by: Joshua Gardner
"Why do you speak to the people in parables?" - The disciples
"For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn, and I would heal them." - Jesus
Sunshine City is renowned for its delicious fast food, its decadent malls, its trendsetting people, and gargantuan fire academy schools. These academies offered state of the art training and coaching and qualifications needed for being a pro firefighter. The rookies in training spend most days studying films on how to fight fires. Youtube can teach you everything these days, Fire Academy is no different. Instructors during “Hell Week” lecture for hours on important themes like “Why Fighting Fires Matters” and new recruits memorize the Fireman’s Creeds. They study things like “ A Fireman’s Finances” and “Fireproof Your Marriage” and “Dating as a Fireman” and “Raising Little Firefighters”.
However, the problem in Sunshine City is that there hasn’t been a serious fire in a great many years. In fact, the city is 99.999% fireproof. The instructors themselves haven’t seen a forest fire in their lifetime. Sunshine City has over 700 academies in its city limits. At any given time, it is not uncommon to pass 50- 60 firetrucks on the street on their way to rescue a stray cat. Stray cats are a serious problem in Sunshine City.
The recruits at the academy often raise money to start a new school by standing at street intersectionswith their fireproof boots. 1/10th of every penny goes to helping fire victims outside the city limits. The rest goes to the fundraising efforts to pay salaries, buy new firetrucks, and start new Fire Academies. Sunshine City is a pretty insulated place. A city on a hill you could call it. A curious reporter came to town, and had groundbreaking news to share.
A town hall meeting was called, and all the firemen in training, existing firefighters, and instructors were in attendance. The reporter from the International News Network came in and shared that arson was on the rise, and was now worse than ever before. A forest fire was raging out of control in several locations all over the globe. In some continents, whole countries were now on fire. The predicament is serious, she went on to say, “It hasn’t rained in 5+ years’ in some places. In some towns no one has even heard of a firefighter before in all of the cities history. In essence, unless help arrives soon, these people’s lives will be lost.”
“The reports of these fires have flooded the news, emails, blogs, and reports for decades now. All this time you have known the state of these fires, and still you are busy rescuing these cats. Your city is located on a lake of unknown depth. You have endless water here. You have the trucks. You have the training. You have the recruits. I was hoping you would also have the resolve to act. We are talking about 30 million people who have no idea whats about to hit them! We are talking about 3 billion people in danger right now worldwide!
“It’s too far away, it’s impossible for us to get there! We’d be leaving all of the families here at risk.” one of the instructors said. “I am gonna need proof of concept that our going would even be effective. The logistics are mind-blowing. A lot of these firemen here don’t even have a passport, speak foreign languages, or are caught up on their shots.” said the Firechief. “We could lose the academies. Who’s gonna answer the phones? If the academies go under, and some firemen lose their lives, it would really do a number on recruiting also.” An older, wise looking man spoke up and said, “People need to learn to take care of their own. We don’t want to go around helping people who need to learn to help themselves. If we go help, we will be seeing an unprecedented amount of “entitled” people won’t we? How will they ever learn to help themselves? Many heads nodded in agreement. They probably don’t even want our help”, he said.
“But, sir, these people can’t help themselves. They aren’t firemen. They have no access to help at all” said the reporter.
“We might lose some of our guys” said the chief, “Plus, we are in $100 million of debt right now from our 50 new academy projects. “I have a wife and kids to think about” said another. “My father’s funeral is tomorrow, and my mom is a wreck” said another. “I just got diagnosed with diabetes” said another. “I’m really scared of fires” said one of the rookies.
The chief spoke up through the worry and commotion and said, “ I want all you boys to read a few books this weekend about fighting fires, be sure to get those reports to me on the double. People are in serious trouble and we need to be ready. Seems best to me, that we table this business for now, and put this to a vote till a viable plan can be figured out”. All nodded in agreement.
We will be having another fundraiser Saturday to get a new pole for the station; but I suggest we give at least1% of everything we raise to help that town over yonder. Agreement and applause scattered through the crowd, and also....relief. The chief’s secretary came running in. “Sir, 1,000 cats just escaped out of the Sunshine Zoo!” “Men, you heard the lady! There is a crisis at hand!” Pass the ballots quick men, we need to get out there and catch those rascals before the town starts calling us incessantly. The resolution to stay in Sunshine City passed 4,999 to 1.
The reporter now in a bewildered fury grabbed the microphone and said, “16 years ago my father entered a skyscraper that a plane flew into. With thousands trapped, many jumping to their deaths to escape the heat....he entered." She paused. The room now silent. "He had a cold that day. He was underpaid. He was only a rookie, and he too was afraid of death. He had a 7-year-old little girl. He had an abundant life to live. He entered regardless, not because he felt like it, but because he’s a fireman! If you heroes won’t be heroes, what hope do the endangered have? He died that day storming up the stairs! The time to act is now....Don’t you see it?"
Long pause.....the tears streaming down her face now.....
"How can this be your answer?"
Deafening silence from the crowd of firemen. None knowing what to say or do. But in the back, I saw him, he was only a rookie. He was last seen grabbing the keys to the firetruck, his coat, axe, oxygen tank, and the rest of his gear. We don’t know his name. As I saw him, his face was set like flint, his eyes were clear, and his heart was full.
Joshua Gardner / Discipleship Director