I have been blessed to serve the men and women of the Houston Fire Department as their Chaplain. This is a huge undertaking and a job I take very seriously.
We are blessed to live and serve in the most diverse city in the US and one of the best cities in the world. The Houston Fire Department is the 3rd largest municipal fire department in the US employing over 4000 men and women to courageously serve our community day in and day out. We love serving the citizens of this great city.
As in all things in life, I cannot do this alone and neither can our firefighters. So, I am seeking local churches to work alongside me.
What it Takes to Serve
It’s been two years since Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on our Texas coast, and I was on duty when the torrential downpours began in Houston. I got a front-row seat to the damage and destruction 27 trillion gallons and 50 inches of rain can cause. Late Saturday night, the city assigned a dump truck with a driver to accompany my engine as the waters began to rise.
As the waters rose, the calls for rescues began to pour in nonstop. Most of our units were useless in the high waters, but our dump truck was a Godsend. We were able to make it out of our neighborhood on South Post Oak and into the Sagemont area several hours away. We immediately began making our way into the neighborhoods and filling the back of our dump truck with people—men, women, and children who were stranded in their cars or leaving their homes as they filled with water.
Faith to Make it Through
One young family had an infant and a toddler with them. They had just moved here a week earlier from Alabama and drove around aimlessly in an unfamiliar city until the waters trapped them on all sides. My concern turned towards the children as I in my 6ft 250lb frame was shivering. I worried that the infant would become hypothermic.
I began to pray earnestly that God would stop the rain long enough to get the children to dry land and clothes. However, it seemed like the more I prayed, the harder it rained. At one point I looked up to the sky and shouted in anger towards God. Why was He not answering?
It continued to rain. We continued to make rescues and add to the number of people on our makeshift ark. Each call sent us down another flood filled road further delaying reaching our destination. We zigged and zagged our way in the rain to higher ground for another hour or so trying to get our evacuees to the shelter.
God's Provision in the Storm
Out of nowhere, the father of the family says, “Hey, that’s the hotel where we are staying!” I yelled at the driver to stop, and we pulled in to the hotel parking lot. God was able to get the family to the only place familiar to them and into their own dry clothes. I immediately gave thanks to God, because He orchestrated the best rescue of the night for us. We couldn’t plan that route or outcome in a million years. The hotel was in the exact opposite direction we were aiming for.
We made countless more rescues that night and into the next few days. My faith was indeed tested. I learned, yet again, that God is faithful. Always. He knows what He is doing even when we don’t see or understand.
The LORD tells us in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
So many times I pray and tell the God of the Universe how to answer my prayers. I’m grateful that he forgives my pride, arrogance, and small-mindedness. I’m even more grateful that His ways are higher and better.
Not to be Served, But to Serve
The effects of horrific scenes, long nights, erratic sleeping schedules, and missed family time takes a toll on our members. Our firefighters’ rates of suicide and PTSD are nearly identical to combat vets. In addition, we have higher rates of depression, alcoholism, and divorce than the general population.
We are blessed to have a committed team of Psychologists, Member Advocates, Peer Counselors, and Chaplains who are serving our members. We are constantly looking for ways to improve morale and combat the darkness that plagues us. I believe that Church-Firefighter Partnerships can help dramatically change our course and improve our outlook.
As the Chaplain, I am personally looking for churches to join us in loving and serving our firefighters. I envision churches and small groups adopting one of our 94 fire stations and developing lasting relationships with our men and women—relationships where we know each other by name, and our men and women are prayed with and for on a regular basis.
The task can be as simple as stopping by to say thanks, writing notes of encouragement, dropping off snacks, groceries, or meals on holidays and even random times. Some groups might also want to meet the physical needs of the stations facing tight city budgets. Kids, teens, and families are welcome to visit, see the fire trucks, take pictures, and be part of our family.
Would you pray about serving your Houston Firefighters on a regular basis? Would you pray for us daily? Would you let me know how you and your congregation can serve? If you would like to know more or are ready to jump in, you can call, text, or email me.
Captain Bobby Delgado is Chaplain of the Houston Fire Department and Associate Pastor at Life Church Fort Bend. He manages the Firefighter Devotional blog, with firefighters from all over contributing to encourage one another in their faith.