2013 World Police/Fire Games
Save the dates of August 14-24, 2014, for the World Fire Games in Los Angeles. Select one or more sports and start training now. There's even Paintball, Golf and a Firehouse Cook Off. Firefighters For Christ, International will have a strong presence at the Games so firefighters can be encouraged to live their lives for Jesus Christ.
Northern Ireland FFC member Phil Scott helped organize the Fire Muster and other events. Here he instructs volunteers how to use the hydrant.
These volunteers worked all day pulling hose at the Fire Muster. Thousands of Northern Ireland citizens turned out to volunteer at the Games. The red shirts were highly visible at venues throughout Belfast and other areas of the country.
Paddy Quinn, his wife Wendy and son Chris are at the Fire Muster. This family team worked tirelessly throughout the week coordinating events and assisting the FFC team with transportation and logistics.
Joe Lindaman and Pat Stilson were involved in many aspects of the outreach including the booth, devotions, competitor support and venue leadership.
Northern Ireland FFC members Christine Murray and Davey Paden both earned medals in running events.
Karen Porter (left) of the Christian Police Association (CPA) is with Diane Bell (Rancho Cucamonga, CA). Karen organized much of the efforts of CPA during the Games and coordinated many events with FFC. She was a major blessing to the team all week.
Steffen Schwarz (rt) of Stuttgart, Germany FFC and his fellow firefighter, Lars, are at the Ultimate Firefighter Challenge, where Steffen had just competed.
Northern Ireland FFC member Ross McClean (rt) is with Kansas City FF Darnell. Ross lost to Darnell in a boxing match at the 2011 Games in New York City and they became good friends. Darnell asked Ross to be his "corner man" in these Games and ended up with a hard earned gold medal in his category.
Greg and Vicki Gibson (Los Angeles FD) provided support for FFC competitors, worked at the booth and led devotions.
Jorge (Los Angeles FD) competed in the fly fishing contest. He and Teri worked at The Dock coffee house and served at other venues as well.
Paul Steusel, Pat Stilson and Mark Foster are at the NI FFC office in Belfast. Mark and his wife Sally were so generous with their Northern Ireland hospitality.
Paul Steusel, Pat Stilson and Mark Foster are at the NI FFC office in Belfast. Mark and his wife Sally were so generous with their Northern Ireland hospitality.
Brazilian police officers visit the FFC booth.
Paddy Quinn helped his team win a bronze medal in a Gaelic football match.
Paul Steusel is warming up before his medal-winning hammer throw.
Randy Strick is wearing one of his three silver medals won during archery competition.
Kjell Zingmark from Sweden and Steffen Schwartz from Germany became close brothers in the Lord at the Games.
Be sure to save the dates of August 14-24, 2014, for the World Fire Games in Los Angeles. Southern California has warm wonderful beaches and Firefighters For Christ will be there!
19 - 19
Day 10, August 9, 2013
It was fitting that on the last day of the World Police/Fire Games that Northern Ireland FFC member Paddy Quinn would lead the devotion at The Dock in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter. Paddy, his dear wife Wendy and son Chris gave their time and energy to the Games in many ways. Living seventy miles from Belfast, the Quinn’s relocated to Belfast for two weeks. Paddy, along with other NI FFC members, provided transportation throughout the week for the FFC team to various venues. He also was the event coordinator for the Fire Muster and first ever effort by the WPFG. Wendy and Chris were also key during that day long event held right where the great ship Titanic had been launched a century before.
To top it off, Paddy took the step of being baptized on Wednesday at the beach at Portrush. During that event his colleagues Phil Scott and Robert Blair of NI FFC commented about Paddy’s progress in his walk with Jesus. A Christian for only four years, each discussed his heart for people. “Paddy has the heart of a pastor,” Phil said on a sunny evening baptism service on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
That pastor’s heart was evident throughout the Games as he led and ministered to the group in many ways. A fiery competitor himself, Paddy is a no nonsense leader, who brings a passion and zeal to everything he does, which inspires others to do likewise. True to his character, Paddy brought a devotion to challenge the group to complete the race, that even though the Games were essentially finished and most of the team would be moving on either back home or to take a few days to tour the British Isles, it was vital that everyone remain alert and on task in order to share the love of Jesus with people at the Games and beyond.
Paddy shared from Acts 20:24-26, where Paul is admonishing his young disciples to follow his example and remain faithful to the task of sharing the gospel boldly no matter the cost or how weary one may be.
With that encouragement and challenge, the team began to wrap up its formal activities at the 2013 World Police and Fire Games in Belfast. It was very unfortunate that the week ended with a patented Belfast protest erupting into a violent clash between sectarian groups with a beleaguered police agency, literally caught in the middle. In the aftermath of that melee, 56 officers were injured, some quite seriously. However, it is important to note that having witnessed the genuine beauty and kindness of the people of Belfast during these Games, it is obvious that the majority of this historic community has already moved past the past. It is an unruly and wayward minority, mostly young people, who really do not know what they are fighting about, who cause these problems and hold back the progress so many are hoping for. The FFC International team leaves the Games with a very positive and hopeful impression of Belfast and its people.
During this week there were countless interactions and opportunities for the FFC team to share the love of Jesus with people. The Northern Ireland FFC Chapter, led by Robert Blair, did an outstanding job of coordinating all aspects of this outreach and effectively laid the foundation through their daily witness in their home country for an open door for the team. There were virtually no hiccups or limits on where the team went or what it did throughout the week. Access was granted at all venues as the two-year planning effort yielded much fruit in terms of sharing the Gospel and exhibiting the love of Jesus in a variety of ways, in various venues with a wide array of people, from athletes, local police officers and firefighters, volunteers, and citizens engaged in everyday activities.
Here are but a few of the known highlights:
The FFC booth at the Games Expo was not thought initially to be in the best location, yet it turned out to be very effective in getting material in the hands of participants, volunteers and others.
The partnership between Firefighters For Christ International and the United Kingdom based ministry Christian Police Association (CPA) was powerful and effective. The collaboration on the booth and at various events maximized everyone’s efforts, drew the police and fire families closer, was a tremendous witness and could serve as a model for future endeavors where police and fire activities are occurring.
The daily team devotions held at The Dock coffee house were critical to the success of this outreach. Each devotion was excellent and amazingly useful for ministry. Looking back it became apparent that God orchestrated these short times as the topics shared often were directly applicable to the events that unfolded later that day. The Dock itself is an incredible venue with a unique and blessed mission. Founder, Pastor Chris Bennett, shared the vision and path The Dock has taken in the four years since its inception. He remarked that the 10 days of devotions held by the FFC team in a specially designed area of the venue was precisely what he had hoped for when he began dreaming of such a place.
The importance and value of the prayer time held at the devotional meeting each morning cannot be overstated. During this outreach much was prayed for, including needs of team members, their families and friends at home and FFC International members unable to attend. This “prayer connection” that spanned the globe during the week yielded powerful results both in Belfast and at home. Two specific situations underscore this truth. FFC member Casey Clark, Fresno, CA, traveled to Belfast with his wife Laura to compete and participate in the Games. They have been in prayer for their daughter Kym who is carrying twins. There have been extreme complications with the pregnancy and each day the group prayed for her and the babies. However, it was Casey who ended up on the receiving end of much needed prayer as well, as he became very ill during the week and required a visit to the emergency room. The initial prognosis was fairly serious, but additional testing revealed a less concerning issue. After lots of prayer, Casey quickly bounced back and while not able to compete he was able to participate in other ways. Throughout the week, the team was kept abreast of a situation involving FFC International President John White’s son Steve, who became gravely ill. Fervent prayer was spoken on behalf of that situation which changed daily. Finally by the end of the week, reports from home indicated that Steve’s condition had improved. Praise God that even though separated by over 5000 miles, we can encourage one another in our faith and support each other in prayer and see real fruit from those interactions as they happen.
It was exciting to see police and firefighters come to The Dock for devotions or to other activities such as the beach barbecue after having been invited by a FFC Team member. A group of Brazilian police officers came to morning devotions several times, as did an officer from Hong Kong, who had just proposed to his fiancé while at the Games. A Portland, OR firefighter made the long journey from Belfast to Portrush to attend the barbecue and baptism. He was encouraged in his faith by the fellowship and given many ways to stay connected to Firefighters For Christ. This young man represents the very heart of the Firefighters For Christ mission, which is to encourage firefighters to live their lives for Jesus Christ. It has always been the vision of FFC to reach out and connect with that one firefighter who may feel he is the only Christian in his department and to support that firefighter with tools and fellowship so he knows he is not alone in his journey as a Christian firefighter.
The FFC International team took home nearly 30 medals in the competition. Where they did not win a medal they competed well, earning respect from other competitors. In the team events of the Fire Muster and the Ultimate Firefighter Challenge, Team FFC was prominently featured. These were marquee events, the announcer took special notice of the FFC Team and publicly acknowledged to the thousands of spectators at these events the ministry and worldwide work FFC does through its Emergency Response Teams. At the Fire Muster in particular, the FFC team, having never practiced before the event, held their own and endeared the crowd with their efforts and attitudes garnering a great response from the audience.
Paul Steusel, Carlsbad, CA FD and Jerry White, San Diego, CA FD took home five and four medals respectively. These two men have won numerous medals over the years at various competitions. More importantly they have forged meaningful relationships with competitors from around the world that provide the opportunity for them to share Jesus. By their kind actions, their bold declaration of their love of Christ, by wearing the FFC logo and the excellence of their competitive effort, they speak volumes to those watching and leave a lasting impression that God can use to touch hearts.
Long-time FFC member Randy Strick, San Diego FD, is a relative newcomer to the Games. He wanted to be involved, but lacked a “sport” he felt he could be competitive, until he saw that archery was offered. He got out his bow, practiced a bit, got pretty good, came to Belfast and went home with three silver medals. Like Paul and Jerry, he also established relationships with other competitors, which served as a platform for his witness for Christ. This is a key element in any outreach FFC is involved with. Unique to the Games is the competitive aspect, however as Joe Lindamen, Los Angeles County FD, and Greg Gibson and Pat Stilson of Los Angeles City FD know and faithfully demonstrated, competing is not required to be involved in the Games. They came with their spouses and were vital with their encouragement and support. Each led devotions, served at the FFC booth and at The Dock and attended or assisted at various events in support of FFC competitors and organizers.
As mentioned earlier and shared in previous blogs, many intimate interactions occurred during the Games between team members and other people. Some of these were quick and spontaneous, others spanned the entire week and some will even continue with the use of social media. Only God knows each heart touched and only the Holy Spirit can do the real work needed to draw people toward Himself and ultimately bring them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Our job is to “show up” and make ourselves available to be an instrument of God in that process. How fortunate and privileged all who showed up in Belfast were these past ten days to have the honor of working together, with a truly international team and our amazing police partners and see God work in and through each team member to encourage, love and witness to people the love of Jesus.
We will continue to pray for the fruit to emerge from the many seeds planted and watered at the 2013 World Police/Fire Games. Of course, the planning is already in gear for the 2015 World Police/Fire Games in Fairfax County, VA. This venue, near Washington DC promises to be exciting as the organizers are planning it around July 4th celebrations.
It is not too early to begin thinking and praying about that event. A website is already up and running that can be checked for updates and competitive opportunities. Who knows, maybe a Firefighters For Christ International dodge ball team could be formed.
Between now and then, much time and life will pass. As Scripture reminds us not to presume the future, but to be engaged in the moment, relying and trusting God for the air we breathe and to be prepared to share the hope we have within us, let us show up everyday, not give up meeting together and continue to encourage one another to live our lives for Jesus Christ. In so doing we are a testimony to the world, our neighbors and our fellow firefighters of the love of Jesus. Hopefully by these various means we can partner with God and snatch many from the fire.
On Day 9, P.S, a police officer from Hong Kong, brought his new fiancee, GIGI, to FFC devotions. He shared how he proposed to her after receiving his silver medal. First he took off his shirt, which revealed his tuxedo tee shirt. Then he called Gigi to the podium, got down on his knee and proposed to her with the microphone of the emcee. He also shared how God gave him a double rainbow in the sky.
Look at the pictures of Day 2, where FFC members first met P.S. and GIGI at their booth. The Lord is drawing people to Himself!
An armored police vehicle commonly used in Belfast. Many were out on Friday night as old wounds erupted into a night of violence in the heart of Belfast. FFC team members returned to their hotels and were safe. Please continue to pray for the Lord's Spirit to reign in the hearts of the people of Belfast.
3 - 3
Day 9, August 9, 2013
Day 9 in Belfast began with a light drizzle as the team made its way to The Dock for devotions. It ended with everyone sheltering in place as powerful water cannons and hurled bricks highlighted the lingering darkness that has pervaded Belfast for decades.
Paul Thomas, the Chair of the Fire and Rescue Service Chaplain's Association of Great Britain, delivered a devotion about judging others. Using James 4:12 as a reference, Paul cited an example from his own life involving people he knew living a homosexual lifestyle. In each case, in spite of the internal conflict he felt, he was able to minister to them out of love, driven by the Holy Spirit and the truth of Scripture, which reminds us to pray for and love people who oppose us and allow God to be the judge of all.
The truth is we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and therefore apart from Christ we all stand condemned by God's holy standard. The only thing that separates a Christian from a non-Christian in God's economy is the risen Christ in our hearts. Thus, as we encounter people who behave in ways we may disagree with, our job is to love them, pray for them and be an example, even in the way we debate the issues that divide us. We may speak the truth with love, but love must be the dominant factor in our approach.
At the devotion this morning was a delightful young couple from Hong Kong. P.S. is a police officer, who competed in indoor rowing claiming a silver medal. He learned of the morning devotional at the Dock at the Games FFC booth. With him was his new fiancé Gigi, whom he had proposed to the day before at the medal ceremony after his race. The ladies crooned over that story and the photos he showed of the moment. No language barrier existed and no words were spoken as the universal swoon of women thinking about romance and weddings filled the room in celebration for this couple. They were quickly swarmed by a huddle of prayer by the FFC Team.
The team traveled to a gym to watch a dodge ball tournament featuring NI FFC members. This fast-paced schoolyard game is a flurry of arms and dodge balls as three games occur adjacent to each other simultaneously. Firefighters For Christ International may wish to think about getting a team together for future games as this is one sport just about anyone can play.
As the afternoon emerged word came that planned protest "parades" in Belfast, commemorating the infamous Internment policy of the British Government during the height of the region's "troubles" would be disrupted by opposing groups. For the outsider looking in, the issues and who hates who is very difficult to decipher. The rage goes back decades and is based primarily along sectarian differences between Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, which represent differing political loyalties as well. It is fairly safe to say that since the hostilities were mostly abated in the early 2000's and a vigorous and on-going peace process has been in place for several years, today's combatants likely know little about why they take to the streets and hurl bricks at police officers and light things on fire.
The FFC team received email alerts from the NI FFC organizers that it would be best to remain at their hotels for the evening. As late as 5:30 pm the streets of Belfast's City Centre were filled with shoppers and diners, many of who were participants in the WPFG enjoying their final night in the city. Within an hour, police riot vehicles, fire engines and helicopters were responding to a major disturbance of rock and brick throwing protesters. Like a wildfire, the protesters outflanked the police and caused havoc in the City, driving patrons from restaurants and forcing stores to close. More importantly several officers and some non-combatants were injured in the melee.
The sounds and smells of the disturbance could be detected from the hotel room from which this blog is written. This was a very unfortunate occurrence and leaves the city with a large black eye and a broken heart, just when it seemed it had pulled off a peaceful, uninterrupted 10-day event on a major world stage.
The issues here are deep and complicated. The city is branded with a well-earned reputation for pathetic hatred and violence. Thugs rule the day here and they proved it again tonight as they have for decades. There will be peace only as long as they say there will be peace. Using violence to combat violence has not worked here, it rarely does.
What a shame that it is the churches, most of them very ornate, yet quite empty that this cycle of violence originated. It is the Head of the church who teaches us all to love our neighbor, turn the other cheek and to pray for our enemies and as our speaker this morning reminded us not to judge. The best we can do before we leave Belfast is to pray for the City and its residents, all of them, even the troublemakers and ask God to heal their gaping wounds and bring His peace to bear upon the city once and for all.
That will leave a lasting impression far beyond the scars of yesterday's petty battle.
Chief Matt Baggott is the Chief Constable of the Police Services of Northern Ireland. Accompanied by a six-man security team, complete with bomb-sniffing dog, Chief Baggott gave his testimony and shared how his faith in Christ enables him to maintain a healthy balance in his life between his work and personal life.
Steffen Schwarz, FFC member from Germany, has been a powerful witness sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the Games.
Melinda Lindaman is sharing Jesus with an Northern Ireland man.
Kate Blair from Northern Ireland is greeting her Scottish, English and USA sisters in Christ. She said, "The FFC WPFG ladies tea party was a great opportunity to support one another in love. The speaker encouraged us not to miss opportunities to minister to people where ever God puts us." Look how good and how pleasant it is when sisters live together in unity! Psalm 133:1
7 - 7
Day 8 August 8, 2013
Day eight started off with two special speakers at The Dock. Andrew Thompson a Chaplain with the Northern Ireland Prison Service shared from Isaiah 43:1-3a: "But now, this is what the Lord says— He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior....."
Andrew reminded the group that no matter the trial God promises to be there with us and to keep us from being overwhelmed. This has been borne out this week as the group has followed personal situations with team members and family of FFC leadership, praying that God would sustain and heal loved ones during extreme difficulties.
This was followed by a special visit and message from Matt Baggott, the Chief Constable of the Police Services of Northern Ireland. Chief Baggott is a strong believer in a major leadership role in a nation trying to heal from decades of internal strife. Accompanied by a six-man security team, complete with bomb-sniffing dog, Chief Baggott gave his testimony and shared how his faith in Christ enables him to maintain a healthy balance in his life between is important work and his personal life.
He also encouraged the group to remember that Jesus is who He says He is in Scripture, sharing from the Gospel of John, the story of Jesus interacting with his disciples after his crucifixion and resurrection. They were still unsure of where they stood with Jesus, especially Peter who had abandoned him during his most desperate hours. The men, fresh off a three-year journey with Christ were lost and broken, even though they had witnessed the miracle of the resurrection. Like men do when they are hurting and do not know where to turn, they fell back on what they knew best and went fishing. Like many of the angling competitors here at the World Police and Fire Games, they fished all-night and caught nothing.
Jesus came to them and told them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat. Even though they did not know who He was at the moment, they complied and they brought in a huge haul of fish, at which time they realized the man on the shore was Jesus. They were over-joyed and fearful at the same time as they brought the fish in, counted the haul and cooked and ate a seaside breakfast in the presence of the risen Christ.
Still uncertain of his standing, Peter awkwardly moved about avoiding the topic when Jesus approached him, initiating a process of reconciliation and restoration that empowered Peter to be transformed from a cowardly follower to a mighty leader of a world-changing movement that continues to this day.
The Chief used that story to encourage the listeners to remain hopeful, not grow weary and trust God to sustain and restore because of His endless love for His children.
Afterward the team split up with the men going to watch and support a Firefighters For Christ International team in the Ultimate Firefighter Challenge. This grueling event puts firefighters through several difficult exercises including, long hose drags, stair climbs, rescue drags and a ridiculous sledgehammer station. The team, made up of Steffen Schwarz of Germany, Ross McClean, Willie Shields and Michael Bolton of Northern Ireland finished a very respectable fifth.
The ladies were treated with a traditional English Tea at The Dock complete with a special speaker who encouraged them in their walk with Jesus.
A unique element of the Firefighter For Christ International's involvement are the relationships formed during the week and even over the years between team members, other competitors, volunteers, spectators and the general public in the host city. The various venues and activities afford team members opportunities to move about freely and encounter people in a variety of circumstances. Whether at the booth, an event, at dinner, on a tour, or just passing on the street everyone seems to make at least one or two special contacts that God sovereignly orchestrates and then uses to bless everyone involved and remind them that His love is most often transmitted one person at a time in very personal ways that only He could ordain.
An example of this is Paul Thomas, the Chairman of the Fire and Rescue Service Chaplain's Association of Great Britain. Paul came to Northern Ireland to serve along side Firefighters For Christ and the Christian Police Association, but he also knew of a longtime friend who lives in Belfast and made arrangements to meet with him. The one meeting led to several in which an ongoing conversation about the man's relationship with God led to a prayer to receive Christ as Lord and Savior at a Belfast restaurant.
Most encounters plant seeds through prayers, expressions of encouragement and service or direct delivery of the Gospel. Part of the team ventured to a Northern Ireland Fire Station where they met the members of the crew and discussed some important ministry work Paul Thomas leads in Uganda. Dan Rodriguez and Jorge Perez then demonstrated how they teach firefighters in poor countries how to use a simple strap for a variety of firefighting and rescue operations. Plans are under way for a trip with Paul to Uganda that may lead to an opportunity to do that training with firefighters there.
Here is a follow-up note to the beach event from the previous evening. It was very much a "fish and loaves" moment. Organizers planned enough food to feed 150 people. Karen Porter of the Christian Police Association had brought the supplies to the event. At one point her keys became locked in her car causing a frustrating moment that eventually necessitated someone making a run to a local market to pick up replacement food as the time to serve drew near. Eventually the keys were retrieved and it appeared there would be twice as much food as needed. Then a local church meeting let out and heard there was food on the beach. They flocked to the sand and quickly overwhelmed the small encampment with a long line.
Amazingly there were just enough hamburgers, hot dogs (sausages) buns (baps and finger rolls) to serve the entire crowd. Everyone ate and was satisfied and no food was wasted. Lost keys were the means by which God provided, which brought a much larger crowd than anticipated to hear the gospel presented.
It is these types of endless little "miracles" that we see throughout the days on various outreaches that speak volumes of God's hand and sovereignty over His creation. This week has provided more of that evidence and it has been a blessing to witness. He will accomplish His mission; He gives us the distinct privilege to participate in His work and experience His love first hand as it is expressed to and through His most beloved creation, His people.
Paddy Quinn, NI Fire Service, received prayer before his baptism. You won't want to miss reading Mike Bell's latest blog about the glorious baptism at Portrush.
Rick Allen (left) from Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Services FFC chapter and Steffen Schwarz from Stuttgart, Germany led worship before the baptism ceremony.
Paddy Quinn shared his testimony before his baptism.
Robert Blair and Pat Stilson had the privilege of baptising Paddy.
Robert Blair is sharing about his daughter's Rachel's walk with the Lord.
Robert is praying for Rachel before her baptism.
Rachel is giving her testimony.
Rachel is giving her testimony.
Dan and Kristi Rodriguez are walking into the Atlantic Ocean for their baptism.
As husband and wife, Dan and Kristi became a living example for all who witnessed the beauty of two hearts that have become one with Jesus Christ!
Second from left, Ryan,a Sports Chaplain to the WPFG, and second from right, Craig Neill, FFC Northern Ireland, also made a public confession of their faith in Jesus Christ in the waters of baptism.
These guys and their little helpers set up for the baptism and BBQ.
This is one view of the stunning Northern Ireland coast at an amazing site called the Giant's Causeway. FFC's WPFG Team had a wonderful day experiencing God's glorious creation.
These amazing volcanic columns dominate the landscape at the Giant's Causeway along the Northern Ireland coast.
The long abandoned Dunlace Castle on the coast of Northern Ireland comes complete with a water cave reminiscent of every pirate movie ever made. It is also a reminder of the temporal nature of manmade strongholds amidst the glory of God's timeless creativity and mighty power.
15 - 15
Day 7, August 7, 2013
This day started early and ended very late, covered some ground and ultimately wound up on a beach at the end of the Emerald Isle worshipping, serving and baptizing people, who have responded in obedience to Christ and wished to make a public demonstration of their faith.
At The Dock at 7am, LAFD Chapter Leader Dan Rodriguez shared several passages including Ephesians 6 (the armor of God) that admonishes believers to be ready for battle with an entrenched and determined enemy. Dan noted the international flair of the the group gathered, which included people from the United States, Northern Ireland, England, Sweden, Wales, Germany and Brazil. He reminded us of the persecuted church both in the past and today and challenged the group to be mindful of that suffering for the cause of Christ when hardships come and to be prepared in our hearts to engage in battle wherever and whenever that time may come in our own lives.
He mentioned the churches the Apostle John addressed in Revelation, the church in Smyrna "the suffering church" that though poor and desolate endured hardship for Christ and were commended versus the church at Laodecia that became complacent and lost its zeal to serve The Lord and was thus rebuked strongly. Dan suggested that the popular evangelistic verse of Revelation 3:20 in which Christ says, "Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me," is as much an invitation for the lukewarm church as it is for the unrepentant sinner and that we all should be sure to heed that knock and respond in obedience and faith to the call of Christ.
Later in the day Dan would be invited by Jesus to respond to that knock on the door of his own heart and would lead by example on a remote Northern Ireland beach exactly what he spoke of in the morning at a Belfast coffee house.
Following devotions most of the team embarked on a road trip through the beautiful country side of Northern Ireland stopping in at two amazing sites enroute to a planned gathering on the beach in Portrush. Others stayed back to minister and serve at The Dock and at least one member had some competition in Archery. San Diego FFC member Randy Strick eventually earned his second silver medal in that event.
The team stopped by a coastal natural wonder called the Giant's Causeway. It is a stunning area of rugged coastline with unique geological features. During the hike Mike and Diane Bell encountered the Madrid police officer they had met and prayed with in a Belfast laundry mat a few days earlier. Obviously no "coincidence" it was the police officer that remarked about the prayer and expressed his deep appreciation. It was a remarkable moment on a trail near the top of the world.
A visit to an ancient castle preceded the arrival in Portrush and work began to assist the Christian Police Association set up for their planned event at the beach there. The FFC team also had a baptism service planned in which two people were to participate. NI FFC member Paddy Quinn shared his testimony followed by Rachel Blair, the daughter or NI FFC leader Robert Blair. Both were then baptized in the frigid waters of the North Sea in front of an audience of 50 fellow believers and a beach full of curious onlookers.
The weather in Portrush was unseasonably glorious and there were beach related WPFG events occurring, so there were a large number of people enjoying the beach. When the group began singing Amazing Grace as Paddy and Rachel went into then came out of the water, all surfing and beach play in the vicinity stopped, as a spiritual event, perhaps unknown to most of the onlookers, moved many of them to respond with applause of their own. It was a powerful and unforgettable moment.
But that was not the end of it. An invitation was given to others, who were not prepared physically, but ready spiritually to follow Christ in baptism—to proclaim in a very public manner their allegiance and faith in the Risen Son of God. Four people, including a husband and wife, responded to the still small voice who was leading them to this moment.
The husband and wife were none other than Dan and Kristi Rodriguez of the LAFD FFC Chapter. Dan, who spoke in the morning about being prepared to respond to the Lord in obedience, had no idea that it would be him, who would be called way out of his comfort zone to lead him and his wife to a fresh beginning in their long and faithful walk with Jesus. Dan and Kristi, with no replacement clothes immediately available, walked into the Atlantic Ocean and together as husband and wife became a living example for all who witnessed the beauty of two hearts that have become one with Jesus Christ.
Amazingly, between everyone there, dry clothes were provided and the team turned to serving a great beach barbecue to way more people than had been planned. Hundreds of burgers and sausage were served and the bread and ketchup kept up with the demand in a "fish and loaves" fashion. This feast drew a large crowd to the beach, who then heard stirring guitar and violin worship and testimonies from Swedish firefighter Kjell (pronounced 'shell') Zingmark and German firefighter Steffen Schwarz. The mostly Northern Ireland crowd were moved by the strongly accented words of the Swede and German, who both said it was Christ and Christ alone who is able to save and sustain people through the trials of this life.
It was a remarkable day.
It ended with FFC members from California, quickly responding to a fire in the ocean front grass armed with nothing more than four water bottles.....two chief's bolted into the flames, established command, created division assignments and set up a base camp. By the time the nearby "retained" fire crew arrived, the blaze had been knocked down, overhauled and investigated in spite of the presence of only chief officers on scene. This was perhaps the greatest miracle of the week!
These athletes (police officers) attended Firefighters For Christ WPFG devotions at the invitation of Robbie Butler, FFC Northern Ireland. Another Northern Ireland firefighter's wife is Brazilian and has been translating for them. They are spreading the Gospel throughout the Brasilia capitol. Looks like Dan Rodriguez (LAFD) traded his shirt. Please pray for our brothers in Christ!
Jerry White's arm had to be twisted to allow his wife to take this picture, but all of are thrilled with his performances. He won three gold and one silver in various swimming events. Way to go Jerry
Lt. to rt. Davey Paden, NI FFC, Diane and Mike Bell, Rancho Cucamonga, CA, Christine Murray and Ross McClean of NI FFC became great friends at the last WPFG held in NYC. After Davey and Christine's stellar efforts in the 10 k cross country event, this picture was taken. Mike 'participated' in the 5k. Ross, Christine and Davey won multiple medals in these Games. To God be the glory!
Paul Steusel has been competing at the World Police and Fire Games since they began. He has also represented FFC at almost every one of the World Fire Games. Mike is enjoying his second WPFG. We are indebted to Mike for his outstanding blogs. These are just two of the men of God who are sharing Jesus with firefighters and police officers from around the world.
4 - 4
Blog Post 6
from Mike Bell
A weary band of FFC members crawled into The Dock this morning to begin another day in Belfast participating and serving at the 2013 World Police and Fire Games. They were perked up by a fresh cup of coffee and an inspiring devotion delivered by Northern Ireland police officer Sam Donaldson, representing our partner ministry in the Games, Christian Police Association (CPA).
Sam shared from Matthew 5:5-13 the story of the centurion and his great faith. The emphasis was on the centurion, his role in the interaction with Jesus, his request for healing and his reliance on his faith in Jesus, the one who heals. In the days of Roman rule in Jerusalem, this centurion no doubt was a very influential leader in the region. Regardless, he knew that before God he was not able or worthy to make a difference in the life of his ill servant. That he would care at all about a servant in the first place reveals a bit about the centurion's heart and humility. That he would approach the rabbi Jesus in public to seek help on behalf of the sick servant was an act of faith and courage.
His request was not an idle one. It was a passionate plea for help. The centurion, a man of great power, was earnestly beseeching, to the point of begging the poor itinerant preacher Jesus to heal his servant. When asked by Jesus why he would do such given his status in the community he said in so many words, “Because I am not worthy or able to do it myself. You are the one who can heal, so I have come to you (paraphrased).” He relied completely on Jesus for his request, and as we know from the story Jesus rewarded his great faith and healed the servant.
Sam applied the story of the centurion to the work of FFC and CPA. We, as firefighters and police officers have an elevated position in our communities because of our vocation and the work we do. This does not make us any more capable to heal, save or redeem people than anyone else. Like the centurion, we must remain humble before Jesus in all areas of our lives. Knowing that our role is primarily to bring people before Jesus and let him do what only He can do. That is to change their hearts and save their souls.
Through the interactions we have with strangers in a foreign land we do just that. We bring them before Jesus. At the booth, at a venue, during competition, in a store, on a bus, when we intentionally interact with people in a spirit of humility and faith, with an earnest desire for them to come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior, we have done our job. The follow up is to pray and ask Jesus to do His work in their hearts.
So much of that has been happening this week in Belfast there is not enough space or time to capture it all. A couple of examples from today are indicative of what has been occurring regularly throughout the week: A conversation with a spectator at a cricket match led to a discussion about a deceased grandson, whose 27th birthday would have been today. The man was moved by the interest shown and the fact that a stranger from the USA would want to pray for a family that continues to grieve even ten years since their loss. Or an encounter with a coach of a Northern Ireland runner who when asked about his own running revealed he has cancer and is hoping that an upcoming surgery will save his life. That led to a prayer circle in the middle of an athletic field amidst hundreds of people. Finally, an amazing story that spans two WPFG events...Ross McClean of NI FFC has been asked by his former boxing opponent, a Kansas City FF to be his 'corner man" in his upcoming bouts. This is quite an honor and a direct result of Ross's obedience to "get in the ring" at the 2011 WPFG in New York City, where he met and got pummeled by his new friend. They have stayed in contact ever since and the relationship has grown quite close, even including the boxer's coach and other associates. This has given Ross the opportunity to be quite bold sharing his faith and praying for his new friends.
These and many other interactions like it are why FFC does what it does on mission whether it is an Emergency Response Team trip, Fire Service Conferences, the World Police/Fire Games, a local chapter meeting or a firehouse Bible study. Showing up, representing Jesus in our speech, actions and in the quality of our effort in the station, on the fire ground or on an athletic field opens doors for life-changing relationships. Some of these last but a few minutes, others a lifetime. But as Sam Donaldson shared at The Dock, those details are not important. What does matter is that we humbly understand and embrace our role in God's kingdom. We do care about other people and about bringing them before Jesus. We rely on Him, not our flyers, tracts, CD's or smiles to do the work that only He can do to open their hearts and change their lives.
In other WPFG news, FFC members in track and field and cross-country won more medals. We will work on a medal count, but it is safe to say The Lord has greatly blessed the efforts of the team to participate in these Games and has allowed many to enjoy the fruit of dedicated effort and training.
After the day's activities were completed, the team was treated to a wonderful fish and chips dinner by retired NI FFC member Mark Foster and his family at their restaurant. Mark spent over 30 years in the fire service in Northern Ireland many of it in the Belfast area.
Tomorrow the team takes a field trip up the beautiful Northern Ireland coast to participate in a baptism service and BBQ hosted by the Christian Police Association,
in the coastal community of Portrush.
Greg, the coach mentioned above, that God would fully heal his body and reveal himself to Greg in a powerful way through this experience.
John, the grandfather who lost a grandson son ten years ago
For Ross McClean as he continues to build a relationship with his friends from Kansas City and that God would move upon their hearts to invite Jesus in as Savior and Lord of their lives.
For the baptism service in Portrush.
For the outreach breakfast at The Dock on Thursday, August 8th.
Melinda Lindaman is jumping for joy as a new day begins in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Joe and Melinda are ministering at their second WPFG, their first one was in NYC two years ago.
At a Northern Ireland Fire Station, Dan Rodriguez demonstrated specific knot tying and how webbing can be used in firefighting and rescue work. Afterwards he shared his testimony and left the crew with Gospels of John and a strap of their own.
Paul Steusel and Ricardo from Puerto Rico have been competing against each other for many years. In Belfast Paul had the opportunity to share Jesus with Ricardo on a bus ride to the track venue.
Kjell Zingmark from Sweden has been such a blessing to the FFC WPFG team. He is being used in Sweden to begin a ministry to firefighters. Please pray for Kjell as he shares Jesus this week at the WPFG and as he returns to his homeland of Sweden.
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Blog Post 5
from Mike Bell:
Monday proved to be a very long but fruitful day. Starting early at The Dock with LAFD FFC member Greg Gibson sharing about the young disciples Jesus recruited to come along side of him for His world-changing mission. By this time in Jesus' life He was a Rabbi and in Jewish culture to be called out by a Rabbi for mentoring and discipleship was a high honor.
The young men Jesus handpicked had previously been passed over for this distinction and had settled into various trades to make their living. When Jesus came and said, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men," they dropped their nets, hammers and staffs and came right away having no real idea what they were signing on for. They would spend the next three years learning who Jesus was and how he lived to prepare for a mission that would change the world. In fact the model they established for following and serving Jesus on the mission field remains true to this day and is the basis for the work the Firefighters For Christ International team at the 2013 World Police and Fire Games has been doing in Belfast this week.
Greg shared that the disciples were following Jesus so closely they were literally covered in his dust as they moved from place to place on their itinerant journey. Halfway through the WPFG the FFC team is pretty dusty themselves having moved about the gritty streets of Belfast from place to place loving and serving people for the cause of Christ.
Monday brought the FFC team front and center with the Games as a team participated in the highly anticipated and well attended Fire Muster. Northern Ireland FFC member Paddy Quinn with stellar assistance from his wife Wendy and son Chris organized this unique event. Paddy enlisted several FFC members for key roles at the event so this prominent venue was covered literally from start to finish by FFC members.
The six-man team, led by NI FFC Chapter Leader Robert Blair was truly international with representation from three countries including Sweden and England. They competed in two grueling events requiring skill, precision and teamwork. First was the hose cart in which they sprinted down a long lane pulling a wheeled hart loaded with hose. Then in a flash they had to lay out the hose, connect it to a hydrant, hook up a nozzle (called a 'branch' in the UK) and flow water to knock down a target. In spite of the fact that this team had never practiced before the event they pulled off the feat flawlessly and scored a very respectable time. This was followed by a bucket brigade with a twist. It required the raising of an extension ladder with the team climbing and locking into the ladder and the buckets being passed from the ground to the man at the top of the ladder, who then filled a barrel of water to the top. The FFC team was the last to go and managed a very good time having a lot of fun in the process and getting a tremendous round of applause from the crowd.
The event announcer was very clear in explaining to the hundreds of people gathered who and what Firefighters For Christ is about, which was well received by the crowd. FFC's distinctive gold shirts and logo have made for a strong presence at the Games as people have come to know and appreciate what and whom it is that this truly international group is representing.
The FFC team continued to shine elsewhere-earning medals in track and field and archery as well.
Though very tired, the team regrouped after the Muster and went in two directions. The ladies were escorted on a tour of C.S. Lewis sites. The famed Christian author was born and raised in Belfast. They were then treated for a nice dinner by their Northern Ireland hosts. The men were driven to a West Belfast Fire Station where they met the crew who provided a traditional meal of haggis and potatoes and curried prawns (shrimp). The food and fellowship were outstanding.
This crew operates in a busy part of the city still impacted by the underlying tension remaining from "the troubles" of previous years. While there, they responded to a rubbish fire with the warning of "youths in the area." Sure enough they returned with a chipped windshield from rocks that had been hurled at the unit, an act that is not uncommon in Belfast. In speaking to the crew, the youths are very young men and boys who have followed their fathers’ footsteps into a debate they no longer understand. A poignant reminder of Greg Gibson's devotion earlier of, "Whose dust are you covered in?"
After dinner, LAFD FFC Chapter member Dan Rodriguez provided the crew with training on a simple strap made up of webbing and a carabiner that he and many of his colleagues use on the job. This is the same training FFC members use on outreach trips to Mexico, Panama and other areas around the world. Dan explains the webbing, shows them how to tie the knot required, how the tool can be used, then leaves them a completed strap as a gift from Firefighters For Christ International.
This led to an opportunity for Dan to briefly share his testimony about Jesus and how he had grown up "religious" but never knew Jesus in a personal way. The crew and others listened intently as Dan shared from the Gospel of John, leaving each person a copy, making a very clear presentation of the Gospel in a West Belfast fire station to a very appreciative bunch of well-worked firefighters.
This ended an 18-hour day of ministry. Thank God we all made it back to our lodgings from where we would begin it all again in a few hours. Sleep was quick to come as we rested knowing that in our dust, many seeds have been planted.
Rejuvenation for the remainder of the week and to finish strong!
Enrique, a firefighter from Spain who fell during the muster and sustained a very serious fracture in his left arm
For John and Jane White and their son Steve who has shown some improvement in a Northern California hospital. Praise God!
FFC Muster Team celebrated their effort with fellow competitors at the World Police and Fire Games in Belfast.
FFC Chaplain, Pat Stilson, read 2 Peter 1:16-19 before an audience of over 1000 people at the World Police & Fire Games Memorial Service.
Spouses and children were invited to join FFC members at the WPFG Memorial Service.
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Blog Post 4
from Mike Bell
Big day...shorter blog--
The important news was that after a day of illness, two team members were feeling better today. Praise God!
Morning devotions at The Dock were led by NI FFC member Rick Allen who shared from 2 Kings 13:14-19. In this story Rick shared that the prophet Elisha, in response to a plea for victory from the Israelite King Jehoash, told the king that God would indeed cause the nation to be victorious over their Aramean enemy. He then told the king to express his thanks and trust in God in a symbolic fashion, which he did so quite nonchalantly, which prompted an angry response from Elisha who rebuked the king and prophesied a limited victory due to his cavalier attitude toward God's promise.
Rick related this to the efforts in Belfast by the FFC team. As the week wears on and the team begins to tire, he encouraged each one to stay the course, expect God to do new things each day, don't rest on the positive contact from the day before. Expect God's favor and acknowledge his sovereign role in it all with enthusiasm and great joy. The worship leader in Rick rejuvenated the team as it headed out for a busy day of competition and ministry.
FFC members added to the weight of their luggage by netting three additional medals. Jerry White earned his third and fourth medals (gold and silver) in the swim events and Paul Steusel earned a bronze medal with a come from behind effort in the javelin.
After a long delay due to two injured competitors, Dan Rodriguez and Steffen Schwarz tackled the tallest building in Northern Ireland by ascending the 27 floors of the Opal Building in Belfast during the firefighter stair-climbing event.
While at the various venues FFC spouses had opportunities to minister to several people who were intrigued by the FFC logos on their shirts.
In the evening the team gathered for a Memorial Service held at the historic Belfast Cathedral. This beautiful church was built at the beginning of the 20th century. In spite of several Nazi-bombing raids in Belfast in 1941 and numerous terrorist bombings during "the troubles" of the past few decades, the church has come through with minimal damage in spite of massive devastation in the immediate neighborhood.
A beautiful choir led worship and much Scripture was read, including a passage shared by LA City FFC member and Chaplain Pat Stilson. Pat read 2 Peter 1: 16-19 before an audience of over 1000 people including many dignitaries and the families of fallen Northern Ireland public safety members. NI FFC leader Robert Blair assisted in the planning of this service. John Mann, Dean of the Cathedral, ensured that this international gathering was an inclusive memorial service by allowing a portion of the Quran to be read during the "scripture reading" section. He also saw to it that all the selections sung by the two choirs, including the Belfast Gospel Choir, unashamedly proclaimed Christ as Lord and Savior. This was a very moving service in honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
While this was a little awkward, all the selections sang by the two choirs, including the Belfast Gospel Choir unashamedly proclaimed Christ as Lord and Savior. This was a very moving service in honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
During the tea reception, after the service important contacts were made by the FFC team with organizers of the 2015 World Police and Fire Games, which will be held in the Fairfax County, VA area. Never to early to plan for and pray for that event and FFC's involvement.
As the weekend turns into the new week, beautiful weather continues to defy the norm in Belfast. The FFC team will be very involved in the Firefighter Muster event on Monday as both competitors and officials. Other activities and outreaches are ahead including a breakfast at The Dock on Thursday, Aug 8 that will feature a guest speaker.
Please keep the team and the ministry in prayer. Pray that new and existing relationships would deepen and allow for more intimate conversations about Jesus with people in Belfast.
The Lord continues to open doors of opportunity to minister to WPFG participants and attendees.
The Lord used Andrea in the red shirt to save Gospel tracts from being discarded as was the desire of another Games volunteer. The Lord says, "It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it." Isaiah 55:11 Diane Bell (USA) and Colleen and Simon Hewitt (England) were thrilled meet Andrea and to hear her story.
Victoria Armstrong is the financial manager for the Games. She stopped by FFC's booth looking for the person she had spoken to from FFC's International Office before the Games began. She received several items including a Bible.
Pat Stilson, Joe Lindaman, Jerry White, Greg Gibson and Mike Bell were among the many who saw Paul Steusel win a bronze in the Hammer throw.
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Blog Post 3
from Mike Bell:
Day three began with an incredible blue, blustery sky in Belfast. The weather here is a major topic of conversation among the locals who actually apologize when it rains as if a few summer squalls may threaten to dampen our appreciation for their fragile city. It was a day of ups and downs for the team, but all of it was in God's perfect plan.
Devotions at The Dock were led by Los Angeles City Firefighters For Christ Chapter member Pat Stilson. A veteran of many Firefighters For Christ Emergency Response Team and Mexico outreaches, Pat shared from 2 Peter 1:16-19 in which Peter describes his experience with Jesus on the Mountain of Transfiguration when God proclaimed his pleasure in his Son and glorified him in the presence of ancient prophets and the disciples. This event, covered in various details in each of the Gospels was orchestrated and carried out precisely according to God's sovereign will.
In Matthew 17:4, Peter, the ever enthusiastic and at times bungling disciple tried to insert his own ideas into an already perfect moment by suggesting that he build tents for Jesus, Elijah and Moses, as if God somehow forgot they might need shelter while in the midst of a supernatural event. There is no response from God or Jesus, there was absolutely nothing Peter could or should have done to add to what God was clearly doing.
"God owned that event", Pat said. "He owns this event as well," referring to the Firefighters For Christ outreach at the World Police and Fire Games. He does not need or want our well-meant adornments added to what He has determined by His sovereign grace. As in Peter's case, sometimes our job is to simply be there to observe and report what God has done and what He his doing. This alone brings Him glory and encourages others to worship Him in spirit and truth, free from the trappings of human entanglement in what is otherwise the pure and simple truth that Jesus is the Son of God and He is to be proclaimed and worshiped accordingly.
It is in that spirit that the team set out on Day Three for more competition and to be used by God as instruments of His love to those in Belfast. Long-time Firefighters For Christ member Paul Steusel (Carlsbad FD, CA, ret) added to his storied athletic career by taking a Bronze medal in the hammer throw in his age bracket. Northern Ireland FFC member Paddy Quinn earned a bronze as a member of his agency's Gaelic football team. This is a unique Celtic game that combines elements of rugby, soccer, football, volleyball and basketball into a fast-paced game that can get a bit rough. Paddy held his own as a defender and helped his team succeed in a game that has deep meaning to his fellow countrymen.
Two team members had to take it easy due to illnesses for most of the day. One was laid up with a bad cold, while the other had symptoms that necessitated a trip to the emergency room. Thank God, both were feeling better by the end of the day. Please continue to pray for them that they would be fully restored and able to continue their involvement in the Games unabated.
Many interesting and inspiring moments occurred during the day. This included a sideline prayer with a father and his four boys during the Gaelic football match. Also, a food vendor upon seeing the logo on several shirts and jackets at a venue made a point of coming out and meeting some from the team. Turns out the man is a relatively new believer, he and his entire family now attend a church in a part of the community where before they would have steered far from during "the troubles" that plagued Northern Ireland for the better part of 30 years. He sought and received prayer and encouragement for his business and family. Then he said something that was very encouraging to the team when he commented on their activities. He stated it was a simple tract, much like the ones being distributed by the FFC team at the Expo booth and at the various venues that he had received, set on a shelf at home and several months later picked it up and was inspired to seek out a deeper relationship with Christ than he had before. "It changed my life and my family," he said softly. "So keep doing what you are doing. It makes a difference."
Back at the booth at the Waterfront building in central Belfast, things were very busy as Bibles, CD's and other ministry items were distributed amongst the many conversations between visitors and those staffing the site. One visitor in particular had quite a story to share, one that circles back to Pat Stilson's words earlier in the day when he reminded the team the these games, and every other outreach effort are ultimately God's and He will accomplish exactly what He wishes regardless of any man-made obstacles. Andrea, a wheelchair bound woman who lost her beloved father, a police officer killed by rebels during the turbulent years of the mid-1980's, was among thousands who volunteered to help the games organizers. She was assigned the task of filling the participant registration bags. One of the items to go into the bags was a very nicely designed tract provided by Firefighters For Christ and the Christian Police Association containing the Gospel of John.
Andrea explained that while she was doing this job, a paid staff member doing the same thing fumed about including a "Christian" tract in the packets and began to toss them aside rather than place them in the bags. Andrea boldly challenged the young lady and eventually reported the activity to her supervisor who had it corrected. God's Word, according to God's plan was successfully delivered because of simple obedience by a person who "just showed up."
Please pray that the seeds of the Gospel would continue to be sown throughout Belfast and other areas of Northern Ireland during the remainder of these games. Pray also that we might see some of these seeds sprout while the team is still here. Other prayer requests include:
For complete healing of our two comrades who became ill today.
For the success of the food vending business of the fellow believer (Paul) that we met today.
For the Memorial Service for fallen police officers and firefighters to be held Sunday at St. Anne's Cathedral in Belfast and for Pat Stilson who will be presenting the Scripture reading at that event.
For injury free events in swimming and track and field that several FFC members will compete in on Sunday.
Don't miss reading FFC's latest blog. Mike Bell shares about his journey through the inner city of Belfast with his wife, Diane, in search of a "laundrette."
Rick and Katie Allen along with their sons, Reuben and Ethan, of Northern Ireland FFC, are enjoying the track events.
Paddy Quinn, an active member of FFC Northern Ireland, is showing Greg and Vicki Gibson their muster hydrant.
Wendy Quinn and her son Christopher are at Queens University to watch Paddy's Gaelic Football match.
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Blog Post 2
from Mike Bell:
Before the ink dried on the morning papers here in Belfast, Firefighters For Christ made a splash with Jerry White of San Diego, CA (USA) winning two gold medals in the swimming competition at the brand new swimming venue here.
The local newspapers here have run full page, photo-filled articles on the 2013 World Police and Fire Games (WPFG) in Belfast. This event was kicked off with a long and colorful opening ceremony complete with traditional Irish river-dancers, floats, special music, well-known performers, newcasters, politicians and fireworks. Given the recent history and deep-seeded tensions in this nation, this event marks a major milestone in its efforts to reinvent itself in the shadow of an international reputation for sectarian violence and turmoil.
There is a palpable positive buzz in the air as the community has come out in full support of the games dubbed, “The Friendliest Games Ever.” Nearly 4,000 citizens have volunteered to support the games under a backdrop of intense behind the scenes security measures as the scars of “the troubles” as they are called here linger in spits of a very successful yet fragile peace process that has seen this complicated political/religious landscape change quite dramatically in the past ten years.
Thus, it is no small coincidence that Firefighters For Christ is here in the middle of the whole affair. That God has been building a strong national chapter in Northern Ireland for the past decade demonstrates His perfect sovereignty, as now several NI FFC chapter members are key leaders in these games. As shared in the previous blog the strategic placement of a Christian-run coffee house in the heart of the booming new Titanic Quarter of Belfast is no accident either.
The Dock is where the FFC team is gathering each morning for devotions and daily activity briefings. This morning Phil Scott of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Services delivered a message from Mark 16:15, the Great Commission, encouraging the group to not only “go” but to “proclaim”, that is to purposely speak the Gospel of Jesus Christ whenever possible. Phil said that while acts of service and kindness are a means, it is the Gospel, the good news of salvation for lost sinners that is the goal of any evangelistic effort. Phil shared that no one need to be a Bible scholar to share their testimony of what knowing Jesus has meant to them personally. It is often that one on one encounter when a person hears how Jesus has changed his life that the impact is made.
To the streets and venues the teams disbursed, some to watch and support Jerry as he opened the competition in such stirring fashion for FFC, others to practice for their events and scout other venues as their activities in track and field begin on Saturday.
Prayer for the team included freedom from injury, divine appointments, boldness and clarity in expressing the love of Jesus to those who need to hear His Gospel. Pray for the nation of Northern Ireland and the city of Belfast as underlying tensions remain, that God would bring peace to bear on a weary community and allow for wounds to heal and a revival in the hearts of many of the “religious” people here, who ultimately need Jesus if there is to be any hope of lasting change.
Finally, an honest tale from the real world of missionary work, in case anyone thinks it’s all endless spirituality and eternal victories. Sometimes it’s about laundry. My wife and I have made a longer trip of this opportunity and visited several European countries on our way to Belfast….the laundry had stacked up and needed to be done to be logistically settled for the rest of our stay in Belfast. To find a “laundrette”, what many call a laundry mat in the center of Belfast was no small task. What we thought would be a quick ninety minute job in the morning took us the better part of the day…..an hour long wait at the place offered for the task at which no one was there began an odyssey across Belfast where, with bags of smelly clothes in hand, on and off busses, walking blocks in the inner city, getting kicked out of a hostel laundry room, a sudden drenching rain and several international phone calls, later to the local hotel concierge, we finally found the one and only laundry mat in Belfast, ultimately only a fifteen minute walk from the hotel where we are staying.
So much for the glamour and adventure of the mission field, until you recall a strong tenet of Firefighters For Christ International, which is to “just show up!” Wearing the FFC logo along this laundry expedition afforded the following “divine appointments.”
A brief encounter happened on a city bus with a wonderfully cute, young physically challenged boy named Ryan and his grandmother. The grandmother was coughing a bit so we offered a lozenge and a conversation began. Initially the boy was painfully shy, but he knew all about the games and finding out we were firefighters made him light up. He became quite animated asking questions about our sports and other activities. Then God delivered a Belfast fire engine in front of the bus, right on queue and in that instant Ryan was elated and could not stop waving at us, as we exited the bus. It was his grandmother that gave us the tip to the youth hostel. We went there, found the laundry facility and began to settle in to get the job done…...when we asked the desk for a token, we were promptly asked to leave since we were not registered guests…an offer to pay for a night stay went to no avail….visible frustration registered on my face and my voice as I acquiesced to the adamant attendant, who did actually lead us finally to the one and only legitimate laundry mat in the city where we hauled off, bags in hand to find it staffed by a gloriously friendly attendant so happy to help us as we were there as part of the Games that meant so much to her beloved city.
During the ninety minutes we were there, we met a couple from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. He is a police officer competing on an 0-2 basketball team, a Canadian connection initiated a conversation with my wife that eventually led to an inquiry about the FFC logo on her shirt, which allowed her to share what the ministry is all about and how it has been so important for our thirty-year fire service marriage. Who knows what the conversation was between this young couple on their trek back to their hotel, laundry in hand. Hopefully seeks were planted.
No sooner had they left than a Spanish police officer from Madrid stepped into the only laundry mat in town everyone else but use seemed to be aware of. He is competing in the cycling events. He knew less English than I did Spanish, so a 45-minute conversation ensued and advanced in an amazing fashion. Turns out we are the same age, he has two college-age boys at home, he thinks the Irish like steep hills for bike competitions and he know Jesus because he is a strong Catholic. And once the discussion steered that way, he credited God with his good fortune in his cycling efforts. The miracle of Google Translate enabled a heart-felt prayer for his family that left him quite moved and in a laundry mat in Belfast, a Rancho Cucamonga, California firefighter became eternally connected to a Madrid police officer as warm hugs and kisses ended a day on the mission field, that started hours earlier on a quest for clean underwear.
I am certain others on the team had similar encounters….we shall learn of those at devotions at the Dock in the morning.
P.S. It was during the rain that I left the laundry mat and returned to the hostel to apologize to the adamant attendant, who graciously accepted with eyes glued to the FFC logo. Sometimes we have to “show up again” to finish the job.
Jerry and Jennifer White set up FFC's Booth at the World Police Fire Games as soon as they arrived in Belfast. Two of the new friends they met are from China. Po Shing is a police officer in Hong Kong. FFC is sharing their booth with Christian Police Association.
Po Shing's wife was happy to receive a FFC CD in her own language. Jennifer also got to practice her Chinese and Randy and Janey Strick were blessed to see their interaction.
As the first FFC team members to arrive in Northern Ireland, Casey Clark (Fresno FFC) and Randy Strick (San Diego FFC) were welcomed by the Mayor of Castlereagh. Laura, Casey's wife said, "We were welcomed with open arms, treated to a reception with yummy food, a tour of the City Civic Building, the Bradford buildings and gifted with Belfast Crystal." The major also presented Northern Ireland FFC member, Mark Foster, who is hosting the Clarks and Stricks along with his wife Sally, with a New Testament. Casey and Randy presented their respective department patches. The Mayor is in the center of the picture and Council members are on either end.
Lt to rt: Dan Rodriguez, Greg Gibson, Jorge Perez, Pat and Connie Stilson and Joe and Melinda Lindaman along with Kristi Rodriguez, Vicki Gibson and Teri Perez landed in Dublin and journeyed on to Belfast for the Games. They look sharp in FFC's World Games Uniforms. We are praying they will be used mightily by the Lord to share Jesus!
FFC Northern Ireland brothers and sisters hosted a wonderful, welcome barbecue to around sixty people on the eve before the Opening Ceremonies. Robert Blair, NI FFC, brought a "spot on" devotional, which you can read about in Dan Rodriguez' blog.
Steffen Schwarz from Germany in the black FFC shirt is happy to be with his Northern Ireland and USA brothers in Christ.
Teri Perez and Colleen Hewitt met for the first time at FFC's WPFG BBQ. Teri is from California and Colleen is from England. It's a small world when you know Jesus. John and Jane White were privileged to meet Colleen and her firefighter husband Simon last November when they visited Angela Nowak and her family in England. Angela translated for FFC's team in Russia. We love to see how the Lord brings His people together. Please pray for all the close relationships the Lord will be building these next two weeks through the Games.
Firefighter Simon Hewitt from England and Robbie Butler from Northern Ireland are enjoying fellowship at NI FFC's Welcome BBQ.
Firefighters For Christ believes that our close relationship with Jesus is vital to our prayer life and produces fruit that will last forever. (John 15:1-17, James 5:16b) Our first priority every morning is to meet together for prayer. Jesus said, "Without Me, you can do nothing." (John 15:5)
On the first morning of the Games, after Bible reading and prayer, some of FFC's team went on prayer walks around various venues in Belfast. The Lord always accomplishes much as we pray. Your fervent prayers will mean a great deal to the ministry the Lord will be doing in Northern Ireland through the World Police & Fire Games.
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Blog Post 1
from Dan Rodriquez:
Here we are in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the host of the 2013 World Police and Fire Games. There are approximately thirty Firefighter For Christ members who have traveled from abroad and another twenty-five to thirty, from Northern Ireland who will be competing and/or participating in this mission. Yesterday was our first get-together at a barbecue put on by our brothers from Northern Ireland. We met at the Firefighters For Christ center, which is a really nice facility located behind one of their fire stations. We enjoyed a time of fellowship, communion, and prayer. Robert Blair gave us a run-down of the events to follow and has done a remarkable job on logistics for this mission. He ended the meeting with a word of encouragement, reminding us that these games are not about the competition, but instead an opportunity to be used by God in reaching the lost with the message of salvation. Our prayer is that we would be sensitive to His leading, alert to the opportunities that He presents, and boldly share the gospel in word and deed. He challenged us by asking, "When others see you, do they see Jesus in you?"
This morning we met at The Dock for morning devotions. The Dock is a very large and leisurely coffee shop in the midst of a recently re-developed industrial waterfront; adjacent to where the Titanic was built. It occupies the ground floor of a 4-5 story mixed-use residential building and its location is very welcoming to passing foot traffic. Three local churches have partnered in running this cafe, which uses an honesty box as a cash register...basically, you pay what you want. They don't pass out tracts or religious flyers, but focus on building relationships through conversation. It's a very non-churchy environment but with chaplains on staff for counsel or prayer as needed. So, we will be meeting there the next ten days for morning devotions.
Joe led devotions this morning and started in Exodus 34:10, Then The Lord said, "I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, The Lord, will do for you."
He continued in Acts 26:16-18, Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.
Joe mentioned that these scriptures were given to someone on our prayer team before this trip began, and he simply applied them to our mission at hand. In a nutshell, God will do the work and provide us opportunities to engage, but we need to be faithful to stand up and witness (or proclaim) what we have seen. Sharing what God has done in our life is often a good way to start. He will open their eyes and finish the work of transformation leading to sanctification.
Following devotions, we some were trained up on helping out at The Dock, others staffed the FFC booth at the expo, and still others went about the different venues of The Games in prayer. This year we have 7,000 competitors representing about 67 countries, who will participate in 50 different sports. It is being advertised as "The friendliest games ever", and our Northern Irish hosts are living up to it.
The Opening Ceremony tonight was conducted as if a smaller version of The Olympics. Countries marched into the arena following their country's banner, flags were flown, announcements made, and the stadium filled. There were welcoming speeches made by dignitaries, a variety of local entertainment, and even the lighting of an Olympic-style torch. It was very apparent that much time and energy went into this production. After about 3 1/2 hours the stadium started to empty and the local pubs began to fill. We headed back to our hotels to get ready for another early morning day. Thus begins The Games.
Jennifer - continued healing on her ankle, and her back is in pain
Joe and Melinda's daughter, Kathleen - heading to Rwanda for a mission trip
John - healing, health, recovery
Steve - cancer