When the Marshall Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Boulder County, Colo., last December, 26 of those belonged to families who attend Louisville’s Ascent Community Church. That includes the home of Lead Pastor Bill Stephens, who’s spent the past few months coming to terms with the losses.
As the congregation gathered for worship yesterday, Stephens said Easter provides the hope and the victory “that a lot of us need” right now. He also used striking visuals from the fire to show how Easter represents new life amid a backdrop of earthly pain.
Bill Stephens: Easter Means Death Won’t Win
When wind-whipped flames swept through 6,000+ acres on December 30, 2021, the Stephens family was out of state and unable to save any possessions. (On Facebook afterward, the pastor wrote, “As it turns out, if you buy a fire safe a couple months before a fire, you should actually put things in it.”)
For the past few months, Bill Stephens and other families in the church and community who lost everything have tried to pick up the pieces. Being “buried” beneath debris and insurance claims has felt overwhelming, the pastor admitted. “If there was ever a year that I have needed life out of death and hope out of being buried, it’s this year,” he said.
During his sermon, Stephens showed an image of daffodils springing up amid the burned remnants of his house. Like those flowers, the Easter message represents hope, rebirth, and new life, he said, even though destruction is still visible in the background. “Death is not gonna win,” he said. “That is Easter.”
Stephens also rolled out a wheelbarrow of debris he’d recently collected from his property. Included were remnants of his family’s 12-foot Christmas tree, which once held about 250 treasured ornaments. Seeing all that loss and sadness in the backdrop of hope is painful, the pastor said, just as Jesus endured the cross and the weight of the world’s sins. But because God so loved the world, we have victory and new life through our Savior—even when day-to-day life “isn’t all daffodils.”
Bill Stephen: God Grants Joy ‘In the Heart of Pain’
Stephens decided that Easter would mark a much-needed turning point in his disaster-recovery process. He had been frequently revisiting the loss—both mentally and physically—but “the other day, I just finally said, ‘You know what Bill? Enough.’”