DAYTON, Tenn. – A world-renowned paleontologist demonstrates his faith through time of hardship and trial. When all of his research and study burned down in a blaze of fire with the Center for Origins Research and Education, Kurt Wise lost all hope for his professional goals and ambitions.
"I said, 'God, if you've taken everything, there's no possible way I can start over again,'" he recalled. "'I'm willing to go wherever you want me to go, whatever that happens to be.'
The Feb 6, 2000 fire caused more than $10 million in damages to the administration building at Bryan College in Dayton Tenn. However, he realized after three years of effort that the fire brought many unseen blessings.
"I feel that was part of the function of that fire," added Wise, who said it stemmed from an electrical problem in the administration building. "I had been holding on to things too much. This was his way of having me lay my Isaac out on the altar. I came to the point where I was willing to give it all up. Then he began to give it back."
The insurance company told him to consider everything a total loss, but Wise found that most of his valuable research slides could be salvaged. After months of help from students, colleagues and family, Wise recovered approximately 95 percent of 5,000 damaged slides and 80 percent of his files.
"I'm actually inclined to think it was because of the prayers of people who intervened that [so much] was restored," he said. "I think it's miraculous."
Additional blessings came in the form of donations. Wise said the donations nearly matched the need that the insurance did not cover. Many people offered their condolences to the paleontologist, who holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree from Harvard. The donation that touched him the most came from an anti-creationist scientist who used to ridicule young-earth theorists. Through the fire, the two scientists were able to share a close bond despite their differences.
"He called me two days after the fire," Wise said. "When I asked how he was doing, he said, 'Not so good.' He had cancer and judging by his description, I could tell it was pretty advanced. "That was the first time I really cried after the fire -- when I realized here was this guy, dying, and he's calling me up to offer his condolences. I received a box of books from him that arrived after he died. He sent them out the last week of his life."
To Wise, the setbacks caused by the fire are minimal in comparison to the lessons he learned. In the aftermath of the disaster, Wise learned that he had been putting too much value on his research and possessions.
"This didn't necessarily strengthen my belief in God, but it knocked me down and gave me a better understanding of myself," Wise said. "I'm less important in the grand scheme of things than I thought I was."
Ultimately Wise learned to recognize that what he has is not his; even his children are gifts from God, not personal possessions. He also learned to ask other for help; many of those who helped during his recovery were blessed, said Wise. "We're often reluctant to share a need and others can't be blessed in helping.”
Above all, Wise learned to recognize the everyday miracles God performs in his life. "If we learn to recognize those things outside of disasters, we may have less of them to deal with," Wise said. "We won't have so many lessons to learn."
By Pauline J.