…neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Roman 8:39
It will be a day that will not be forgotten in Alberta history. May 3, 2016. That’s the date stamp on this picture. It’s one of the last pictures Izzy and Kim Huygen and their four children Selah, Naomi, Eli and Adia took of their home and neighbourhood in Ft. McMurray before fleeing “the Beast.” Kim shared a bit about that day. “Tuesday afternoon when the fire exploded was frightening . We heard the news we were dreading; the fire had in fact jumped the river.”
Kim had managed a little earlier to get some items packed for the family, while Izzy had picked up the kids from school. They started out of their neighbourhood but shortly decided to turn back to get a vehicle with more fuel. By the time they were on their way again, their only option was to go north. They ended up in Ft. McKay. “We were safe but we felt extremely vulnerable,” Kim shared. “ We knew we needed fuel to go further north or to try to go south. The nearest fueling station had a 3 hour wait and then they ran out. We were safe but didn’t have options.”
After the kindness of a stranger enabled them to get some fuel, the option to head south opened up. “At 1:30 AM we heard that the highway was clear. We could no longer hear traffic on 63 so Izzy walked to the highway to investigate. Somehow it was true. We decided to make a run for it and try to get as far south as we could, with Edmonton being our goal.
“We weren’t frantic. We were scared. My husband and I were preparing for the worst but really working to keep things normal for our kids. We were praying because that was all we had. God didn’t stop the fire but he showed up over and over again.”
Thankfully the family did eventually make it to Edmonton. In those head-spinning hours and days after the evacuation, Izzy and Kim were uncertain of whether to enroll their children in school or not. Then, said Kim “I realized that school could give them opportunities to feel and be normal.”
Selah, Naomi and Eli were enrolled at Edmonton Christian West School. They were among at least 23 students from 12 families that joined Edmonton Christian that week. It is not a surprise that they chose Edmonton Christian. After all, Izzy, an employee of the Christian Labour Association of Canada, volunteers as the chairperson of the Board of the Fort McMurray Christian School. Kim previously taught at Covenant Christian School in Leduc. If that weren’t enough, their oldest, Selah, attended pre-school and Kindergarten at West. There would be some somewhat familiar faces in her class.
The school is thankful for the opportunity to help out, and the family is feeling good about their decison to enroll their children. “West has been an incredible blessing to us and to our children. They have the chance to go and be a kid and be with other kids and just be normal.”
Selah in grade 4 seems to agree. “It’s fun,” she said. “I am glad I came here.” We aren’t really sure if she has consulted with Mom and Dad on this, but she says, “We are going to stay here until school is over.”
As for the family, (whose home appears to be intact) and for all Ft McMurray residents, the road back to normal will be arduous. It will be a journey of faith, a faith that nothing can separate us from God’s love. It is a faith that can be found in Kim’s words, “We fled. We literally fled for our lives but we fled into open arms and open hearts. That is another way that God has claimed this part of history; all these people are doing his work and being his hands and feet.”
Once again, we are all humbled and deeply thankful to be part of God’s story.
By Brian Doornenbal, with many thanks to the Huygen family for so willingly sharing their story. They and others from Ft McMurray will continue to be in our prayers.