There’s a lot of unknowns about Hurricane Florence. It’s pretty certain that North Carolina is going to receive a direct hit. The eastern panhandle of West Virginia may receive historic rainfall and subsequent flooding. I pray not. But last night I was reminded that there are a group of men and women who are always there, ready to risk their lives for you. They are the men and women of your local fire company. Last night, fire chief Colby Simpson and I took an ambulance back to Fountain that the Short Gap Volunteer Fire Company had been using while theirs was being worked on. I drove the ambulance down and rode back with Colby. He had received a call from the governor’s office asking the SGVFC to make plans for the possibility of historic flooding. He was talking over scenarios and possibilities. The SGVFC will open as an emergency shelter. Some of the money that you have donated to the fire company through the road drives, donation letters, etc. has gone to get a donated generator running. Medical Chief Lauren Trenter called me last night to check on what food the church may have available through the food pantry to feed people who are housed at the fire hall. Not only are these people willing to get up in the middle of the night to come to your home with the ambulance or fire truck, but they are always preparing behind the scenes to be ready for whatever their community needs.
I do not normally share things people tell me when we are alone. But last night on the ride back from Fountain Colby told me that he could not bear the thought of sending one of the people under his charge into a danger that might lead to death from high water and if that situation comes up, he would want to be the one to lose his life. This is not particular to Colby. Everett Metheny was chief there for about 25 years and I guarantee you that Everett felt the same way. Lauren feels the same was as medical chief of department 34. This band of brothers and sisters are each one willing to lay down their lives for each other. Do they fight in meetings? Yes. Do they bicker about leaving trash in the ambulance and not filling supplies? Uhhh…. what do you think? But when it comes down to it, each one relies on the other on the scene. They want to bring each one home on every emergency call. And God forbid if they were to lose one, almost every one of them would wish it to be themselves.
Fresh on my mind is this writing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that I read recently. He wrote in A Testament to Freedom:
Christianity is one great people composed of persons of every country in concord with their faith and their love because there is One God, One Lord, One Spirit, One Hope. That is the marvelous mystery of the people of God. Above all differences of race, nationality, and custom, there is an invisible community of the children of God. There each one prays for the others, be he or she American or German or African; here each one loves the other without reservation.
Sometimes I tell the people at the fire department I wish the church was more like them in their sacrificial love and service. Bonhoeffer nails it, the church is called to be. Sometimes I wish the fire company was more like the church in less coarse language, and in having their focus more on Christ. But on this 9/11, I count myself blessed to be part of both groups. My prayer today is that more people from churches across the country would volunteer at their local volunteer fire companies, even if you can never go fight fires. The servants of the Lord Jesus Christ can learn something from their local volunteer fire companies.
(an acknowledgement: Wesley Chapel currently has many associate members and an honorary member of the Short Gap Volunteer Fire Company and and has been a great supporter of the fire company over the years.)