In spite of tragedy at holidays, family finds faith

By Nikole Dugger

   Tuesday morning, Lorie Tester left her residence at 177 Hilton Hill Road to tend to routine errands. When she returned around noon, she found her family's mobile home engulfed in flames.
   Several neighbors had alerted authorities, and various area fire departments arrived on the scene. Despite tremendous effort from members of the Stony Creek, Central, and Watauga Volunteer Fire Departments, the home was considered a complete loss.
   The fire, believed to have been ignited by a possible microwave surge, claimed all of the family's material possessions.
   Devastation set in for Lorie when she informed her children, Sandy and Christopher, and her husband, Randy, that the home they had rented since 1995 was gone.
   The family returned to the site on Wednesday to salvage the remains of their home. It was at this time that a ray of light shone down on an otherwise cloudy experience.
   Sandy Tester had given her father a Bible in August, and the sophomore at Milligan College was eager to find the gift amongst the rubble. Everything had been destroyed in the living room where the book was kept. However, among the charred remains of the family's belongings, the Bible was recovered.
   "The covers were burnt, but the word of the Lord was not burnt a bit," Lorie Tester said.
   Sandy also kept a poster of the Ten Commandments in their home; amidst complete destruction, the poster's edges were charred, but the text itself was left unscathed.
   The family said these occurrences helped them to find solace and comfort in their belief that the Lord is going to take care of them.
   Tuesday's tragedy has set the stage for a bittersweet holiday season for the family. Mrs. Tester had completed her shopping early this year. All of the gifts, many of them homemade, were claimed by the fire.
   Nevertheless, the Testers are optimistic. Lorie said she feels that the experience has allowed the family to realize "the real meaning of Christmas." She said the family's being safe and together is perhaps the most important gift of all.
   The Testers now hope to rent another home and are thankful for the incredible support they have received from the community. Students at Ashley Academy, where Sandy Tester is employed, made cards for the family. Members of the Tester's church community, Church of the Living Savior, have rallied support during their time of need.
   The American Red Cross also provided the Testers with accommodations at the Comfort Inn following the tragedy.
   "Everybody has been so great in helping us. We thank each and everyone," Tester said.