For some reason, many people equate the presence of a chaplain with the absolute worst outcome, in any given situation. Six men make up the chaplain group for Chesterfield Fire & EMS, of which I am one. Chesterfield Police Department also has a chaplain group that has existed for many years. Chaplains focus on two groups of people when called to an emergency scene: public safety workers and all victims at a scene. The role of the chaplain is multi-faceted, depending on the needs.
People that have a pastor and a church family usually welcome their help and presence in any given situation. However, those with no church affiliation consider the worst possible outcome, when approached by a chaplain. Do not get me wrong; sometimes, the outcome of an emergency incident is very bad. Chaplains do not come with answers, but with a willingness to walk with firefighters and citizens in their most difficult moments.
Our goal as chaplains is to assist on-scene personnel with whatever the need is to bring an incident to a successful end. Success is not defined by the fact that bad things did not occur, but that everyone involved receives the resources or help necessary to give people the opportunity to cope with what occurred. Public safety workers are faced with some of the most horrific sites known to man. As tough as firefighters, medics and police officers are, they are not invincible. Certain calls trigger things faster than others. Our hope is that we are able to assist with the spiritual, emotional and physical health of responders and the citizens that they protect.
Not everyone is open to the help of a chaplain and that is perfectly fine. We do not force people to speak with us or believe what we believe. I am a Southern Baptist pastor who seeks to make God known to the nations. As a fire service chaplain, my task is to empathize with people, trying to understand where they are. I attempt to show the love of Christ to all people, ready to give a defense for the faith that is within me, whenever the opportunity arises. I think that the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 can be related to a chaplain, where he said, “I have become all things to all men.”
It is a privilege to serve as a public safety chaplain. I rode fire apparatus for 34 years, and loved every minute of it. God blessed me with a wonderful volunteer and salaried journey. It is funny that I have returned to my roots as a volunteer chaplain. My hope is to continue to serve a wonderful group of men and women that make up public safety. Public safety workers, our military and missionaries are my earthly heroes. I pray that I will be found faithful in my roles as pastor and chaplain.