Transformation Tips

Delbert W. Baker

is vice-chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa near Nairobi, Kenya.

​A Tribute to First Responders

Ray Corbo is a hero, a first responder. He was an assistant fire chief, and was one of the first on the scene at one of the deadliest school shootings in United States history. In 2012 a 20-year-old shot and killed 20 children and six adults, then took his own life at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

There is often a heavy price to pay for being a first responder. Stamped in Corbo’s mind are unforgettable memories. He recalls seeing a police officer, his uniform covered in blood, carrying a boy limp in his arms. Corbo recalls the unforgettable scenes of frantic and hysterical parents anxiously looking for their children. First responders will never forget what they experienced that day.1

When we think of first responders, we think of such events as September 11 (2001), Hurricane Katrina (2005), the Virginia Tech shooting (2007), and the Boston Marathon bombing (2013). More recently we marvel at the courage and self-sacrifice of health-care workers who assist those infected with Ebola. The inspiration and exploits of some first responders make headlines; many never do.

Seventh-day Adventists can be proud of the many first responders within their ranks. We see them in the faces of ADRA workers, health-care professionals, pastors, and teachers. As we grapple with natural disasters, terrorism, wars, and epidemics, the need for first responders will increase, not decrease. These everyday heroes are able to assess situations and persons in need and respond bravely in emergencies.

Challenges of Being a First Responder

In Stories of Faith and Courage From Firefighters and First Responders, Gaius Reynolds describes first responders: “You came from many and varied backgrounds. You strive to serve your communities, countries, and fellow citizens. Your role as a hero is forever imprinted on the minds of Americans as people witness many selfless acts of bravery. When others flee for safety, you run into danger, focusing on the job you are called to do—not on the danger ahead. Shift work, emergency call-outs, interrupted family life, and the inevitable danger are the accepted norms in your life.”

But this heroism also has a price: “Rescue calls represent sadness most people never encounter. Your responses often put you in life-threatening situations, yet you accept that as a constant in your life. Day in and day out, you face tragedy. Oftentimes your sleep is interrupted by visions of the destruction and loss, whether those images involve dragging a youth from a fire, arriving on a scene to find it is too late to save a life, or seeing homes and other property reduced to ashes.”2

First responders are living, practical examples of that beautiful text: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Honoring First Responders

Here are a few concrete ways we can help and honor first responders.

Affirm and pray for them. If necessary, provide support when they recuperate from the trauma of assisting others.

Consider becoming certified as a first responder, or in the basics of emergency assistance.

Volunteer with an organization that serves your community.

Be alert and aware of potentially dangerous situations and have the state of mind to report, act, or help when appropriate.

Follow the methods of the Master First Responder, Jesus Christ, who “mingled with [men and women] as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, [and] ministered to their needs.”3


  1. usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/12/15/horrific-scene-haunts-first-responder/1771725.
  2. Gaius Reynolds, Stories of Faith and Courage From Firefighters and First Responders (Chattanooga, Tenn.: God and Country Press, 2010).
  3. Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 143.
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