The photo above is the old firehouse at Lowry Air Force Base (A.F.B.) in Denver, Colorado. The Air Force closed the base in 1994 and for a short period the Denver Fire Department operated an engine company out of this station. Prior to entering the Marine Corps, I spent two tours of duty at Lowry. The first one as a student going through technical school and the second tour as a firefighter working from this firehouse.
What does this former fire station have to do with thankfulness? For me, quite a bit, but not at first. When I received orders directing me to the base fire department at Lowry, I was anything but thankful. I was leaving a very active flying base and fire department at Seymour Johnson A.F.B., North Carolina and being sent to a training base that had not seen aircraft in years. At Seymour Johnson, it was common to respond to multiple aircraft and structural emergencies each shift, and I loved the activity. After all, I became a firefighter to respond to emergencies. Arriving at Lowry, we went thirty-days before leaving the firehouse on an emergency and it was a false alarm in one of the student barracks. Whoopee!
My wheels started to turn, and I was trying to figure out a way to transfer to another base where the fire department was active. For those who were in the military you know that is not an easy task. Generally, it is impossible until you have been there a few years and then reassignment comes in the way of PCS (permanent change of station). During my time in the military, there was this fantastic form where the service member could list their preferences for assignments: five state-side bases and three overseas bases. This piece of paper was lovingly referred to as the “dream sheet.” To the uninitiated, the form made the military member feel like they had a say in where they wanted to be stationed. To those who truly understood what the dream sheet was, they knew it only came into play once the needs of the military (not yours) had been met. After considering which bases were actively engaged in flying missions with a corresponding high fire department response to emergencies, I completed the dream sheet and waited. And waited. And waited. Nothing happened.
But something was happening, and that activity was in the form of another firefighter named Steve who came to us from an Air Force base in Colorado Springs. Steve was prior Air Force and had become a civilian firefighter with the military. He was a nice guy, a hard worker, a man of integrity, and yet he was different than the rest of us. Steve did not run around cussing like a sailor nor was he running people down. He was kind, he was considerate, and he was a Christian.
The latter one scared me, and I waited for the day that Steve would tackle me and beat me over the head with his Bible. That day never came. In the firehouse, Steve lived a life that created an insatiable curiosity in me. Why was this guy so different than the rest of us? What made him stand out? One Saturday evening, I was speaking to Steve about my father’s death when I was fourteen and why did that happen. He did not have the answer, but Steve invited me to church with his family the next day and sheepishly I said yes.
I had not darkened the doors of a church since basic training and that was only to get out of the barracks on Sunday mornings. That morning the gospel of Jesus Christ was clearly presented by the pastor of the church. As the week progressed, I became increasingly convicted about the status of my eternal destination and by Friday evening I knew that my final stop would be in Hell not Heaven.
On a beautiful, Colorado evening in September of 1981, Steve was outside the firehouse standing by his car when I struck up a conversation with him. Eventually I asked, “What does this business mean to be born again?” Steve reached inside his car, grabbed his Bible, and we sat down next to one of the fire engines. He took me to John Chapter 3 and explained what Jesus meant when He said “you must be born again” to Nicodemus.
That evening, I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior and I settled once and forever where I would spend eternity: in Heaven and not in Hell. I am thankful that Christ died on the cross for my sin and yours. I am thankful for Steve and the courage he had to speak to me. I am thankful that I was assigned to Lowry Air Force Base because I would not have met Steve. I am thankful for the picture above because it was there, on the second-floor bunkroom (left side) that I trusted Christ as my Savior. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for and have you ever placed your eternal trust in Jesus Christ?