In the early hours of Easter Monday, Pastor Brendan Pratt, Australian Union Conference (AUC) ministerial secretary, his wife Amanda Bews, AUC resource development coordinator, and their three sons, Brad (19), Ben (17) and James (14), lost their house in a fire. Here’s an account of the devastating incident and its aftermath.
Emergency services were called to the family property at Wandin North (Victoria) at 12:45am after the family was awakened by a smoke alarm.
Brendan and his son, Ben, opened their bedroom doors at the same time to see their house filling with smoke and flames coming up from the lower level. As they yelled, “Fire!”, the family quickly escaped to the front garden. Thinking everyone was out of the house, they soon realised James was not with them.
Brendan ran back into the house and entered James’ bedroom, which had now completely filled with smoke. Flames were coming through the heater vents. James had slept through the commotion, so his father quickly woke him and guided him out of the house.
“People say it happens fast, but I didn’t realise how fast,” explained Brendan. “By that stage the fire engines, police and ambulance had already come.”
Thankfully the family was unharmed, but sadly they lost their family pets. Their cat Chippy, who Brendan tried to save, jumped out of his arms, and all the family’s reptiles including Cuddles, a 14-year-old diamond python, and Bluey, a 16-year-old blue-tongued lizard, died in the blaze.
Many people will know that Brendan and his family love reptiles and these animals were very much a part of the family, so the loss has hit them hard.
Since the fire, the family has been busy with insurance claims, the bank, forensic fire investigators and trying to make life as normal as possible. Although it would be easy to complain in this situation, when speaking with Amanda and Brendan all they could do was focus on the amazing people supporting them during this difficult time.
“People are really, really kind,” said Amanda. “They have sent nice messages and are really empathetic. We found that when we were in need, people we hardly knew invited us into their house and sat us down at their table in the middle of the night and looked after us.”
“There are beautiful people everywhere,” added Brendan. “Our neighbours are beautiful people, the support from work and Edinburgh College has been excellent. The school principal even came to our place at 1:30am to give me some pants, as I was out in the street in my boxers!”
The local community have also been very helpful to the family: the school have provided the children with uniforms, bags, textbooks and Chromebooks; friends have provided class notes to Ben, who is currently undergoing his VCE; and Pastor Tony Knight and his wife have opened their doors to the family so they are able to stay close to the school, work and the children’s friends.
They have also seen the generosity of strangers, paying for their clothes and giving them discounts as they purchase necessities at local shops.
Amanda and Brendan are used to providing help and assisting others, so they were embarrassed when they found out there was a GoFundMe page created to help and assist them. “As I say, there are beautiful people everywhere and it inspires me to make more of a contribution to my community because my community, whether that be school, church or my actual neighbourhood, are just really good people,” said Brendan.
On the Sabbath afternoon before this terrible event, the family held a Bible study on joy at their house, where Paul counts all things as joy, even in suffering. They discussed Habakkuk 3:17,18: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.”
As the family go through this experience, they are reminded of this Bible study and can testify that although it is easy to say that we should rejoice in God in all situations, at times this is hard to do.
“In Romans 5 Paul says suffering brings strength. I am not sure how that’s working at the moment,” admits Brendan, “I am always preaching that everything, absolutely everything we own belongs to God and I need to remember that. In the end it is just stuff, we liked our stuff, but no-one was hurt and that is the important thing.”
Even though it is a difficult time for the family, they remain positive, and it is a testament to their faith in God and their attributes of being humble, kind, generous and willing to live a life for God.
Please continue to uphold Pastor Pratt, his wife Amanda and their three sons in prayer as they strive for normality and rebuild.
If you would like to show financial support to the family, please visit their GoFundMe page or you can do a bank transfer to the Australian Union Conference account.
Name: SDA Church (AUC) Ltd
BSB: 033 382