God in the Back of an Ambulance – Part 3

Finally, the long-awaited finale to this series of posts has arrived.  My apologies to those who’ve been grappling with the cliffhanger in the last post…  Life happens, and I had some other projects that needed more desperate attention.  In the past two posts, you’ve learned a lot of important things about me:

  • I’m really interested in stuff related to emergency services: Fire, EMS, Law Enforcement, SAR, etc.
  • I was really excited about finally being able to get my EMT license… That is, until my class got cancelled.
  • As part of my call toward ministry, I have a specific interest in someday extending that ministry towards emergency services workers as a volunteer chaplain.
  • I’m an optimist who fully believes that even when crap happens and you don’t get what you want, that good things can still come out of it all.

In the last post, I promised a teachable moment.  A way that I turned being upset about not being able to take my EMT class into a “glass half-full” situation…  Well, here it is, but, as always it requires just a wee bit of backstory.

My love of reading and learning has led me to constantly researching my interests.  Looking for new information and new books.  Several months ago, while looking for information about emergency services chaplains, I discovered Wally Johnston’s “Sent to Serve: the Chaplains of 9/11” on the Amazon Kindle store.  It seemed interesting, but the fact that it was self-published made me a bit leery.  I downloaded the “Free Sample” of the first chapter as a way to remind myself to give it another look at some point to see if it might actually be worth reading, and then promptly forgot about it.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Thursday night, my family and I were staying in our hotel in West Virginia after an afternoon of cross-country skiing, getting ready to go skiing again the next day.  Alone with my parents, I was bored, there wasn’t anything good on TV and while we had drinks and snacks, it wasn’t really helping the fact that I was wide awake without much to do.

I pulled my iPad out of my backpack, opened the Kindle app, and, very much as anticipated, I had read all of the books I had loaded on to it.  I decided to pull up the free sample I had downloaded weeks, maybe even months earlier, and started reading.

It was enthralling, I promptly finished the first chapter and had to purchase the rest of the book.  I spent 10 minutes letting it download, moving back and forth across the hotel room trying to find the place that got better signal, and thus a faster download.  By the end of the night, I had finished 3/4ths of the book.

Numerous chaplains shared their stories and experiences at Ground Zero throughout the book, and as someone who feels called to eventually minister in this sort of capacity it was absolutely fascinating, but I think anyone who has an interest in 9/11, emergency services, and faith (or any combination of the three) would also find it really interesting.

I highlighted a lot of bits and pieces throughout the book, but I think the one that resonates the most, and the one that I really needed to read was this:

I’ve had officers say to me, “Chaplain, I couldn’t do your job.”  I respond to them, “I couldn’t do yours.”

If I’m interested in emergency services, that’s my own prerogative.  I will likely continue my involvement throughout the rest of my life as time and situation allows, but if I do, it will be out of a love of public service and desire to serve the community.  I don’t need to have been a volunteer fireman to minister to firefighters, nor do I need to be an medical provider to minister to EMTs and Paramedics.  I don’t need to keep up my volunteerism to gain credibility as a chaplain, I will gain credibility as a chaplain simply by being a good chaplain.

And that’s it.  It seems like common sense, and maybe it was something I already knew myself, but reading that paragraph on that night helped drive it all home for me.  My apologies to anyone who was expecting a “Jesus lightning bolt moment” at the end of this story.  It’s not often that God truly and visibly comes to us in the wilderness, but if we have faith, I think we can all look back on our journeys and see the way the Holy Spirit has shaped where we are and who we’ve become, and that even though we didn’t seem him at the time, God IS with us in that wilderness.


Posted on January 19, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. “I’ve had officers say to me, “Chaplain, I couldn’t do your job.” I respond to them, “I couldn’t do yours.””

    Coming from a family of firefighters, this really resonates with me. I have often been asked why I did not follow in my father’s footsteps, and I know darn well it’s because I wouldn’t cut it as a firefighter. Ministry, though, I can do–and most people in my family wouldn’t be cut out for that either.

    We all have our gifts and our callings.

  2. Hey Jono,
    I was an EMT for many years, and it was the questioning of God I heard in the back of the ambulance that led me into seminary and ministry. I work now as a hospital chaplain, which is a perfect fit for me. While you’re in seminary, you might want to look into doing CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) in a Level 1 Trauma Center because I found many of those situations to be quite similar to what I experienced as an EMT.

    • Hi Christine,

      Thanks for your comment. I took a look at your blog and the stuff you’ve posted so far is absolutely fascinating. It seems like once you get into seminarian and pastoral circles, CPE is a common topic, and EVERYONE has their CPE stories, but it’s not something you hear of much beyond the one or two stories an individual might remember about their experience. While giving any serious thought about CPE is still a ways off for me, I definitely think I’ll be shooting for a hospital with an active ER as I think that sort of environment would be where I do the most good and simultaneously learn the most. I look forward to reading more of your posts and hope you stick around to read mine!


  3. Hi Jono,

    This is Wally Johnston. I’m glad you enjoyed my book. God continues to use the book to convey three things: help others know what chaplains do every day in local communities, spread the importance of volunteerism, and provide a message of hope. I would encourage you and any of your readers to leave a review of the book on Amazon.com. Blessings.

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