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I have been a member of the Carol Stream Fire Protection district for more than three decades—over twenty years as a firefighter/EMT, and more recently as a fire inspector and fire-code advisor for the fire district and the Village of Carol Stream.
In that role I deal with hundreds and hundreds of fire inspections and fire investigations a year. Most are pretty routine, but there was something that began to impress me in recent years about some of the places I visited in my work—places like Wheaton Christian Grammar School, Tyndale House Publishers, and later, a church called Wheaton Bible Church, which was building a huge structure on North Avenue.
I didn’t know anything about the church back when it was in downtown Wheaton, but then they bought property in my territory—at the intersection of Morton Road and North Avenue—and started making plans to build a new campus there.
The first time I was on that site was in 2006, when I met with a group that included Operations Director Jeff Erickson and Facilities Director G. John Morris. They wanted me to approve a permit for a very large tent they were putting up for their groundbreaking ceremony. At that time I had no idea that I’d be there on site nearly every day for eight months, watching every step—every beam, every brick, and every lightbulb that went into the building.
Jeff, G. John, Pastor Rob Bugh, and other people I met at Wheaton Bible Church became part of a group I later came to think of as the “spiritual collaborators” who wanted to see me turn to God.
Over those months, as the building was coming together, God used those men to touch my life. A situation at work also brought me into contact with our fire department’s chaplain, Pastor Ray, who, along with Pastor Rob, became a good friend to me.
Especially meaningful for me through those months and later were a series of conversations with Pastor Bugh. He and I had both lost our wives and some close friends to cancer in a similar way. (Later, when I read Rob’s book, When the Bottom Drops Out, I went right over to Tyndale House, who published it, and said I needed a case of them, so I started buying them by the case. So far I’ve probably given away sixty copies to people I’ve met who are going through rough times.)
Rob and I had other things in common too, and we talked and laughed together easily.
When He first talked to me about spiritual things, I gave him the same answer I’d given to the chaplain: “Well, I try to do good things. Don’t worry, I’ll be in heaven. No problem.”
What God was doing through those conversations and others was softening me and opening my heart. At first I wouldn’t believe it, but over time I began to wonder, Maybe there’s something to this.
It was about six months after Wheaton Bible Church started meeting on the new campus that I made the decision to pray and invite Christ into my life.
My family saw the change in me pretty quickly. They say I’m kinder and happier. And they notice how God’s cleaned up my language. And the things that I used to rely on to survive, like alcohol, I don’t need anymore. My daughter saw what God has done in my life, and now she’s come to know Jesus too.
These days I’m finding great joy in serving God, including welcoming people as an usher for the 8:15 service on Sunday morning. I can’t wait to get to church, and I’m learning every time I’m here. I love it!
God is also giving me opportunities to serve Him in the other areas of my life. Firefighters see a lot of humans at their worst—drug abuse, fights and spousal abuse, car accidents and things like that, too—and the firehouse is a place where people need to hear God’s truth.
I’m so thankful for those people who prayed for me and who “conspired” to introduce me to Christ. They saw who I was and what I needed—and who I could be in Christ. And I’m so thankful to God that He brought me to the point where I knew that I needed to change and that I needed Him as my Savior and Lord.
God had a plan that included Rob and Ray, as well as Roger and Peter at the Grammar School, and John and others at Tyndale House. These guys were all part of that Christian conspiracy that brought me to the place where I understood how I could never do enough good things to earn my way to heaven but God loved me anyway. He loved me so much that He gave His Son, Jesus, to die to pay the price for my sins.