We invited American Baptists from across the country to share their Ministry Stories with the American Baptist family through the Ministry Story Opportunity, coming out of the Transformed by the Spirit initiative. These stories were highlighted at the Biennial Mission Summit in June 2015, and we will again be lifting them up in a series this fall – ABC Ministry Stories. View the full list of Ministry Story Opportunity Submissions or watch our ABC website and facebook page! To submit a ministry story from your local church, email it to AmericanBaptist@gmail.com. We hope you will share your ministry experiments/experiences with our ABCUSA family.
Fire Fighter Ministry
Transformed by the Spirit – Ministry Story Opportunity
First Baptist Church – Scottsbluff, Nebraska
With God’s vision through the eyes of a young lady in our church, Carissa Smith (who served for over 12 years on local fire departments and then resigned from the fire department to commit herself to raising a family. but still had a heart to serve those who suffered from fire disasters), came the Fire Fighter Ministry.
The local Red Cross office had closed in Scottsbluff and our church was contacted due to our other outreach ministries to see if we would be interested in doing something to help those who had suffered a loss due to fire or other disasters. God had already begun opening the eyes and hearts of folks in the congregation to reach out to our community and assist the lost and do all we could to bring them to Jesus. This was a door just waiting to be opened, and in January 2012 we opened the door to serve Jesus in this way!
A group of leaders was put together to pray, plan and provide oversight to this new ministry and decide how it would come into fruition. The vision was brought to local fire departments and emergency agencies, other churches and service agencies. We were provided an initial grant from our local United Way and were provided care pack items by church members. God began to work. We picked the name Fire Fighter Ministry. You will notice Fire Fighter is two words. People get that confused sometimes but it is an opportunity to share Christ with them every time because, yes, we are serving the firefighters through this ministry, but the focus of all we do is THE Fire Fighter Jesus Christ! He is the one who protects us from the flames of hell and through His grace and mercy through His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection we can be permanently saved from that fire! What a joy! This ministry is based on Jude 23 which says in part “…snatch others from the fire and save them…” Not only are the firefighters saving folks from the fire but through the Fire Fighter Ministry we want them to see hope rise from the ashes in the form of Jesus Christ!
We prayed, worked, and prayed more as to how God would make this work. Then one call came, and another, and another and each time the Lord provided all we needed plus more. We were able to form relationships with local motels to provide temporary housing, work with local restaurants to provide food vouchers ,local service agencies to partner where we could, local churches to partner with for support, the Gideons to provide Christian literature to folks, local insurance agencies to work with to assist families to get back on their feet , local real estate agents to help with getting people into new homes when needed , our local Home Depot who provides supplies and manpower to board up windows and make emergency repairs , local contractors and restoration agencies who do the final repair work when damage is done and the media, both Christian and secular, to promote what we were doing and get the word out about needs that needed to be met. Since the day we began, we have now responded to 60 house fires. This does not include an incident in Sidney. NE. where we housed 19 people who were displaced by a possible tornado. We also assisted at a fire in a large apartment complex in Scottsbluff and provided immediate assistance to several folks, many with disabilities both mentally and physically, who were left out of a place to live. We provided transportation, food and permanent housing for those who could not go back to their apartments. Folks in a trailer court were assisted with window and roof repairs after a devastating hail storm. We have been able to provide food and supplies for firefighters at eight fires where they were tied up for several hours over meal times. We also did a drive for items to take to the Chadron NE area during the high wildfire seasons and took meals donated by a local restaurant and three vans full of items for the firefighters to Chadron NE, Harrison NE, Alliance NE, Hay Springs NE and the Pine Ridge area. God has also supplied us with water and food on numerous occasions to deliver to firefighters during house and wildfires. We were also able to supply support recently for firefighters in the loss of a civilian life in a house fire. Only with God’s guidance and intervention could we have handled that situation.
We have been trusted to respond to several areas in the panhandle of Nebraska beyond Scottsbluff and Gering. These areas include Sidney NE, Lyman NE, Alliance NE, Bayard NE, Minatare NE, Dalton NE, Crawford NE, Torrington WY, Oelrichs SD, Valentine NE and even as far as Kearney NE nearly 300 miles away! Praise Jesus for the support and encouragement to be able to provide for those in need!
Another blessing we have been able to be a part of is the Annual Firefighter Sunday we host at our church. Every fall we have a special Sunday dedicated to firefighters and emergency responders. This day is our way of showing our support for all they do. It is a tremendous opportunity to share the Gospel with these men and women. The day is complete with local and state leaders, special music and a catered dinner for them. Along with it all, they bring in their trucks and equipment and set up in our parking lot. What a day this is and what a blessing from Jesus!
We have also been asked to have booths at Kids Explore, an annual children’s event and the National Night Out in downtown Scottsbluff, in which we partner with the Scottsbluff Fire Department to share what it is we do and why we do it in a fun, family friendly environment.
Many ask how this ministry survives financially. We say by the Grace of God. He has abundantly supplied all we need tangibly and financially. There is an entire room at our church used for supplies and through donations from individuals, churches, businesses, foundations, the fire departments themselves and different fundraisers. God has supplied more than we could imagine. When there is a need, through God’s abundant grace, people step up and provide. Clothing drives have brought in enough supplies to allow us to use the clothing for even other ministries. We host an annual rummage sale in which the community comes out full force to donate items and comes in to purchase items. As well, a local firefighter motorcycle club hosts an annual firefighter motorcycle run throughout the panhandle of Nebraska, stopping off at firehouses in different towns. A flatbed trailer was recently donated along with a large storage unit used to house large items such as furniture.
Through it all, we have remained true to why we started, to use this opportunity to share Jesus Christ and His love through this terribly challenging time in peoples’ lives. One story we always like to share is the one where we were contacted about a group that wanted to do a fundraiser for us. This was to be a comedy event but it was going to be held at a local bar. We obviously had to say “no thank you”. The folks guaranteed us $1500 but we could not budge due to the nature of the event. As humans, we of course struggled with the loss of these funds but held steadfast. The next morning, out local McDonald’s called and donated….get this….$1500 in food vouchers. Praise the Lord for He is good and will always supply if we stay true to His calling!
Our mission is to reach out to and provide assistance to those whose lives have been affected by a fire disaster. We do this by providing all we can….temporary housing, assistance with permanent housing, care packages, food supplies and vouchers, household supplies, furniture, hygiene items, assistance with insurance, pastoral counseling…you name it! We are there! But we could not do it without Jesus at the center of it all and the ultimate goal is to see lives transformed by His grace, mercy and love. Even in the midst of a disaster, it is all about Him!