The Story of One Man's Mission Trip

From my first major speaking assignment in 1979 through my journey to the Wisconsin Fire Chief's Conference in June of 2012 the feelings of accomplishment which I have enjoyed have made my efforts all the more meaningful to me.


Many have been the times when it has been my honor and privilege to write about the ideas which I have conceived during one of the worship services at the Colts Neck Reformed Church. I have come to believe that I have two really great thinking spots for me here on God's Green Earth. The first is my beloved front porch, the source for the title of this blog. The second is in church: in the House of the Lord.

Let me stress my belief in the importance of both places. I say this because many of the same things I have been experiencing idea-wise in Colts Neck also happened many times during the years my family and I spent at the Hope Lutheran Church in Freehold, New Jersey: our former congregation. Those of you who have been with me over the long haul know this to be true.

One of my favorite commentaries from those days is entitled "The Rock and the Basketball." This piece spoke of the strength of the large rock which I found in a most unlikely place in the church parking lot and the pathos of the deflated basketball which I saw out by our church mail box shortly after seeing the rock. I wrote about how the strength each of us has should be used to assist those around us who, like the woebegone basketball, were down on their luck and suffered from a sense of deflated personal worth.

Let me share an important fact about the church wherein my family and I worship. The Colts Neck Reformed Church is mission-oriented. We see our role as showing our faith through the sharing of our time, talents, and treasures with others in the world. One of the primary attributes of our congregation which really impresses me is the number of times that our church members have ventured forth into the world to practice their faith by helping others in an up-close and hands-on manner.

Sadly, I lack any of the requisite mechanical skills to assist in these projects. I mean, how many sandwiches, cups of coffee, and bottled water do people need in a given day. Sorry, but that is the extent of what I can provide. As a matter of fact, my wife suggests that a day of real hard work might possibly kill me. I don't know about that, but let me assure you that my skills in the world of physical labor, where they exist, are practically nonexistent. My family shoos me off when physical labor tasks creep up over the horizon. However, I do what I can to provide support in other ways when asked.

Recently Chris Van DeBunte, our associate pastor, led a mission trip to the Chicago area for our senior youth group. A total of 40 people, counting the chaperons, enjoyed the bus trip out to the Midwest so that they could assist in renovations at a summer camp in that area. It always amazes me that in today's world we still have such fine sharing and caring people who will take time out of their lives to help others.

As I listened to Pastor Brown speak of the importance of mission and out reach to our church it suddenly dawned on me. In spite of the fact that I have no marketable, mechanical skills to use, I think that I have in fact been on a mission trip of a sort for many decades now. The difference is that in my case I have been sharing my faith in the need for training and continuing education in the fire service world, rather than in the sharing and spreading of my faith in the Lord. However, it is my hope that the latter shine through as I work to deliver the former.

I like to think back to the folks who helped me to see the path I should follow. In one way or another, I have been involved with instructor-related matters for the better part of four decades. Thanks to Roger McGary, my friend, former college instructor, and mentor, I got involved with the New Jersey Society of Fire Service Instructors not longer after I graduated from Jersey City State College in 1976.

At the time Roger was the fire chief at the Rahway facility of the Merck Chemical Company and President of the state chapter of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. It was a combination of his skill as an instructor and his enthusiasm for the fire service that drew me into his love for the world of teaching. I was also impressed by Jim MacKenzie, another fine instructor and Roger's associate at Merck.

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