December 17, 2013
Power in a Name
By Dee Stowe
We were sated by a great dinner, relaxing on the comfy furniture in the living room enjoying a crackling fire. Picture perfect: good food, warm fire, old friends. It was 1978 and my husband Ed and I were visiting Dr. Bob Finley at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia, relishing an evening of conversation and fellowship with a few Christian Aid staff, past and present. I had worked at Christian Aid a few years earlier and had kept up with friends I had made there. It was getting late and we broke up for the evening. Ed and I were out-of-town visitors and so were staying with Dr. Finley overnight.
Before dawn, I got up and heard what sounded like someone chopping wood.
Dr. Finley, Dee and Ed Stowe in front of the burned out house
Dr. Finley must be chopping wood for a morning fire, I thought. And while that might seem like too much exercise for some at 5:00 a.m., Bob Finley was such an energetic man that the idea didn’t seem a bit odd.
I climbed back into bed just as wafts of smoke drifted into the room. Ah, the smell of a newly lit fire. Just as I was dozing off, Ed bolted upright in bed and exclaimed, “Something’s burning!” Before I could even muse aloud that I thought a fire had been built and lit, he had us out in the hallway where we could see the whole living room wall at the end of the house in flames.
“We’ve got to wake up Dr. Finley,” I shouted, and we went to the door of his room, which was at the opposite end of the house and started banging and shouting, “Dr. Finley, get up! The house is on fire!” We heard him say, “Okay, I’m coming!” Assured he was right behind us we left by the front door, the smoke so fierce we felt our way out by memory.
There were no firemen there yet. With neighbors gathering, I assumed someone had called the fire department. This was long before hand carried cell phones.
We stood outside the front door and waited, and waited. I told my husband I had to go in and find Bob and bring him out, but Ed spoke up firmly, “Never go back into a burning building!” By this time, half of the house was engulfed in an unrelenting blaze. “Dr. Finley, come out!” we screamed together. The flames grew hot and I could not bear the thought of Dr. Finley being killed in a house fire, but my husband refused to go back in or allow me to reenter.
I did the only thing I knew to do. I went as close to the entrance as I could without going in and yelled, “Dr. Finley, in the name of Jesus come out now!"
It was only a few seconds before Bob Finley was virtually ejected out the door, his arms loaded with files and papers. He dumped them onto the ground and started to run back into the house. Ed grabbed one of Bob's arms around his elbow and I grabbed the other and held on. After a brief pulling he relaxed and promised he wouldn't go back in and we released him. He told us he had become disoriented and could not find the front door.
Though the firemen finally came, the house was burned to the ground, just a shell remaining. The only thing left unscathed inside the house was a partial wall in the guestroom and the closet, located in the middle of the house and filled with my hanging clothes. No amount of logic could answer that one for me, but I was grateful.
We had not considered the two cars parked in the carport and both were destroyed, each giving off a grand boom when the heat hit the gas tanks. Since the carport shared a wall with the one where the fire started, we would not have been able to reach them even if we had remembered.
Later that day Dr. Finley told us that the cause of the fire was that age-old no- no of putting the old ashes of a previous fire into a cardboard box and leaving the box too close to the house. Bob’s homeowner’s insurance replaced the cars and the house was rebuilt, so, over time, all was put right again.
To be honest, when I demanded that Dr. Finely come out in the name of Jesus, and he immediately bolted out, I was somewhat surprised. I have no doubt that Bob Finley was saved that day by the name of Jesus.
There’s power in that name.