Richard and Bonita Given lost their home to fire in early January.
But as one chats with the warm, engaging and welcoming Erskine couple, there is an unmistakable sense of gratitude shining through as well.
They are grateful for their solid Christian faith that has seen them through, and also for the surrounding community that has, without fail, helped out in so many ways.
The suddenness of the fire was overwhelming.
“We had our pastor and his wife over for lunch that day,” recalls Bonita. “They left at about 4 p.m., and we just both went back to what we were doing.
“At that time, our house had a shed on it. Richard was in there, and I was in the back bedroom sewing.
“All of a sudden, we heard this banging on the door. The neighbour told us a fire had started in the garage and the flames were leaping everywhere.”
The cause of the fire is thought to be from a power bar.
The couple, who are retired pastors, lost virtually everything and it was eight months until a new home was available.
While most material possessions can be replaced, lost heirlooms and special items, such as photos and mementos, can’t be.
But comfort and support came in other ways, including from neighbours who consistently checked in with the couple to see how they could help out.
The outpouring of help was touching and inspiring for the Givens, who had been in Erskine for a mere six months.
“That strong kindness was the thing that carried us through,” explained Richard.
“There were times within the first few weeks, when someone would show up with an act of kindness, and you just had to surrender to it. There is such a strong, spiritual component to kindness.”
The couple’s Christian faith is central to their lives, and shaped their perspective throughout the trying circumstances.
Bonita said she began to look forward to seeing what God was going to do in the community as a result of the fire.
“For me, letting go of some of the cherished things has been a bit of a ‘God’ journey, showing me that I’m still too tied to this earth,” explained Richard.
“I can listen back to my own sermons over the past 25 to 30 years and still not get it,” he said of the lessons that can be learned from such an experience.
“Where the Bible talks about God being our provider and our caregiver, those words have very little meaning unless you’ve gone through something,” added Bonita.
“Seriously, I have no stress because my belief now is that it doesn’t matter what you go through. You won’t be conquered if your faith is in the right place.”
“God was the stable line through this — the rock, the carrier — all of those things. But he also used people (to help us), and I don’t think we would have gone through this journey that well without the human interaction we encountered.”