Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Ps. 121:4
On Wednesday evening, 7 August 2019, shortly before 7PM, residents of the LTS campus living in and around Schulz House (named after Rev. Georg Schulz, first bishop of the Lutheran Church of Southern Africa) noticed a sudden incursion of water through the ceiling of the main living room and one of the bedrooms. There are currently two married theology students living in Schulz House with their families. These families had retired for the evening when the calm was suddenly interrupted by large amounts of water soaking through the ceiling. The water heater for Schulz House is located above the ceiling, and it appears that the heater had sprung a leak. Water began cascading into the rooms below as the students scrambled to get the water supply shut off. Living in the guest room just across from the house, visiting instructor Rev. Michael Roth from St. Joseph, MI in the USA went over to help immediately when he noticed the commotion. The problem of the leaking water heater was exacerbated by the fact that the electrical wiring of Schulz House was in need of repairs and on the seminary’s to-do list for imminent maintenance. The combination of gushing water and aging wiring caused the power in the building to trip the fuses (breakers), thus interrupting the power supply. At the same time, the wiring began to short out. Soon, a smell of smoldering electrics began to permeate the building as well.
Student representative Dumisani Mokobedi decided to alert the fire and emergency services of the City of Tshwane. At the same time, LTS faculty members were contacted and informed of the problem. The water supply was quickly shut off, though a great deal of water had already leaked through the ceiling. Meanwhile, however, students and guests detected a glow through the eaves of the roof – it appeared that an electrical fire had begun to burn the roof joists above the waterlogged ceiling. The building was immediately evacuated as smoke emanated from the roof of Schulz House.
The city’s fire department reacted with commendable haste. They promptly dispatched fire trucks and emergency personnel to the LTS campus. Within a few minutes, Arcadia street was blocked off and firefighters ran hoses to the scene. By this time, a fire could be seen in the attic of Schulz House. After turning off the power supply, firefighters quickly broke through the waterlogged ceiling and directed their nozzles at the flames. In this way, the fire was prevented from spreading and soon extinguished. After confirming that the danger was over and the fire was out completely, the firefighters departed as quickly as they had come.
What remained was – in short – a mess. It was immediately obvious that the house had suffered considerable damage and was now uninhabitable. The two students – Pierre Shukuru (hailing from Harrismith, South Africa and with roots in the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Chernet Arifecho (from Ethiopia) – and their families were able to find other rooms on campus for the night, and neither they nor their loved ones sustained any injuries or health impairments. Thanks be to God, who keeps His own and neither slumbers nor sleeps! The same cannot be said for the property of the students, however. Waterlogged furniture and effects were strewn across the rooms, covered by soggy ceiling boards and bits of plaster. Clothing and personal items were soaked, and a strong smell of smoke permeated the rooms and remaining furniture. The immediate needs were soon taken care of as the seminary community pulled together and provided assistance wherever possible, some helping to provide bedding, others helping to take care of frightened children, and yet others providing moral support. The seminary community gathered for a reading of Psalm 121 and for prayer next to Schulz House, giving thanks to the Lord God for His protection and care of life and limb. Then the next immediate problem for the night presented itself: The fire and water problems in Schulz House had also impaired the power supply to the newly renovated guest rooms, meaning that Rev. Roth was now without power and water as well. Alternative accommodation was soon found for the night, but the power and water supply to the guest house will need to be restored as soon as possible.
The exact cause of the fire is not yet known and must still be ascertained. A safety inspector from the fire department is expected during the course of day, as are assessors from teh insurance company. Further details will be provided soon. As for the extent of damage and the need for repairs, this is also being investigated at present.
Undaunted by the events of the night, the seminary students and their visiting professors are back in class today, and mop-up operations are underway.
Help would be appreciated in the form of donations for repairs, of clothing and personal items for the two student families, and of course in the form of prayers to the Lord God. If you would like to give a donation in the US, a number of options are available. Our good friends and partners in Christ at the Saint Philip Lutheran Mission Society graciously facilitate donations and guarantee that 100% of any donated funds are used for the intended purpose.
You may use most bank cards to make a donation via PayPal, or you can use Amazon Smile, direct your Thrivent Choice Dollars, or make checks payable to Saint Philip Lutheran Mission Society and send them to:
Saint Philip Lutheran Mission Society
c/o Rev. Anthony Oliphant, Redeemer Lutheran Church
345 S Kenilworth Ave.
Elmhurst, IL 60126
If you would prefer to wire funds directly to the LTS, our South African bank account details are as follows:
Account type: Current account
Account number: 860510030
Branch Code: 632005
Swift Code: ABSA ZA JJ
Bank Address: ABSA Enterprise Business, Campus Building, 1102 Burnett Street, Hatfield, 0083 South Africa