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‘God will provide’: Preacher loses house in Texas wildfire

‘You can replace things, but lives and souls — you can’t replace those,’ Shawn Davis says.

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CANADIAN, Texas — The sun came up on the Sunday morning after the fire.

“More importantly, the Son arose,” said Shawn Davis, who snapped a photograph of the orange rays lighting up the scorched prairie. “Hope prevails!”

The 55-year-old oil field worker and fill-in preacher for Churches of Christ lost his home last week as the largest wildfire in state history blazed through the Texas Panhandle.

“All I could think about were the lives that could have been lost. You can replace things, but lives and souls — you can’t replace those.”

Despite his family’s lack of insurance to replace the losses, Davis said he trusts in God.

“This probably sounds like a stock answer, but all I could think about were the lives that could have been lost,” he told The Christian Chronicle. “You can replace things, but lives and souls — you can’t replace those.”

The Smokehouse Creek Fire, still only 15 percent contained, has burned over 1 million acres in Texas and Oklahoma, the Texas A&M Forest Service reports. 

The fire has destroyed up to 500 homes and other structures, killed thousands of cattle and caused two deaths, according to state officials.


Related: Trusting God in the fire


“We need to praise God that hundreds of lives weren’t lost,” Davis said.

He, his wife, Cindy, and their two grandchildren — Camden, 14; and Chloe, 10 — escaped the fire last Tuesday afternoon. They brought along eight dogs and a horse pulled in a trailer behind Shawn’s Ford pickup.

“I had been out working and got back from the outskirts of town,” Davis said. “My wife was trying to get stuff ready, and we had the grandkids and all of that. And we didn’t get out as quickly as we probably should have.”

The largest wildfire in state history burns in the Texas Panhandle.

The largest wildfire in state history burns in the Texas Panhandle.

Flames and dirt

The family saw flames crossing a road near their house as they left.

By the time they tried to evacuate, fire and smoke blocked roads out of Canadian — a town of 2,200 about 100 miles northeast of Amarillo.

“So we ended up just nestling down in town,” Davis said. They parked at the Canadian Rodeo Arena “where there was dirt all around us.”

The couple’s daughter, Shane Albin, was in Amarillo. She began texting and calling to check on her parents and children.

Shane’s husband, Bo Albin, serves as a volunteer firefighter. She tracked his movements via her Life360 mobile app. When Bo stopped at her parents’ place, Shane prayed their house might be saved.

But the fire raged.


Related: ‘It’s not the amount … it’s the heart’


He tried to enter the home on his hands and knees to see if he could salvage any belongings, but the smoke proved too much.

“With the equipment that we had, there was no saving anything,” Bo said. “We just had to make a decision to go to the next one and see if we could save it. We were able to save a house up the road.”

The "Believe" sign found in the debris of Shawn and Cindy Davis' home.

The “Believe” sign found in the debris of Shawn and Cindy Davis’ home.

A reason to ‘Believe’

Later, the family found a “Believe” sign that had hung on a living-room wall amid the debris.

It sat atop broken roof tiles.

Davis wrote on Facebook that the discovery was a reminder to him: “The material possessions of this life can come and go quickly. The hope that we have when we believe and obey Jesus Christ can never be burned or taken away!”


Related: Listen to our podcast interview with Shawn Davis


Son Brody, who lives in Edmond, Okla., joined the rest of his family in Canadian — a 200-mile drive — as soon as he learned of the fire.

Almost immediately, a friend, Vic Perrin, offered Shawn and Cindy his late mother’s former residence.

“He said, ‘Her house is fully furnished and has got the utilities on, and everything’s in place — pots and pans and towels and washrags — and you’re welcome to stay there,’” Davis recalled. 

After discussing the possibility with his wife, Davis called Perrin back and asked if they could lease the house for two months.

“No, you can’t lease it,” his friend replied. “But you can stay there as long as you want.”

“So,” Davis told the Chronicle, “I really felt like that was a God thing as well.”

The family before the fire: Pictured from right are Brody Davis, Cindy Davis, Chloe Albin, Shawn Davis, Camden Albin, Bo Albin and Shane Albin.

The family before the fire: Pictured from left are Brody Davis, Cindy Davis, Chloe Albin, Shawn Davis, Camden Albin, Bo Albin and Shane Albin.

‘God works for the good’

Davis grew up in Canadian. He worked in the oil field before earning a Bible degree at Oklahoma Christian University in his mid-20s. 

He preached full time for 10 years but then went through a rough patch in his faith.

“He got burned out, got back in the world and distanced himself from God,” said his friend Kelley Ward, an elder of the Canadian Church of Christ, whose own home burned in the fire. “And I tell you what, he’s been making a big effort to come back.”

Kelley and Ruth Ward stand in front of a bulletin board highlighting the Canadian Church of Christ's mission efforts.

Kelley and Ruth Ward stand in front of a bulletin board highlighting the Canadian Church of Christ’s mission efforts.

As Davis has recommitted to his faith, he has begun serving as a fill-in minister.

Even before the fire, he was set to preach Sunday at the Panhandle Church of Christ, about 75 miles southwest of Canadian. 

He took his planned text from Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

“I had it prepared a week before,” he told a friend on Facebook, “but I had several more illustrations than I anticipated.”

Davis said he doesn’t diminish the material losses from the fire. However, he welcomes the chance to share the Gospel in its aftermath.

“The way we react to these situations and tragedy, I think, gives us an opportunity to let our light shine,” he said. 

“The way we react to these situations and tragedy, I think, gives us an opportunity to let our light shine.”

He indicated he’s not worried about the future, even as he and his wife start from scratch.

“I mean, we’re not in a bind,” he said. “As far as that goes, we’re OK. And there have already been lots of folks who have been very loving and charitable. So we’ll figure out which direction to go, yessir.”

Davis’ confidence does not surprise his daughter.

“I think he knows,” she said, “that God will provide.”

BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. He traveled to Canadian to report this story. Reach him at [email protected].

Filed under: Canadian Church of Christ Canadian Texas disaster disaster recovery National News Oklahoma Christian University Panhandle People Smokehouse Creek Fire Texas texas panhandle Top Stories wildfire wildfires

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