JESSE AND TED
If you’ve checked this site before, you’re probably aware of a couple of things. One is that I’m committed to simply studying Scripture. Hence, the name of the blog. Another is that I’ve been concentrating on a project which has taken up most of my time and energy lately, but only temporarily. You’ll probably hear more about that if you “stay tuned.” I’ll also have a bit of information on a website we’re hoping to develop: Godscomebackkids.org or .com or .net. (God bless Rick Taylor and my sons Mark Jonathan and Paul Timothy for trying to get me up to speed. I’m trying to get the hang of the computers.)
One of the things I’ve been considering is what I’ll tell you about in the next couple of posts. It isn’t what I’d call a “Bible Study.” Unless you mean by that an examination of how I believe God works. Quietly. Unnoticed. In ways we hardly could have expected.
When you’re closely involved in something, and perhaps reeling from circumstances, it’s difficult to think logically and clearly. Often it takes the perspective of some distance in time before you can begin to realize: “Maybe He was working, and I just didn’t see it at the time.” Two sentences in the Bible are what I feel has been illustrated to me in the circumstances I’ll try to describe.
“AND WE KNOW THAT ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THEM THAT LOVE THE LORD, TO THEM WHO ARE THE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE.”
“ YOU MEANT IT FOR EVIL. . . BUT GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD”
I hadn’t been “on the job” too long at my first pastorate. It was bitterly cold, and I was flat on my back with a fever and the worst virus I ever remember having. It was the day after Christmas, and very late when the telephone rang. By the way my wife was talking, even in hushed tones, I could sense someone was having a problem.
As an idealistic, eager young minister, I had the notion that: when someone needed me, that was when I should be available. No need to go try to deal with some emergency after the emergency has passed! The voice at the other end of the line was Greensboro Fire Department Battalion Commander, “Bull Price.” Chief Price was imposing as his name sounds. Big. Tough. Determined to get help for one of his family in a time of great trouble.
There had been a bad accident. Answering an alarm for a fire (which we discovered later was an abandoned, vacant building in a really seedy side of town. As the truck made the approach, a call came in from Communications advising them to redirect their approach to the fire. The Driver stopped, quickly reversed the truck to make the correction. In that instant, a young friend of mine, agile, athletic and quick like a cat, had jumped from his position on the back of the truck. His responsibility was to unroll the hose, and he wasted not a second in getting to his task. In less time than it takes to tell it, the truck backed up and ran over Jesse Gray.
Attempting to get someone to go with him to let his wife and family know what had happened , Chief Price had already contacted the two chaplains serving the Department at the time. It was late. And very cold. And they were old and had retired for the evening. So they declined. By the time Chief got me on the phone, he was on a mission. Someone was going with him to Jesse’s family! I asked him if he’d wait just long enough to get my pants on, and by the time I was dressed he was at my front door with the squad car. Forget the flu. I grabbed a coat and got in the car. “I also had the notion then that, while serving the Lord, I was invincible.
Anyone who’s ever been caught in such a situation knows there really aren’t appropriate words. Everyone was stunned and heart broken. Including the Chief and me. I just prayed and hoped that by my being there, Judy, Jeff and Lisa were reminded of God’s presence and the love and support of her Church family. I hadn’t been in their home long, before a cadre of Greensboro Firefighters began arriving. You’ve probably seldom witnessed the depth and outpouring of love and concern they displayed for their fallen comrade, his wife and their children. There was a steady flow of firefighters, in uniform and in civilian clothes.
By coincidence perhaps, while we were attempting to deal with this tragedy, another firefighter died. His fiancé had been attending the Church I served and I’d visited him in the hospital. She asked me to conduct the funeral.
Once again, I witnessed an outpouring of loving concern by the Fire Department for their comrade and his loved ones. Constant and very supportive. It wasn’t just their huge attendance at the memorial services, or the white gloved, uniformed, full honor guard. And the beautiful, haunting “Taps” at the conclusion of the burial. These guys really loved and respected each other and were not reluctant to express it. I was so impressed that afterward I wrote a letter to the Editor of our paper, expressing our appreciation and admiration.
I don’t recall how long it was after the funerals, but a short while afterward I got another call from the GFD, asking me: “Would you consider becoming Chaplain for our Department?”
Would I? Would I!!?? It took me less than a New York Minute to say “Yes!” In fact, I was so honored and excited, I probably stuttered and said it several times!
They fitted me out for a uniform. A Badge. Shiny shoes. An officer’s cap, and the works. Man! In that attire, I could strut sitting down. To this day, that remains one of the most cherished honors I’ve received in my life.
Now, back to the tragic death of Jesse Gray. I’ve not yet been able to fully understand that, and I know Jesse’s family still have scars. We sort of lost touch with each other across the years, but still love each other and will always have that bond. I don’t know how God has worked in their lives in years past.
But I do know this. There’s no way I could imagine ever being asked to serve in such a responsible position if Jesse hadn’t been my friend. And if Chief Price hadn’t called me that night. The members of the Fire Department knew I loved and admired them and was honored to be their Chaplain. Some of them, after all these years, still call me on occasion.
The rest of the story is worth hearing. I’ll be sharing it soon.
God’s servant. Your friend, brother, and fellow student. ~dk