Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Daddies fix things. That’s what they do. Especially for their little girls. But, Daddy couldn’t fix this.
Howard Gandy, a West Park deacon, received the kind of call we all dread. On the morning of October 5, 2022, Howard got a frantic call from his daughter, Ashley. Her family’s house was on fire. Howard immediately drove there to find the family safe, but the house completely engulfed in flames. When he saw the total destruction, he knew he couldn’t fix this for his little girl. Soon after, Howard confided in a friend about how he just didn’t know how to help, and the friend encouraged Howard to “Let go and let God.” Howard took those words to heart and was able to see how God orchestrated events to help.
Since the tragic loss of the house and everything in it, this family has experienced our Heavenly Father’s great love and care through the generosity of others, many of whom have never met Ashley, her husband, or the 3 children (ages 11, 7, and 4). Members of Ashley’s small group from Fellowship Church, Ashley and Ryan’s home church, gathered the night of the fire at Howard’s house to pray with the family and have stayed by their sides through this time of disaster. The day of the fire, Ashley’s brother, Richie, and his wife, Carrie, coordinated with friends on social media to help with immediate needs; the next day, Ashley’s Venmo account had over $5,000 in donations. A close friend of Carrie’s had also lost everything in a fire just nine months earlier. This friend has been invaluable to the family to help walk them through the process of insurance, paperwork, etc.
We all know how difficult it is to find places to rent. Someone from the insurance company discovered a potential place to live and was able to talk the landlord into making it available when the realtor didn’t even know of the place as a prospect. Fellowship Church, Ashley and Ryan’s home church, quickly set up ways to help the family after the fire. There has been an outpouring of love and support from the Fellowship congregation as they have participated in contributing, donating, providing three meals a day for at least four weeks, and organizing teams of volunteers to drive all over town to pick up donated items and then move all of it into the rental home. Crews of ladies from Fellowship swept in to clean the place and all of the donated items as well. Everything was cleaned, moved in, and ready to go within one day with the help of so many people loving on the family.
Howard and his wife, Wanda, are members of the HeartWise Equipping Class here at West Park, and that class has rallied support in this time of need. Wanda is in the West Park choir, and many of the members of the choir, orchestra, and worship band have shown great generosity. A registry was created at Target for others to use to purchase items that would help provide basics for the family, and all of the items were purchased. Donations and prayers also poured in from all over the country, including family friends from South Carolina, where Howard lived for 60 years.
One family friend offered a ticket to the memorable UT/Alabama game as a kind gesture to Ryan to help him get his mind off of the fire. Of course, it was certainly an amazing game; but at the end of it all, while the multitude of UT fans were delirious with the incredible win, Ryan went to his knees, not in response to the game’s outcome but in prayer to God about his family’s needs. A stranger saw this and asked him if he was ok, and Ryan told him about the fire. Without hesitation, the stranger’s friend opened his wallet and gave Ryan $600 in cash!
Ryan’s boss rallied the employees at his work to collect $4,500 to use on Christmas. Ashley’s small group also had a Christmas decorations shower for them. When so many items of clothing for the kids were donated, some were not the right sizes for them. Howard took those that did not fit to KARM to donate. While there, a woman who worked there asked about the clothes, and Howard was able to share how others had donated to his daughter’s family and about the devastating fire. The woman pulled out a Ziploc bag of cash and handed it to Howard, telling him to give that to his daughter. Howard said, “I can’t take that.” The woman replied, “You can’t NOT take it. God put us here to help each other.”
Generosity. Trusting God. The importance of sharing life with others. All of this has been clearly displayed through these events. As Wanda said, “We have seen God turn ashes into beauty. God in His mercy moved in the hearts of His people to bring about the miracle our family experienced, all giving not to bring anything to themselves but for the love and concern for a family in need. We are in awe of how God has orchestrated each step of this journey so far and know for certain this is just the beginning. We give God all the glory and stand in awe and wonder of all He has done and will do… TO GOD BE THE GLORY!!”