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Faith through fire

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
May 28, 2010 at 12:28 a.m.

The Rev. Benford Friar and his family are staying at the Best Western in Cuero, after their house was destroyed in a fire. Friar preaches at Faith Cathedral in Cuero.

HOW TO HELP

WHAT: Benefit fellowship for Dr. V. Benford Friar and family

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: John Wesley United Methodist Church, 8300 N. Zac Lentz Parkway, Victoria

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Pastor Garry Roberts at 361-655-4818 or Pastor Gary Brown at 361-385-0209. The Friar family also has an account set up at First Victoria Bank called the Friar Family Benefit Fund. Anyone wishing to donate can visit any bank and do so.

CUERO - When the Rev. Dr. V. Benford Friar asked God to use his family as an encouragement to others, he didn't expect to lose his home in the process.

"We prayed that God would use us to be a beacon light in the community not knowing that He would use a fire to test us with trouble," Friar said. "You've got to be really careful in what you pray for."

A late-night fire on April 30 sent Benford and his three sons running for their lives moments before their home on 213 Miltenberger Road was engulfed in the blaze.

"I was just shocked," said LeVaughn Benford, the 18-year-old track star who alerted the family when he smelled smoke in the home that night. "I never would've thought it would've happened to us, and I was also just thankful that everybody was OK."

The fire, which was investigated by the state fire marshal, was eventually labeled undetermined, said Butch Tolbert with the Cuero Fire Department.

"It was devastating for them," said Leah Friar, Benford's wife. "Losing everything that was safe and sacred. It's been a process. They know what the source of strength is from, and they can rely on that."

A few weeks later, the youngest of the Friar children, Leighton, 4, and Lukas, 9, were calm as their parents spoke candidly about their struggles as a family in their temporary home at the Best Western Inn in Cuero.

In the days following the fire, the family struggled to regroup. The blaze destroyed family photos, the Friars' library, the children's toys, electronics and a family car.

The blaze burned a gaping hole in the garage, and the smell of smoke still lingers near the building.

"It is like a ghost," Benford Friar said. "Like something you would see in a horror movie looking at our house."

Leah Benford was out of town visiting her sick mother when she heard the news.

"Sheer horror," she said, remembering the night. "Physically sick because of the nature the crisis that was going on here. Not being able to help my husband, not being able to help my children . physically ill."

Leah Friar returned to Cuero the next day.

The two youngest sons didn't go to school the next day, but LeVaughn chose differently.

"I took it like another normal day. In my mind, it just gave me more motivation for regionals. I have something to run for," he said. "I was running for my family."

The fire brought a test of faith as the family found themselves in a position of helplessness.

"In the ministry you give. That's your calling," Leah Friar said. "And now you're in a position where you need (God), and there's nothing you can do on your own to solve this."

But they never questioned God.

"We've never questioned God, Benford Friar said. "We have said, 'God show us you're purposed in this where we can bless someone else out of this.' We know that this too shall pass."

The family continues to pray together and takes each day as it comes.

LeVaughn, who is considering college at seven different universities, was listed to graduate Friday night.

The younger two children will be out of school.

Leah Friar, who is finishing a master's program at the University of Houston-Victoria, is hoping for a job in the Victoria school district.

Leah Friar and the children will leave in the summer to live with family in Florida as Benford Friar hopes to rebuild the home without insurance. He calls it the "Nehemiah Project," after a biblical prophet who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days.

Although Benford Friar is not sure about the timeline of the project, he's sure in his choice to do so.

"I don't know how many days, but I do know that is what God gave me," he said.

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