By the time I got there, the street had been blocked off and fire trucks were everywhere. There was a building on fire with several fire departments there and more on the way. Fortunately, the damage was minimal and no one was hurt. You could see the smoke billowing out of a hole that had been punched through the roof.

The firefighters stood ready to take their turn to go into the smoky blaze if needed. I marveled at their bravery. Who else runs into danger like that? Every one of the men and women who don the gear do so willingly. I’ve said this many times. The police, the fire and the EMS personnel are the unsung heroes in every community.

That’s why I am proud to serve as a chaplain for a couple of the local departments. It is part of my continuing journey in ministry. You see, I’m a “Star Trek” fan. I like the idea of looking at life in five-year increments. Each five-year block serves as a separate mission for me, even though I’ve been in ministry for nearly 36 years.

Since the beginning, I’ve taken time to evaluate where I’ve been and what God is calling me to do at the end of each five-year period. As a result, I have been involved in developing sports ministries, working with Hospice, engaged in Rotary, and have served on various boards of community institutions. The journey has been great.

I made it a point to get involved in the community. Why? It goes back to the call of the prophet Jeremiah. He said, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” I’ve tried to model that for my congregation. I believe we all need to find ways to serve the Lord, not only in church, but also in the community.

I will never forget talking to my friend, the Rev. Dave Larson, the recently retired pastor of the Voluntown Baptist Church. I asked him what he did to get involved in the community. He told me he joined the fire department. He said that it provided him a way to serve that allowed him to meet some pretty special people.

I have found his words to be so true. So that’s the mission I’m on today. If you are looking for a way to give back, consider joining a volunteer fire department. You will be blessed. As I’ve gotten more involved with the first responders, I have come to marvel at their hard work and dedication. It is not an easy calling. These amazing people train long hours and give sacrificially so they can be there when you and I need them most.

I also know that we often take them for granted. Yet, they are always at the ready to answer the call. I thank God for these men and women who have chosen this noble calling. So next time you hear a siren or see an emergency vehicle passing by, look up, say a prayer, and give thanks for these angels of the night.

The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.

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