Dear Ben and Lauretta,

When the Montecito fire (The Tea Fire) video hit the airwaves here in our town, our first question was – isn’t that near Westmont?  Confirmation didn’t come until the following morning as I drove home after my workout.  KFI’s Bill Handel talked to a reporter on the scene.  She mentioned Westmont College to which Handel replied, “Never heard of it.”

Well, we had. 

They reported that the flames had consumed a dormitory on the edge of the campus. 


That brought back some hard memories for Carolyn and me.  The Paradise Fire of October 2003 went through our town of Valley Center (North San Diego County) consuming homes, nearly burning our church structure and taking two precious lives that fateful weekend.  We had a sense of what the students, faculty and administration must have experienced as flames snarled and snapped out of control through the hills of Montecito.

Brad Elliot’s photos tell the story. 

Carolyn is working at Biola University these days.  She’s admin to the Department of History and Political Science.  When she told me that KFI’s Sunday Morning Jesus (Neil Saavedra) was scheduled to be Chapel Speaker, I switched my day around and joined her.  (Craig Hazen, one of the high profile apologetics guys at Biola introduced him… a powerful talk).  But the real surprise for me came when Todd Pickett, Associated Dean of Spiritual Development approached the microphone with a cell phone to his ear.  On the screen, a photo of Ben appeared introducing him as Campus Pastor at Westmont College.  Todd informed the crowd assembled in the gym (well over a thousand) that the terrible fires in Santa Barbara hit the sister campus.  “A dormitory and fifteen faculty homes are gone,” he announced.  And there was an audible gasp.  Todd then held his cell phone up to the mike, and that’s when we heard the familiar voice of our long time good friend Ben. 


Ben, it meant so much to us as we listened to your pastoral perspective, in your own living room there in Carpenteria filled with students who were unexpected refugees of the Tea Fire.  Todd invited us all to pray.  You read from the Psalms – a message of hope and courage as we look to our God as our refuge. 

Ben and Lauretta, we love you both.  One more time, we see clear evidence that your journey has brought you to Westmont and placed you right where you belong.

Know that Carolyn and I pray for you as you minister to student leaders, faculty and administration as they deal with loss and trauma and fear.

You are not alone.

Following Jesus together,

Ken and Carolyn

Lauretta’s REPLY

From:  Lauretta Patterson 
Date: Sat, 15 Nov 2008 12:51:05 -0800

Subject: RE: We’re with you, Ben and Lauretta

Hey Ken,
Thank you for the great letter. Ben’s up on campus right now with a team of student life people who are calling the students who have lost their rooms. We’ve got some figuring out to do! But the mercy of God is evident– no one hurt or injured. Amazing. Your prayers mean so much. Stay tuned…