6. The Fire That Shocked the Nation in Ji County, Tianjin City
Chen Yao, Tianjin
The Laide building was one of Ji County’s biggest shopping centers. June 30, 2012 was a Saturday, and Laide was holding a promotion, so there were huge numbers of customers. Some time after 3:00 that afternoon, the building suddenly caught fire. The boss, afraid that in the chaos customers would take things or not pay, closed and shuttered the main entrance on level one, and drove customers to the second and third floors. What hadn’t been anticipated was that the fire grew fiercer and fiercer, eventually becoming completely uncontrollable. The electricity across the whole building went out. From the first floor to the fourth, the lifts were out of order, and the closed entrance on the first floor couldn’t be opened. Black smoke rolled through the whole building, sparks flew up into the air. Huge flames leapt from every window, the smoke covered the county, the air was choking for people several hundred meters away. At the time many of the people trapped above the third floor chose to flee by jumping from the building, and some died where they fell, a horrible sight.
Although the fire department was not far from the building, only ten minutes walk, there was about 25 minutes between the call for help and the fire trucks arriving. The rescue was already delayed. The rescuers extended a ladder up to the third floor, but only rescued seven or eight people before the fire made the ladder scorching hot, so the last of them fell from the ladder and died on the spot. And inside many more trapped people waved frantically from the windows calling for help, but before long there was not a waving hand to be seen …
The great fire burned from 3:30 that afternoon right through to 9:00 that night. There were more than three hundred people burned to death inside (the exact number is still being determined, but the CCP government reported only 10). There was someone who rang their families at three o’clock, but when their family members rang back at five no one answered. One family of seven had gone to Laide to shop together, and the entire family died in the fire. … There are so many tragic stories.
Right when the fire started, some people put this tragedy online, and instantly “Fire at Laide” shook Ji County and shocked the nation. The people of Ji County were thrown into a panic, and they were in an atmosphere of horror; many people rushed to find their own family members.
Although the disaster frightened and hurt the common people, as for brothers and sisters with faith in Almighty God, many discovered God’s great salvation and protection in this disaster, and saw the miraculous deeds of God. Sister Gao and her mother had newly received God’s work of the last days in June 2012. In this fire they saw the deeds of God, and became more certain about God’s new work. The elder sister, Gao’s mother, is 73 this year, and has some trouble walking. She walks with a stick, but normally she would rarely fall. On the day of June 29, Gao’s mother suddenly fell on flat ground. Although she didn’t break any bones, just receiving a serious bruise, she couldn’t take care of herself, and needed sister Gao by her bedside. The next day (the day of the fire), another sister gave sister Gao a call and said she’d set her heart on a pair of pants in Laide, asking sister Gao to come with her to buy them. Sister Gao said: “My mother needs someone to take care of her at the moment, so I need to stay with her. You’ll have to go on your own!” This friend had asked for sister Gao’s help before, and she’d never refused. But this time because her mother needed care, she refused the request of her good friend.
Only when she heard that there had been a fire at Laide did sister Gao suddenly realize: All along she had unknowingly been under God’s protection. God had through her mother’s infirmity blocked her path. If she had gone with her friend to the shopping center, she would surely have died in the fire. God used His special ways to protect her life, God is truly wonderful! Even more unexpected, the evening after the fire sister Gao’s mother could get out of bed and walk. Later, through communion and fellowship Gao’s elderly mother understood God’s good intention, saying: “Although I suffered a bit of a bump, God used my infirmity to save my daughter. Thank Almighty God!”
Sister Gao added that the good friend who had invited her to Laide that day (who also believed in Almighty God) also received God’s miraculous protection. Seeing that sister Gao wouldn’t go, the friend had phoned her husband, to get him to go with her to buy the pants she’d set her heart on. At around 2:30 that afternoon her husband got home and tried to hurry her along, but she’d suddenly lost her sense of urgency, and told him: “Maybe later.” At three o’clock, her husband asked her again, and again she told him to wait a little. The third time he asked, this sister finally drove with him to Laide. Halfway there they saw the black smoke coming from the direction of Laide, and asking, found out that the shopping center had caught fire. The sister couldn’t contain herself and said: “Thank God for protecting me!” At the same time she realized that her procrastination had its origins in the mastery of God, and was not the product of her own volition.
God’s power is omnipresent, God’s wisdom is beyond mortal comprehension. Although we often forget God in our daily lives, God watches over us always, protecting us, at our side, never leaving us. If we believe in God, when disaster comes, God will in all kinds of ways save us and deliver us from disaster. On the day of the fire, many brothers and sisters saw the deeds of God. A sister was at Laide buying things, and was called out by a phone call to do something right at the critical moment, with the fire right behind her. Another sister was on her way out of her building going to Laide, and suddenly felt her stomach ache, so much that she turned straight back, and didn’t go, and thus avoided disaster. … Clearly, in disaster only God is our true refuge, our strong tower, because God has said: “I am mankind’s only salvation. I am mankind’s only hope and even more, I am He on whom the existence of all mankind rests. Without Me, mankind will immediately become stagnant. Without Me, mankind will suffer catastrophe and be trod upon by all manner of ghosts…. The disaster is brought down by Me and of course orchestrated by Me. If you cannot work for good in My presence, then you will not escape suffering the disaster” (“You Ought to Do Enough Good Deeds to Prepare for Your Destination” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
A fire has enlightened us: Even if someone’s pockets are full of money, they are celebrated, they can enjoy a luxurious modern lifestyle, and they are looked up to and envied, in the face of disaster all this crumbles. In the fire, among those who could not bear the heat of the flames and lost their lives leaping from the building, among those whose lives ended in hopelessness as they waved frantically at the windows, some had money and status, some were beautiful and finely dressed, some had family with them…. However, as the fire rose, burning on all sides, nothing they had could save them from those tongues of flame. It is as the words of God: “Those living outside My word, fleeing the suffering of trial, are they not drifting through the world? They are akin to autumn leaves fluttering here and there with no place to rest, much less My word of consolation. Although My chastisement and refinement follow them not, are they not the beggars, floating around, that wander the streets outside the kingdom of heaven? Is the world really your place of rest?” (“What a Real Man Means” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
Dearest brothers and sisters, the Ji County fire is past, but with God’s permission, and with God’s warning and reminder to us. At the same time, it is God’s loving salvation for us. I would that we contemplate it and by it know God’s good intention, putting more time and effort into seeking truth, walking the right path that God guides our lives along. Only in this way can we receive God’s promise and blessings. At the same time, let it be that God moves our spirits, letting us save more souls among these frequent calamities, bringing comfort to the distressed and troubled heart of God.