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Friday, 12 August 2016

Madeira Fire: A View from Above

As I write this I am on holiday in Madeira, which sadly has made international news in the last few days because of the serious forest fires which have destroyed not only countryside areas but part of the largest town, Funchal. Now that the fires are subsiding, tourists are being encouraged to resume their gawping so today we went to Funchal and rode the cable car to visit the tropical gardens.

The fifteen minute ride up the hill was a shocking experience for as we looked down we could see the blackened ruins of homes recently destroyed. The path of the fire, like so many negative experiences of life, defied logic - at one point we hovered over a house that seemed perfectly intact and could see a family sweeping the yard even though the entire neighbourhood around them was gone. It is an image that will stay with me for a long time and which, of course, can be read in many ways. Perhaps we might even see ourselves in this - the world around us seems a crazy, mad place but in our homes and our churches we just keep sweeping up and responding to crises by putting the kettle on. We feel inadequate but what else can we do?

The tropical gardens were as beautiful as people say but there was an awkward, muted feel among the visitors and the smell of smoke was a constant reminder of the destruction around us - no doubt the family down the hill will be suffering this for some time to come. Awkward as it was to be at the gardens, there was some solace in finding beauty amidst all the recent destruction and perhaps in some way the same is true for the family sweeping the yard. Today they swept the yard which looked a little crazy from above but they can see how this neighbourhood used to look; how it can look again if people sweep, and plant and build.

As we think of our world, this Spaceship Earth, may we learn a lesson from the Funchal family sweeping the yard - may we see the beautiful potential in ourselves, our families, and our neighbourhoods and sweep and plant and build to make it so.

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