By Ramón Verduzco
On January 12, 1992, Kenny Hedrick was killed in the line of duty. He was a volunteer firefighter with Morningside Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland and had responded with his co-workers to a call for help from a family who lived near the fire station. Their home was on fire, and they worried that a 7-year-old boy was trapped in the house. Kenny and another firefighter arrived on the scene and began to search the house. They found a small boy and carried him out to the paramedics, but the child was pronounced dead a short time later. Returning to the house to search for more victims, Kenny became trapped in the basement when fire conditions deteriorated.
We see them on news broadcasts. They’re the ones running toward danger, not away from it. In 2001, we watched firefighters racing in the direction of the World Trade Center in New York City. We have seen police officers carefully approaching buildings that shelter active snipers, paramedics stepping over mangled cars in search of survivors, and exhausted medical professionals hurrying through hospital wards crowded with COVID-19 sufferers.
This list could include teachers instructing students who could be superspreaders, checkout clerks tallying up the purchases of defiant, unmasked customers, or delivery people rushing to place online purchases on porches.
All of these individuals—these essential workers and first responders—are heroes on some level. They’re putting the needs of others first—including their families who depend on them for food and shelter. They may not even realize it, but their motivation is love. They love enough to care about others and put their needs first.
However, a professional first responder doesn’t just appear out of nowhere and act heroically. More often than not, careful planning and meticulous training precedes their actions. They’re ready to do what they do because they’ve learned how to do it from instructors, professors, mentors, trainers, and each other. Facing a life-threatening situation without proper training can be just as deadly as the situation itself. Successful first responders have learned two vital components of their jobs: what to do and what not to do.
The Bible identifies several first responders who were following instructions from God Himself. Some hesitated because the dangers seemed so overwhelming. But when their courage wavered, their love and training kicked in.
We see Ananias moving stealthily along the streets of Damascus on his way to assist a blinded visitor to his town—a man named Saul, who was infamous for causing suffering and even death to followers of Jesus. Ananias was just such a follower.
We see Moses making his way through the desert, heading for Egypt’s capital with one purpose in mind: to free an enslaved people. He didn’t want to go. He felt he was the wrong person for the job. But God had assured him that he wasn’t alone—that even his words would be chosen for him.
Then there’s Noah, building a ship, miles from the sea and surrounded by people who thought he was crazy.
These first responders acted in concert with the Creator of love. They knew that on their own they were powerless. However, with proper guidance freely offered by God, they could—and did—accomplish great things.
We can all become the type of first responder Christ represents. We can leave our comfort zones and go out into a burning, dangerous, deadly world to serve our fellow human beings.
There’s nothing more powerful on this earth than a man, woman, boy, or girl whose heart is filled with love and whose mind is open to God’s leading. Such individuals have changed the course of human history, ended wars, and launched social movements that survived for generations. A first responder so equipped can be a force for good, a light that darkness cannot quench.
But make no mistake. These people may pay a heavy price for their selfless service. Just ask the NYFD widows of 9/11. Talk to the family of a fallen soldier. Visit the gravesite of a medical professional who died while helping others who’d been sickened by a deadly virus. Grieve with the devastated partner of a police officer who perished trying to save someone he or she didn’t even know.
Or stand on a windy hilltop outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Listen to the sound of distant traffic and the echo of voices carrying in the breeze. On this spot, long ago, a First Responder paid the ultimate price for His service. He hung on a cross because the enemy of all He loved had eclipsed—for a moment—His attempt to save this world and everyone in it. As you and I can attest, the impact of Him doing His job has been far reaching.
We can all become the type of first responder Christ represents. We can leave our comfort zones and go out into a burning, dangerous, deadly world to serve our fellow human beings. First responders who are motivated by selfless love are willing to put their training to the test. They’re willing to put their lives on the line to save others. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13, NIV). They’ve also learned that, according to God, everyone is a friend.
In His last meeting with His disciples, Christ expressed His great desire that they might love one another as He loved them. Again and again He spoke of this.
“This love is the evidence of their discipleship. ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,’ said Jesus, ‘if ye have love one to another.’ When men are bound together, not by force or self-interest, but by love, they show the working of an influence that is above every human influence. Where this oneness exists, it is evidence that the image of God is being restored in humanity, that a new principle of life has been implanted” (The Desire of Ages, p. 678).
So, why not open God’s Word and begin your training today? Practice His instructions. Follow His guidelines. Learn from the Master Teacher. This dying world desperately needs qualified, experienced first responders. This dying world needs you!
Ramón Verduzco is pastor of the Hayward Spanish church.