Last November, wildfires ravaged Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, burning nearly 97,000 acres of land and destroying more than 1,600 buildings. The home and horse stables of actress Brenda Epperson were right in the path of this raging inferno. But after the unquenchable flames leaped up to the fence of her family's property... they just stopped.
Epperson, a Hollywood actress, singer and activist, has been following Jesus most of her life. But her faith took a turn, not long after she and her husband moved their three daughters into their California home.
"I remember this sense of, 'You've got to pray over this property, you've got to pray over the land, you've got to pray over the horses, you've got to pray over every inch…'" Brenda says urgently.
This was the perfect home for their family – a beautiful location in the Agoura Hills with land and stables for their daughters' horses. But from the day they moved in, Brenda felt an inexplicable urge to pray, that would go on for a year and a half.
"I would find myself waking up and just walking around the property, standing up on the hills behind me, crying out to God, falling on my knees declaring His love and His promises and professing that this property was a safe haven, this property would be a beacon of light," Brenda says.
Brenda not only prayed, she felt inspired to write Scripture on wooden stakes and put them around the property.
She says emphatically, "I'm pounding stakes in the ground, declaring God's favor, declaring Psalm 91, Isaiah 54:17—no weapon formed against this land will prosper—you know, and I just thought, I'm insane, what is going on?! But I felt so compelled to just speak life over death."
Then came a morning when she woke with an unshakable heaviness in her heart.
"I said, 'Lord, what is this heaviness that I feel?' I went to go get my kids and there it was…a plume of smoke. And all the sudden I went (draws in sharp breath), something's wrong."
On November 8th, 2018, one of the three destructive fires to hit California, the Woolsey Fire, began to consume Los Angeles and Ventura counties, taking lives and hundreds of homes in its wake.
"Turned on the news and the loss and the devastation and the people's homes being burned and the land that was being swallowed up by fire… I knew this was bad," Brenda says.
Right then, Brenda received a frantic call from a friend whose home was in direct line of the fire, and desperately needed a safe place to evacuate her family and 42 animals.
"I ran down to the barn here and I said, 'Honey, we've got to go get our friends!' So we grabbed the trailer, the truck and then I grabbed my truck."
After turning their home into a shelter, the Eppersons began settling everyone in when a nearby boarding stable called looking to relocate their 35 horses upon evacuation.
"I took a deep breath and I thought, 'Okay God, this is happening.'" Brenda states.
That night Brenda couldn't sleep. She hadn't noticed the boarding stable had already brought the horses and left. Then it dawned on her. "I'm going, 'Oh my gosh, they've evacuated…'" she says.
Stirring the house awake, she and her friend immediately drove to the gas station to make sure they had a full tank in their trucks. "It's dark, there's only one light on in the gas station, thank God they left the gas station on, and I hear the police driving, 'Evacuate! Everybody, now, evacuate!' Over the bullhorn and it's just apocalyptic, like the end of the world; So we get back to the house and we look at each other and I say, 'We've got to go.'" Brenda continues, "I can either pray or panic, I can either be in faith or in fear. And I chose prayer and faith and I said, 'Lord even if everything goes, I'm still going to give you glory, I'm still going to trust You.'"
After cramming three horses and as many other animals as they could into their trucks and horse trailer, they hosed the area around the remaining horses and fled to Malibu but had to evacuate again. Eventually, they found safety at a friend's house in Burbank. "We turn on the news and the hills around our home are on fire now. And I said, 'You know what, we're going to turn the TV off and we're going to trust God,'" says Brenda.
After a couple of days, Brenda and her husband decided to venture home. They passed through a police point and went on to their neighborhood. "It was apocalyptic. There was just smoke everywhere, there was spot-fires everywhere, you couldn't breathe, it was dark…"
Then, through the devastation, hope appeared.
Brenda says, "I fell on my knees because the fire had come to our door. And then I looked and I saw how it had burned the entire mountain all the way down to our fence and stopped. And I just sobbed and sobbed and sobbed and thanked God. And I said, 'Lord, I promise that I will be a voice and I will tell others what You have done.'"
As promised Brenda and her husband opened their home to whoever needed help and an encouraging word to victims of the fire. But it didn't stop there.
"This fire, this tragedy, has caused me to no longer be quiet about my faith and about the hard times but also the amazing miracles that God has done in my life. And God really does use things that are meant for evil and for harm, for good and for His glory. And when you're surrounded by fires, surrounded by circumstances, you're surrounded by evil; you don't think you can stand up, you don't think you can rise up, there's no hope in sight…God will come through for you and God will raise you up out the fire. And He will make it even better and more beautiful than what you can imagine."