I have to start this on April 6, 1996. I was on duty at Fire Station No. 2, and it was spitting snow that day. The phone ringing at a fire station was as normal as going to the store for meals. This day would change my life forever. The phone rang, and I heard on the speaker that I had a phone call. It was my battalion chief, who had told the firefighter who had answered the call to stay close to me, as he delivered the message. His message was that something had happened to my father and that I needed to call home immediately. I was with my dad when he had the first heart attack at home. We took him to Fire Station 1, and he did well. The second No. 2 was one year to-the-day later. I was on duty at No. 8 when that call came. I arrived at my mom’s about the time that the ambulance was about to leave, again he did well. eight years later, on this snowy April Saturday, he did not do well. It was a sudden death event. This might sound strange, but I had run from my call to ministry for 12 years. No more running, this event stopped me in my tracks, and I said, yes Lord. That decision sent me back to school from age 36 to age 50, an educational plan that I do not recommend to anyone.
As I think about the evolution of just the title of this column, I am reminded about the different seasons of our lives. When I started writing these articles in 1998, the column was titled “News From Fire Station 1.” This was six of the eight years that I served as the lieutenant on Engine 1, in Chester. The title changed to “Fire & Life Safety,” during the time that I was the Community Programs Coordinator and the Public Information Officer. This period of time was a defining moment in my life. I did not ask for, nor did I want, the role in the fire service that I was now filling. In the midst of it all, I became the pastor of Bermuda Baptist Church. In many ways, I was going through a depression, while God was orchestrating my future for years to come. I have told many that God did more in my life in those two years than any other time that I can remember. I could hear the Lord say, let me show you what I did through you, but you will receive no blessing because you had a bad heart. When I went back to the fire station, the title changed to “Living Safe.”It was always Mark and Linda’s vision, and my goal, to educate the readers, through current events, and the many lessons learned, about staying safe in our daily lives. November will mark my tenth year of retirement from Chesterfield Fire & EMS. I still serve as a chaplain and a peer support team member for the organization.
Since retirement, I have continued to pastor Bermuda Baptist Church, which became Mission Community Church in 2018. The seasons of my life have continued to change, with 2013 giving me of the greatest moments a person can experience. On July 11, 2013, I became a grandfather, or as they call me, “granddaddy.’ I tell you this because there have been really good times and there have been not so good times, but through it all, God has directed my steps.
COVID-19 has brought about another season in our lives. Who could have imagined how quickly life would change? I left for Africa on March 2, with everything still pretty normal. I actually had my temperature checked when I arrived in South Africa. Our journey in Africa was absolutely amazing. We wondered what things would be like when we returned, but surprisingly, things were still pretty normal. We got home March 14 and stopped at an IHOP on our way home from Washington. Within about two or three days, life changed drastically for us all. What is most amazing to me is how fast the world was able to change and adapt to the changes. Again, we could have never imagined that schools would close for the remainder of a school year. Businesses closed, and people found themselves at home more than any other time in our lives. Prior to this and in the midst of this, some people were dealing with challenges. COVID-19 presented a totally new world to patients being admitted into the hospital. Nurses are not only caring for people medically, but they have also had to take on the roles that family would normally have for their loved ones. The point is that our world has changed, possibly forever.
What will the new normal look like? The influenza of 1918 was dealt with through some form of social distancing and greater emphasis on personal hygiene, namely hand washing. This, that we have returned to, is the common sense approach to moving forward. I think that facility and vehicle cleaning will be more important than it has been before for organizations that deal with mass gatherings, or that transport large numbers of people. I believe that there will be a drug regiment for treating patients with COVID-19, as well as a vaccine that will hopefully prevent this virus. There were three waves of the influenza epidemic in 1918. It is stated that this virus may return in the fall. Hopefully, we will have adequate testing in place. I hope that businesses will be able to open and patrons will return to those businesses. There may need to be some form of social distancing moving forward. My hope is that this will not have to be enforced or managed by an executive order.
Everyone has had to make some type of sacrifice because of this pandemic. Some have lost their lives, others their livelihoods. It is my hope and prayer that people will be able to recover from this virus. America has snapped back from many natural and man made disasters. We will snap back from this. Some have called this an opportunity for a reset or reboot per se. For some, things were crazy out of control. I hope that positive changes come from this. We are some of the most blessed people on this globe. I am going to use the church as an example here. I have watched creative people come up with a way to gather, whether virtually or through a drive-in model, with social distancing in mind. There are brilliant people in every facet of life, and I believe that this will get figured out.
God has been working throughout this time, as He is always working. My prayer has been that a spiritual awakening would occur as a result of this pandemic. God is able to do things through this that will bring glory to Him. I have seen a few miracles during this time dealing with medical situations. I define a miracle as something that only God can do. We must continue to pray. God can be trusted with every aspect of our lives. He created us to be in relationship with Him. I am thankful for His protection and provision in our lives. You can rest in the assurance that God loves you. God bless each and every one of you!