Rising from the ashes
Rising from the ashes
12 July 2019
On a cold night in August last year, Colin and Marcelina Patrick stood out the front of their home and watched helplessly as it burned to the ground.
As the fire engine sirens wailed and lights flashed, the couple clutched each other and their pet bird, which Colin had managed to save from the home.
“We were in complete disbelief,” remembers Colin. His wife Marcelina didn’t have any shoes on, and they realised at that point that she no longer owned any shoes.
“When the house was burning, I was praying, ‘Lord, you give and you take away, and I know you’re going to replace everything that we lost. I don’t know how, but I know you will’,” says Marcelina.
She remembers the prayer vividly, because today, she and Colin, now senior soldiers of the Eastlakes Corps in Newcastle, are a testimony of God’s faithfulness through hardship.
When the Eastlakes Corps Officers, Auxiliary-Lieutenants Bernie and Terri Muendel, visited Colin and Marcelina in hospital later that afternoon, they found the traumatised couple had nothing but the clothes they were wearing, and Colin’s wallet.
They prayed that Colin would be able to find Marcelina’s wallet and some precious jewellery. Colin went back the next day and miraculously found her wallet and the jewellery in a small corner of the home that had escaped the flames. Finding those items gave them a feeling of elation, but it didn’t last.
“The feelings were of despair,” says Colin. “[We were] in shock. I felt guilty for what I’d done ...” A motorcycle enthusiast, Colin explained how the flames had been sparked while he was working on his bike.
He admits now that he was attempting to do something well beyond his expertise and his bike caught fire in the carport, the flames quickly spreading to the home and threatening neighbouring homes in the Lake Macquarie residential caravan park in which they lived.
“We only managed to save the car, ourselves and the bird,” he says. The fire was a bitter blow for the Patricks after a season of hardship. It started with Marcelina suffering a second bout of breast cancer – this time spreading to her bones.
Colin had tried to ‘soldier on’ in support of Marcelina, who was unable to work, but he eventually broke down emotionally and quit his job to recover. The couple sold their house and moved to the nearby caravan park but, even then, the financial strain was such that when the insurance on their new home came up, they decided to let it lapse as they simply couldn’t afford to pay it.
Answer to prayer
Just weeks before the fire, Colin had been praying for a sign that God loved him. It was a prayer that he had prayed for many years. In fact, he first prayed it at the age of 19 when he had been given a lift (while hitchhiking) by a Christian woman who said to Colin: “Do you know how much God loves you?”
It was a turning point that led to Colin accepting Jesus as his Saviour. Fast forward 37 years and just weeks after uttering that prayer again, everything Colin owned had turned to ashes.
The Patricks had been attending Eastlakes Corps for some time and, after hearing of their plight, their church family rallied.
The day after the fire, Aux-Lieutenants Bernie and Terri opened the prayer room at the corps and invited people to lift up the Patricks in prayer.
The prayers flowed, but so did the generosity, with people donating clothing, toiletries, linen and food items.
“The support from the people around us and the people at church was more than I ever expected,” says Colin. “We had a lot of help emotionally, financially ... just the prayers and just people coming around and having a chat to us.”
For Marcelina, her Eastlakes Corps family had always been a special blessing ever since she moved to Australia from the Philippines to marry Colin. “When I moved here to Australia, I didn’t have any family,” she says.
“But there was one time that Warren and Janelle [from Eastlakes Corps] invited us for dinner and Warren said to me, ‘You have family here’ and ‘Tell your mother that we will look after you’. I felt that love from other church members as well.”
Aux-Lieuts Bernie and Terri said in the weeks after the fire that, “one of the comments that Marcelina kept saying when they started to have clothes, furniture and belongings restored was that God was giving everything back, pressed down, shaken together and running over”.
God of miracles
The Patricks’ neighbours in the caravan park also gathered around them. They held a fundraiser and approached the local member of parliament who contacted their insurer about the lapsed home insurance. In the end, the Patricks received a partial payout.
The caravan park management also told them about a fully furnished unit that had been abandoned when its owner moved back to his country of origin.
It needed a bit of work, but they asked Colin and Marcelina if they wanted to keep all the furniture in the unit.
After seeing the unit they decided they would like to live there. When the Eastlakes Corps conducted a special collection for Colin and Marcelina, they were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and generosity.
Colin’s family also pitched in and, with the partial insurance payout, the couple was able to buy the unit outright within six weeks of the fire. “I know that God’s love is real,” says Marcelina. “He did replace [everything]. And much better!”
For Colin, the answer to prayer was personal. When the Patricks moved into their new unit, they discovered that their neighbour was the very same Christian woman who had given Colin a lift all those years ago.
“It’s a miracle,” says Colin. “God has shown me that he loves me – and Marcelina. God has shown me that he does care for me. Everything was restored.”
Three months after the fire, Colin and Marcelina were enrolled as senior soldiers at Eastlakes Corps (pictured right). For Aux-Lieut Terri, the beauty of seeing the corps family love and support the Patricks has been a huge blessing.
She says not only did God restore everything to Colin and Marcelina through the goodness of his people, but he has poured out even more blessing.
“Colin and Marcelina have started a weekly Bible study in the caravan park through the connections they made after the fire happened,” Aux-Lieut Terri says.
“Before the fire it was just Colin and Marcelina who came to Eastlakes, but now there are four households from the park who have joined our corps family. God has just restored everything to them and, more than that, there has been so much benefit to the Kingdom from it.”
The Patricks are also rejoicing that Marcelina’s cancer has stabilised. And Colin has purchased another motorbike. “It’s just a small one, but it’s enough to keep me happy,” he says, adding that he and a mate from Eastlakes Corps have started a Christian motorcycle club called Salvation Angels.
Lauren Martin is a staff writer for Others.