Many of you may well be familiar with the term “First Responders”. The term is often used to refer to those who are the first to respond in cases of traditional emergencies: Firefighter, Police, or Medical services. In fact, when you phone within municipalities that have access to the 9-1-1 number, you will be greeted with a voice that asks you “Fire, Ambulance or Police”. I would like to honour and give thanks for those in these particular callings and vocations. I would particularly like to thank and recognize those in our midst who are a part of these services.
There are many ways that we are “first responders”: in our relationships, within our local churches, and at the Canadian Baptist of Western Canada (CBWC). There are many instances in ordinary life where we ask one another for prayer; whether it is when something goes wrong or whether something is going well. Within the CBWC churches there are some outstanding and unusual networks and links for prayer.
In Nehemiah, chapter 1, prayer is the first response. And in chapter 2, when Nehemiah is asked a question by his King, Nehemiah replied, “I prayed to the Lord of Heaven, and then I answered the King”. For many of us, in emergencies and non-emergencies, our first response is to pray to the Lord of Heaven…the first responder in our lives is the Lord and the means by which we converse with Him is prayer.
One of our sister denominations, the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec, in fact refer to the services they offer the church as “first responders”. Several of us got to thinking about that term and we realized that it applied to a variety of things that we do as a family of churches together. We pray for each other, we aid in church conflicts, in pastoral settlement, and in a whole range of personal, inter-personal and administrative concerns. I won’t dwell on the list now, but you get the idea. In both churches and in the CBWC, the boards, commissions, Deacons, pastoral leadership and many others, form this bulwark of first response.
There is also another group that are part of our first responders to people in need who are also a part of our community. They are the hospital, prison, police, municipal, airport and military chaplains who number a little over 40 in Western Canada. Many of them don’t have the immediacy, support or prayer of local churches. They need that support just like the rest of us, as we live out our lives together.
The whole idea of responding first to the needs of others needs to be set in the context of how we are first cared for by God. John 1:4, “Those who love are of God for God is love”, reminds us that all we have to offer other people comes from God. He is our beginning and our end, our source and resource, who provides us with what we need to journey with others.
Let’s remember all those in our midst and elsewhere that are “First Responders” and who indeed, do far more than even that.