Peninsula Community Church
Give Honor Where Honor Is Due
March 3, 2019
Romans 13:7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
We have dedicated this day to say thanks to all of those who serve our communities so faithfully. To our firefighters, EMS providers, paramedics, police, fire police, and dispatchers we say thank you for your dedication to keep us safe and provide care when we need it most. So today we give honor where honor is due.
As we honor our first responders today, I am proud to consider myself among those who serve this community. As a member of the Selbyville Fire Department and chaplain for the Sussex County Paramedics, I am pleased to be a part of this elite group of men and women. For that reason, I know just a bit of what they go through and the difficulties they face on any given day.
For the members of our fire departments, we often forget that they are volunteers. During the night when a call goes out they are aroused from your bed to answer the call. They respond willingly and quickly so as to come to the aid of those within this community who are in need. Let me illustrate this for you. Just two weeks ago there was a fire in Bishopville and because of the conditions at the fire, ten or more fire companies were alerted. Oh did I mention that it was 3:00 AM Monday morning with rain and near freezing temperatures outside. But they responded. Three EMS crews responded as well as they had to transport four patients from that fire to the hospital. They could have slept in and allowed the alarm to go unanswered, but they responded. And many of those who responded went home just long enough to shower, change clothes and go to their full time jobs on Monday.
The paramedics represented here today while they may be full time never know what they will be called to and when they will be called. It could be a difficulty breathing, a cardiac arrest, a diabetic emergency, or the fourth call that tour to the same frequent flyer. They are called and. they respond. Once they have responded they return back to the station to complete their reports and if they have a busy night or day they may have several reports to be completed which means overtime and perhaps missed time with their families only to come in for their next shift.
Our police officers serve us tirelessly. You may not like it when one of them requires your signature because of an infraction but these men and women respond to calls day and night. Many times there is no way to know what is ahead of them and yet they respond faithfully because they are called to serve. I chuckle because many think that Selbyville is a quiet little town, but you might be surprised what goes on around town that requires a police response.
Then there are the unsung heroes, our dispatchers. They are that calming voice that settles our nerves and talks us through a difficult situation until help is on the way. Not long ago I spoke to a dispatcher who stated that the toughest part of his job was to be on the end of the phone and feel like there is so little that they could do. They felt frustration in those times.
Over the last year the fire companies, paramedics, and police have responded to things that would make many of us in this room cringe. They have responded to suicides, fatalities in car accidents, assaults, fire calls where they found people who had expired because they could not get out of the house. They have been to dog bites and people bites. They have responded to altered mental statuses, cardiac arrests, and more. The EMS services have responded sometimes to the same house multiple times over a given period of time just to help someone up off the floor because the patient has fallen. They respond to the drug addict that has overdosed three times that week. But they serve and they answer the call willingly and faithfully.
In Scripture, I am reminded of a passage that says Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. Our first responders have that kind of love for our communities and they have that kind of willingness to serve us. They put themselves on the line every day. They do so physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Our passage today is an important one because it speaks of giving honor to those who deserve honor. I am convinced that our first responders deserve that from us so I ask that you stand and show them honor today.
As we show you honor today I would summit that as a first responder the best way to receive honor is to honor yourself. This is not just a matter of being a first responder but a matter of life as a whole. As a First Responder, we all witness and see things that we we cannot unsee. I am sure that we all have that call or two that has forever been etched in our minds and it does not take much to bring that memory to the forefront of our minds.
Statistically, first responders are more susceptible to PTSD and Vicarious trauma than any other people group or profession. In fact, first responders exceed the threshold of PTSD than any other population group including war veterans. Death by suicide is more prevalent in First Responders than in any other people group. Why is this? In part, I believe it is because as first responders we tend to be type A people. You have to be in order to survive. That is why you can rush into a burning building when everyone else is rushing out. That is why you can do C-Spine on the patient inside the car that has been demolished in a crash and blood is running down their face and covering your turn out gear.
But that same zeal and emotion that causes us to rush in can cause us to close up and not communicate what is going on in side of us. We believe we are tough and we are. That toughness can cause us to believe that we do not need to talk to anyone. Too often we are taught to suck it up and move on but the memories of the trauma are still there. The nightmares continue. The thoughts of self destruction begin to surface. It is in that moment that we need to turn to someone and do the scariest of all things and that is to ask for help. Take that desire to rush in and use that to get the help you need. None of us are invincible. This includes not just first responders but everyone under the sound of my voice today.
With that in mind let me give you a couple of things that can help us through these moments. First, we need to talk to someone. Talk to a friend. Talk to a counselor. Talk to a pastor. Talk to God. In my life, personally, I have found that God is always open to hear us. Sometimes we believe that we have to be just the right kind of person for God to hear us, but Scripture tells us that if we will call upon Him, He will answer. God is only a call away and it is the best 911 call you can ever make. The problem too often is that we either think we are not worthy of asking Him for help, or we believe that He will not listen because of a lifestyle, actions we have taken, or a belief system we might hold to. But let me let you in on a little secret, God loves you. He has loved you. He loves you now. He will never stop loving you. So what do we need to do. We need to accept His love and ask Him for help.
Second, the feelings we experience are normal. The feelings we have and the emotions we express are normal in terms of the work we do. The Scripture speaks to this in a powerful way. In 1 Corinthian 10:13 Paul states No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. The point is this. What we experience is normal and we should therefore not wait to get help, because we feel we are different or what we experienced is an isolated event.
Finally, it can be hard to ask for help. As first responders the very thing that causes us to be able to do the job we do so well can also prevent us from getting the help we need. It is called pride. The scripture tells us that pride comes before the fall. As a whole First Responders, nurses, and EMS providers in particular are the world’s worst patients. I am included in that number.
Two years ago I had a pain in my side. It was an excruciating pain that would not go away. So, I thought about it. I knew that the ambulance would take about five minutes to get to me by the time I called, it was dispatched, and a crew responded. And then I thought why should I take an ambulance out of service to transport me to the hospital when I could drive myself. I was also listening to the scanner and knew that 105 and 103 were already out on a call so that meant that extra time was needed to get them on scene, so I did what I counsel everyone else not to do, I drove myself to AGH. By the time I got there, I realized I had just done the craziest thing I could have. I was pouring in sweat, my heart rate was up, and my pain was getting worse the closer I got to the hospital. When they took my blood pressure in triage it was 210/110. I was at stroke level. You see I thought I was keeping an ambulance in service but it was really my pride that caused me not to make that call. Plus I think I did no want anyone else to know I was in pain.
I challenge you today that if you need it, get help. Speak to one of the chaplains at your fire house. Speak to your peers. Get counseling. Be your own first responder and get the help you need. It will be the most important call you will ever respond to. Speak to God, speak to someone. I say this because I love and appreciate all that you do and I am proud to be counted as one of you today. You are my brothers and sisters as a First Responder. Know that I pray for you regularly and know that you have a church community that supports you and prays for you. We are here for you. We desire to see you be the best you can be. Let us pray!
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom