GRANGEVILLE, Idaho — With help from the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention, Allen Lusby, pastor of Mountain Shadows Baptist Church in Grangeville and other Southern Baptists formed a firefighters outreach ministry called “Wild Land Fire Chaplaincy.”
Consider recent fires in Southern California, we’ve lost so many lives because of the fire. We saw pain and sorrow of the victims and the families of the victims. We hear many stories of dispatching volunteers to help those families but we tend to forget about the people who are actually there risking their lives to fight deadly wildfires – the firefighters.
Lusby saw the need of spiritual help for the firefighters. A retired engineer who moved to north-centural Idaho six years ago, discovered the poor spiritual condition of the firefighters who are receiving no spiritual help in a coordinated way. It is true that most people are unaware of the fear and depression that firefighters are going through. Fighting against fire can be so deadly – it is another battle ground.
"These men and women are separated from their families. All of the frictions of life, the doubts and misgivings, are amplified for them," said Lusby,"We need to be able to minister to the young people who are at that camp, as well as their families back home.”
Last summer, when Lusby and other volunteers went to visit firefighters near Riggins, Idaho with the Gospel, two of the firefighters gave their lives to Christ.
Eric Frye, the ethnic and chaplaincy consultant for the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention, said Lusby's idea is something new that has never been tried before and is on its way to growing. The ministry also faces the obstacle of getting permission from federal forest supervisors who control access to major wildfires.
"We're in the very early stages," Frye said. "But we'd like to be a resource for people who are called to go out on one of these fires."
Roger Kechter, a fire incident commander for the Idaho Department of Lands, gave Lusby and his team permission to access crews at the Riggins fire last summer, and understands the need for ministry to firefighters.
"People are far away from their homes and their churches," Kechter said. "They may need someone to talk to."
Lusby emphasized that although the Wild Land Fire Chapliancy needs more volunteers, this is not a place where people come for “mission vacations” because it’s too dangerous. He wishes people to look at it as commission. "There's a lot of people out there who go on mission vacations ... but this is a commission," he said. "People looking to get their card punched need not apply."
Lusby has received much strength after he was healed from multiple sclerosis while he was devoting himself to this ministry.
"I kept saying, 'God, I have MS and I can't do this,'" Lusby said. "But God doesn't call us to be comfortable.... He calls us to go over the edge. These people need someone who can be a light and show them the way.
"Who in their right mind with MS wants to go up on a fire line and share a cup of cold water? That's going to the edge in missions. God's going to open the doors for us ... we just need to follow through," said Lusby.