Stories of Fire: Van Zyl family

The Van Zyls were one of the families in our church who lost everything in the Knysna Fires of June 7, 2017. Here is their memory of the day

Retha’s account: Upon returning from a playdate with my two little boys (Christopher 5 & Jean Louis 3) from the opposite side of town… there was this unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach staring into the enormous cloud of smoke that seemed to be growing bigger and creeping closer with every passing minute…yet, I had full confidence that everything was under control… Having every intention of getting home to get a pot of soup on the stove and delivered to the fire station…non of us the wiser as to what was about to go down in the next hour or so…

My husband, JC, was still making his way back from George and due to a low battery..and disruption on the networks, keeping in touch became next to impossible…
I tried to settle the boys all the while preparing the soup but could not refrain from constantly running back onto our deck to check on that cloud of smoke.. I tried to stay as calm as possible… For my boys sake, but decided to pack an overnight bag for us…just in case, you know?!… My mother in law, who was also home at that time, gave a helping hand with the soup..but after a few minutes, thought the better of it and instead decided to rather also grab a few of their items as well… Limbs and personal possessions flying all over the place..
Upon emerging from our bedroom 5 min later, I was rattled at what I saw..a wave of flames, enveloping the whole of Eastford …. that’s when I came to the stark realisation that we were in a whole heap of trouble..
I rushed to grab our few essentials and put that, together with my two boys and two dogs into my car…trust my mum in law to grab the pot of soup as well!! I opened the gate, ran to the car only to discover that my keys were nowhere to be found.. My mum in law, idling in her own car, waiting on me as I parked her in..
I begged the Lord to please.. please just keep me calm and collected.. I rushed back into the house and by His Love and Grace, He provided… I found the keys on my kitchen counter and as I grabbed it I looked up one last time to take in my surroundings..something I’ve had the privilege of enjoying for a whole of ten days since we bought the place and moved in only end of.the previous month.
As I looked out onto our deck I saw the flames making it’s way towards our neighbour’s picket fence… We made our way out of there as fast as we possibly could…from there, all “hell” broke loose and chaos ensued.
Yes, we may have lost our livelihood, our memories… our sentiment. However, we were reunited with my husband a few hours later, who in turn didn’t know where we were or whether we were still alive and safe…Our lives were spared and in the end, that’s all that truly matters.

JC’s account: It’s been a tough year for our family. My father had a heart attack in March. They stayed on the same plot as us in a separate dwelling. We all lost our homes and earthly possessions in the Knynsa fires…but not our loves ones. We however have learned as a family that God is gracious and merciful beyond imagination…he provides in many ways. Through the love and kindness of many people but especially our Christian family, we felt loved and a closeness to God beyond comprehension. In many ways the support we received was so humbling . It was not only an encouragement to us in times of great need but it was also a testimony to the world that the Lord provides and looks after his flock.
JAMES 1:2-5 states that we can count it Joy when we have trials and tribulations because it produces steadfastness in our faith.

We praise God and thank everybody that made contributions towards us and the greater Knysna area. God is good and gracious beyond all measures and expectation…We will never be able to replace the material things we had…but we have gained so much more…as a family we have grown tremendously in our faith and dependency on God our father and we have experienced the love of our greater Christian family…people we have never even met but have a special bond to through Christ … every good and perfect gift comes from Him, our Father of light.

To God be the glory and praise forever…Amen


JC, Retha and their boys after the fires