Refined by Fire

by David Osborn ’83

You know those intermodal metal shipping containers that are so handy for temporary storage? They aren’t fireproof. When we moved to Guatemala in 2003 to do the Lord’s work in the mission field, we packed all our earthly belongings into a 20-foot metal shipping container. We sold our San Diego home in 2006 and moved the container to a friend’s ranch in the area.

Unfortunately, the unit was in the line of fire (quite literally) of one of the recent Southern California infernos. Miraculously, the tree-shrouded ranch, ranch house and several outbuildings all survived, but our storage container and the chicken coop got fried or, er, roasted. “Sorry, I prayed over all the buildings right before I evacuated, but I forgot your container — and the chicken coop,” the ranch owner explained. He and his wife run a dude ranch for wayward teen boys, and we would have traded 10 burned-out containers stuffed with possessions if it meant that his ranch and mission operation could be saved.

So here we were in Guatemala, watching the conflagration evolve in our beloved hometown via cable TV, worrying about all our friends, but not realizing we were already hapless victims of the fires. My wife, Mandy, and I flew up to the states for a three-day trip to sift through all our stuff. The saved contents of our once-full, 20-foot container now fit quite easily into 10 or so ice-chest-size boxes packed into the back of our Chevy Astro. Two supporters of ours lost their entire houses, and yet they each offered to pay for our expenses while in the states. Talk about love and generosity in the midst of destruction!

Without a house or furniture to return to, we think God may have permanent plans for us in Guatemala. We were hoping for a simple billboard message from Him, but He appears to have spoken more forcefully, albeit less directly! We never thought this would happen to us, but I never thought I’d be a missionary either. Mandy and I felt the Lord calling us to do something significant with our lives in 2002 while on vacation in Mexico. We never looked back as we made plans to quit my job with a property management firm, pull our three boys from school, rent our house, store our (ill-fated) furniture in a (non-fireproof) metal storage container, and leave the country. We thought this would be a one-year stint. While preparing to return, we got into an argument with the Lord about how long we were called for. He won. (Note to file: when God tells you to do something, get it in writing.)

We worked at a children’s home when we first arrived (where we got our adopted daughter) and did projects with the indigenous population before being asked (coerced) to teach at Christian Academy of Guatemala. Mandy taught kindergarten for two years, then I stepped in and have been teaching social studies and history in the middle school and high school for two years.

The lengthy adoption process for our daughter, Cambria, has taught us a lot about how God sees us: We are his adopted children. When she asked me “Daddy, I’m not your real daughter yet, am I?” I understood what it meant to be Christ’s adopted heirs. “Honey,” I told her, “Just because the paperwork isn’t done doesn’t make you any less my daughter.” Just because we’re still on Earth waiting for the paperwork doesn’t make us any less Christ’s adopted heirs.

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One Response to Refined by Fire

  1. Since I haven’t been receiving the Westmont magazine, I hadn’t seen this article, nor did I know about the fire. Dave is a Europe semester ’81 buddy and we just had a reunion last month on Dave and Mandy and familiy’s last day in the US before returning to Guatemala for another year. It was wonderful to see them and great to read this article here. Dave, you have a gift with words too. Dios les bendiga!!

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