The Gutierrez Family

From a nurse, to a camp counselor, to a wildfire survivor and finally to a mother of twins, Larae Gutierrez’s (’07) journey serves as a beacon of God’s faithfulness through hardship and blessing.

The beginning of Larae’s journey after Bethel was like many graduates. She married Shaun Gutierrez and started working as a nurse. Meanwhile, her husband searched online for an internship opportunity to complete his degree from Western Illinois University. He found Eagle Lake Camp in Colorado Springs, a Christ-centered youth camp for kids ages 7-18, and immediately fell in love. Larae made the move too, taking a job at the camp as a counselor.

It didn’t take long for Larae to realize that God was using Shaun and her to make an impact at the camp. After their first summer working, Shaun was asked to take over as excursions director, while Larae worked part time in the office as an administrative assistant.

At that time, the Gutierrez’s began pursuing foster parenting. In the spring of 2011, they received twin baby girls. It wasn’t long before Larae’s joyful and content lifestyle was interrupted in June of 2012 by the infamous Waldo Canyon Wildfires. What began as a trivial worry lurking behind the mountains, quickly escalated to a terrible crisis as the fires encroached closer. Larae and the rest of the staff at Eagle Lake quickly evacuated camp. After a few days of blind hope and lots of prayer, the fires died down long enough for some workers to survey the damage. What they found was impossible to believe.

“As you’re driving along the dirt road that leads to camp, it was just total devastation, just black, nothing living at all,” says Larae. “And all of a sudden it was green and it was just like this oasis in the midst of total devastation.”

Out of Eagle Lake’s 350 acres of property, only about 80 acres had actually burned in the fires. Seventy firefighters had stayed on the property working night and day to protect the main structures of the camp and, miraculously, no major buildings were burned.

“It’s really quite a miraculous story of God’s protection over that place,” says Larae.

Even though Eagle Lake Camp was forced to shut down for the summer, it still remains a symbol of hope and rebirth to those under God’s protection. The staff at Eagle Lake, along with the rest of the community impacted by The Waldo Canyon Wildfires, is now focusing on repairing the damages and moving forward. Shaun works four days a week rebuilding buildings and coordinating ways to bring volunteers in to help restore the camp before the programs start next spring.

Larae is also working hard in her role as full-time mom. In September, the Gutierrez’s officially adopted their foster girls.

“It’s been a year-and-a-half-long process of all the ups and downs, but praise God He got us through,” said Larae.

God not only provided Larae with a stable job, family and home, but he also used the wildfire disaster as a tool to share the gospel with those who needed it most. Throughout Larae’s life journey, the hardships happen, but the blessings are evident.