As one soldiers on in sharing the love of Christ with others in the fire service there is a consistent theme that we encounter. It is the encounter of the wounded and broken soul who has built walls around their heart in defense of the hurt in this world. Their eyes seem to cry out the Psalmist words “My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, but I find no rest.” Psalm 22:2 their mannerisms and behaviors bear the scars of worry and anxiety. Anxiety has damaged their health, disrupted their productivity, causing them to negatively treat others, and has ultimately reduced their ability to trust in God. This is the place where we meet others on the broken road to Christ.
How many of us have worked with or currently work with someone who is cynical, bitter, and unforgiving?
Have we ever worked with someone who seems to know it all but yet continually betrays other’s trust?
How many people have we met that seem cold and will not open up to anyone?
If you have answered yes to any of the following questions you have a great opportunity in front of you in the fire service. Unfortunately, many do more harm to them than good.
Many people, including myself have offered short quick fix answers to someone’s life long problems of pain and struggle. Many say they are willing to help but walk away when it becomes too personal. Many of us become defensive when another is bitter or seems to attack everyone in their path.
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12: 25
The Fire service is in desperate need of encouragement. Disciples of Christ are needed to rise up and “answer us when we call.” (Psalm 20: 9) Men and women are broken, hurting, suffering, and in our traditionalist mentality we think that pride means we should ask for help. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In the fire service, we do nothing alone. Every aspect of our lives is based upon team concepts whether it be stretching a hose line, performing CPR, to taking care of our daily duties; we do these things together! Why should one who saves others who now finds themselves in desperate need of help suffer in silence? Have you been in such a place? Are you there now? Would you like to do something about it? Whether we realize it or not our painful experiences do not invalidate us they have actually prepared us to help others.
As a firefighter, you are given another unique opportunity: To save other firefighters! No one else is more qualified than you right now! No one else will be welcomed into their inner circle of trust. And no one else can understand the things that we see like another firefighter can. As a firefighter, you can break down the walls of bronze that our built around another’s heart through God’s love and mercy. He has divinely prepared us for this position and has been training us all along the roads of our lives. “For He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron” (Psalm 107: 15-16). If you are ready to answer the call of Christ and reach out to your brothers and sisters in need there are many ways to do so.
Have you considered how much training that we as firefighters go through to be prepared to answer the call? How much training have we received to answer the call of the hurting, the broken, and the desperate needs of our brothers and sisters within our own fire houses? The good news is there are many opportunities available to be better equipped to help our brothers and sisters in the fire house. In your spare moments today consider the following training opportunities and learn more about them:
• Critical Incident Stress Management: After completing my CISM training last year, I realized how valuable this training is. It is an honor to serve those in crisis but I consider this training a must for all first responders due to the personal crisis we all face every day. Take the time to learn more about this valuable training and consider serving on a CISM team. “CISM is a method of helping first responders and others who have been involved with events that leave them emotionally and/or physically affected by those incidents. CISM is a process that enables peers to help their peers understand problems that might occur after an event. This process also helps people prepare to continue to perform their services or in some cases return to a normal lifestyle.” LEARN MORE AT http://www.icisf.org/
• Fire Life Safety Initiative 13: We should be as passionate about saving our own so we can save others. There are many more out there who offer free training in this subject and you can visit the NFFF’s website and receive free training on peer support as well. (http://www.everyonegoeshome.com/16-initiatives/13-psychological-support/)
• Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance: Jeff Dill offers several programs that provide invaluable training in saving our own. This training is to directly educate firefighters/ Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel and their families about behavioral health issues such as depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and addictions, as well as firefighter suicides. Please check out his website and the current workshops available: http://ffbha.org/About_Us.html
• Discipleship: “When I was a company officer, one of the joys was to see one of the firefighters on our truck get promoted to captain. This was especially true when I was able to witness the change that began when a rookie firefighter was assigned to our truck. I felt that it was my responsibility to ensure that they were well prepared for their current position and future new positions.” Keith Helms
FCFInternational has developed a Standard Operating Guideline (SOG), Essentials of Biblical Discipleship, to assist members in discipling other first responders. Please read over this document in order to better understand the direction that FCFInternational would like to take with the Discipleship Ministry.
Firefighters and first responders today suffer one of the highest divorce rates in the country. Perhaps your marriage is in trouble or you work with someone who is struggling. Would you like to be able to help yourself or others? Consider learning more about the following resources:
Fire Family Life: Firefighting is a noble profession. And also one that takes an emotional toll sometimes at the expense of marriages and family life. Our Mission is to honor, strengthen, support and encourage fire service marriages and families. With professionalism, integrity, top quality programs and a positive environment, we offer:
• Free Online resources about marriage and fire family life
• The Fire Wife Sisterhood – A private wives support community
• Rescue My Marriage program (currently only for wives)
• Events – live and virtual including our exclusive couples weekend, Flame Fest
Learn more at www.firefighterwife.com
Fellowship of Christian Firefighters International Marriage Retreat:
How much is your marriage worth to you? The fire service can be a difficult place to serve and could cost you your marriage. FCFInternational will once again be holding a marriage retreat to help you thrive in your marriage. Friday September 18- Sunday September 20 we will be learning how to treat our spouses like a CHIEF. Reserve your room today for only $98.99 at the Magnuson Hotel in Clarksville, Virginia. Call 434-374-5023 and tell them you are with the Fellowship of Christian Firefighters International to get your discounted rate. The rest is on us. Learn more at http://www.fellowshipofchristianfirefighters.com/index.cfm?section=1
The Weekend to Remember Get-Away
Life has daily challenges such as jobs, kids, activities, errands, and life have a way of overwhelming a marriage. Before you know it, other things are taking more priority above what’s most important: your spouse and family. FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway is your chance to make a change. Learn more at: http://www.familylife.com/wtrfall14?gclid=Cj0KEQjwhuqrBRCFuPz4ipOx5JIBEiQAZJ7F-gmxH9SAlyM7KORTajcLZ0HSrhuWczShqlNUh9JVV8IaAv-t8P8HAQ
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries:
In 2010, God placed a burden upon my heart. I learned through this experience that the fire service isn’t a spiritual detriment but a spiritual opportunity. Through many years of talking with firefighters, counseling, encouraging, and simply being there for one another I learned that there is a common theme that unites us all: brokenness. We as first responders, are not superhuman but we perform the extraordinary. Yet when the fires of life touch our own lives we often don’t apply our training to these situations. The statistics are overwhelming. Firefighters suffer some of the highest rates of suicide, divorce, substance abuse and alcoholism, and suffer from PTSD, and anxiety and depression. We the rescuer are in need of rescuing but many of us refuse to ask for help. The purpose of Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries is to restore the hearts of firefighters/first responders with the hope of Jesus Christ. Our mission is to provide the critically needed resources that many of us either refuse to seek or don’t know how to ask for help. This mission is teach, empower, and equip our fellow firefighters and first responders with the skills, the discernment, and show them that the greatest save they could ever make may be right beside them within their own fire house or their own home. We offer daily encouragement through our website, Facebook, twitter, and an email subscription. We offer a Firefighter MAY-DAY page that lists resources such as the ones mentioned above specifically for those in emergency services. Our goal is to encourage firefighters that may be in a dark place. We want them to know that they are not alone and we refuse to ignore the increasing trend of rising behavioral health incidents. Please visit our website at www.bringingbackbrotherhood.org for more information or contact myself personally as there is so much more we can do together.
Keep the Faith and remember the greatest save you may every make may be your own life or your fellow firefighters in the fire house. Begin practicing the skills of a firefighter size-up today. Watch for the cues and clues of a ‘working fire’ within your fellow firefighter’s lives. Don’t crawl past a fire! Let’s extinguish the flames of these issues together.
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries