FORT PIERCE, Fla. (BP)–It was a Friday night and I was on duty at one of our busier fire stations. But the 24-hour shift was going unusually slow.
“Could we actually have an easy shift on a Friday?” I thought to myself. I figured I’d throw a piece of chicken on the grill while things were quiet. But chicken never made it to the grill. Instead, the tones sounded and we were dispatched to a “shooting!”
Little information was available. I hurried toward the rescue truck, my imagination running rampant. How many people were hit? Are there still bullets flying around at the scene? I expected anything and everything.
Making our way through traffic, I put on my latex gloves. Shootings always mean a lot of blood. This would be no exception.
Turning into the neighborhood, I observed a large gathering. There were four or five police units around the scene, which was comforting. We then got our first glimpse of a young man lying in a pool of blood. I grabbed my trauma bag and headed to his side.
I noticed he had at least two bullet holes. One in his shoulder; the other entered through his upper arm. He opened his eyes only momentarily to loud verbal stimuli. We quickly pressure-bandaged the bleeding holes and placed him in a military anti-shock suit to improve his blood pressure. We then strapped him the backboard and lifted him onto the stretcher.
He no longer opened his eyes. As we wheeled the stretcher toward the door, a lady came out of the crowd. She began calling this man’s name. She yelled words I will never forget: “Listen, man, you remember that prayer I told you to pray? You’d better pray it!”
We loaded the stretcher. She yelled again, “That prayer I told you about — you’d better pray it!”
We closed the back doors. She stood there sobbing, unsure he had heard her.
This paramedic heard her, though, and I wondered about the prayer — was it a prayer of salvation, or ritualistic words with a magical healing power, or just some cultic chant? We successfully transferred our victim to the emergency room staff and hoped he would make it.
As I lay in my bunk that night, the woman’s mysterious prayer plagued my mind. The more I considered it a prayer of salvation for his lost soul, the more judgmental and bitter I became. Who does this guy think he is — calling on God for a bailout, at the last moment!
We found out he was a notorious drug dealer and the shooting was drug-related. He chose to live this way, I thought. He’s on a stretcher dying and she’s reminding him of a last-minute prayer to get saved! Who would make a deal with God at the last minute? Certainly not me, right? Wrong!
A few months later, I was called out on a warehouse fire. There was imminent danger of a back draft causing a life-ending explosion. My lieutenant and I crawled through thick smoke in search of the fire. As I was hanging on to the hose line for dear life, I felt parts of the roof land on my air pack and helmet.
“Oh no, this roof is going to fall and trap us!” I thought.
“I’m going to die in here,” I feared. “I really am.”
I began dealing with God. “Lord, if you’ll just get me out of here, I’ll teach Sunday school and I’ll help with the youth — just don’t let me die in this building!”
The Lord wasn’t ready to take me home that day. We managed to crawl back out of that building before a large section of the roof collapsed. After catching my breath, I realized I was no different from the man and woman at the shooting incident. I, too, was dealing with God in the face of a crisis.
The man survived his shooting and I survived that burning inferno. I wondered if he ever prayed that prayer. I may never know, but I do know that I thank God for his great forgiveness, his awesome mercy and his unfathomable love – all through his Son, Jesus Christ.
I also learned that God doesn’t want us making deals with him, and he doesn’t want us judging others as I did. His desire for us, as Proverbs 3:5 puts it, is to obey him, trust him with all our heart and not rely on our own understanding.
Do not wait to acknowledge Christ as Savior and Lord. For we never know when our last alarm will sound.
Neiman is a firefighter/paramedic with the Fort Pierce/Saint Lucie County Fire District in Florida and an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He is the author of “Sirens for the Cross,” available through his website, www.tommyneiman.com, or through LifeWay Christian Stores.