My first assignment after boot camp, was the fire station at the USCG Training Center- Cape May N.J. One might wonder how people were chosen for those positions in 1981? For Mickey Conboy and me, it was because of our years as volunteer firefighters, Mickey in Dumont N.J. and me at Station 1 in Chester. I do not know if that is the greatest criteria for choosing firefighters, but our years as volunteers and our passion for the fire service obviously spoke louder than we did. For Mickey and me both, this time and experience led to two great careers in two totally different departments. For Mickey, his dream was to ride Rescue 3 with NYFD. Well, not only does he ride it, but is a lieutenant on Rescue 3, Big Blue, in the Bronx. I, on the other hand, had the privilege of riding engines, ladders, and medics for CF&EMS. All of this was made possible, I believe, because of our volunteer experience.
Supporting my family has always been important to me, but getting rich monetarily has never been in the cards. My journey has had many turns. To say that the Lord has directed my steps is an understatement. He has taken me into, gotten me through, and rescued me from many of the things that I have experienced in my life. When I got off course, He brought me back. When I answered my call to ministry, the one thing that I heard from the Lord was, “go to school.” I have an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree; all that took me until 50 years of age to obtain. College was helpful, but was only a piece. What I find funny is that there are some things that I am held back from today because of a lack of education. I believe that four years in the Coast Guard, thirty-four years riding fire apparatus, and twelve years pastoring the same church should matter, but does it?
For years, I served as the medical director for our state convention’s student camp, that was held at Liberty University. My medical certification was Nationally Registered Paramedic, and my pay was zero. I had a great medical team and a good relationship with Lynchburg Fire & EMS, Liberty Police, Light Medical, as well as Lynchburg General Hospital. It was a difficult sell to some in the profession because medical directors were normally doctors. Sometimes your budget mandates your recruitment. The point is that we took care of a lot of youth and youth leaders over the years. Things became complicated when the convention decided to start paying me. This was the point where things changed and the responsibility was placed on youth leaders.
I do many things that I am not compensated monetarily for; three, in particular, are write this column, serve as a fire department chaplain and serve as a mobilizer for sub-Saharan Africa for our state convention. The question is, does the fact that a person is or is not compensated for something make a position more or less important? I say no. If the Lord is directing our steps, then where He leads should be enough for me. As many of you know, I go to Africa regularly since retiring, another place that I believe that the Lord has led me to. I know that I go as an ambassador for Christ, but when I am standing there talking to a school principal or a government leader, I realize that I am an ambassador for the United States of America as well. The members of our team and I may be the only Americans that the people where we go will ever meet. Does that matter? I say it does.
My point for writing this article is to encourage you on your journey. When you believe that what you are doing does not matter, know that it truly does. Not getting paid for something makes it no less important. The world measures success on a much different scale. In fact, the people closest to you might measure success differently than you do. If you believe that something matters, then go all in. Do not let anyone or anything stop you from doing all that God is leading you to do.