45% containment. A prayer of groaning God can interpret.  Open hearts for mercy and grace, God will fill.

(Check out http://www.dCourier.com to access names and further information. Today, The Daily Courier  of Prescott published a beautiful July 4 Special Tribute which has pictures of all 19 and biographical paragraphs on each. I’m not sure if you can access it online, but of course, if you google Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew or Yarnell, AZ fire, you can access plenty of articles and pictures.)

I’ll continue this in another post. I want you to know what Ryan told us last night, what his mother’s first reaction was, and what Dustin’s passion behind his passion was. This is a story worth telling. A story worth your taking time to read. Twenty-four summers. Dustin completed his story. Now we simply tell it, reflectively mingling it with our own stories. Learning from Dustin, we grow.

For God so loves the world that He gave His one and only Son

so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life.

John 3:16

Categories: Joy & Suffering -- Good & Evil, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “24 Summers

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for this. Dustin’s story touched me the most because of his belief in God. Bless you for your words of comfort and strength. Will look forward to your next post.

  2. Carolyn Wilkins

    We will be praying for you Karen as you host some of the family. Thank you for sharing with us as you, your church, your community and this precious family grieve and celebrate Dustin’s life.

  3. Pastor Chuck and Fay Butler

    Sunday July 7th Chuck will give an illustration in his sermon of Justin’s life. We pray that God
    will use it to touch lives in our Church, Fairfield Community Church in Fairfield, ID

  4. Anonymous

    I just want to say that, as far removed as my life is from yours, your words and Dustin’s life has touched me. I know young men still grappling with their life’s meaning at his age, whereas this, this young man, had complete simple faith in Jesus. So settled and at peace with himself. My first reaction when I heard of the fallen 19 firefighters was–what a pity, such fine young men, with so much goodness to share in this world–gone. But then, after reading your this post (and several others), I realized, no wonder. God, would want him to be in his arms, in eternal rest, eternal happiness.

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