February 2008
CHURCH

Firemen fight eternal flames

An organization of Christian firemen who call themselves Firefighters for Christ (FFC) is answering the call to share the Savior of the world with their fellow responders.

FFC came into being in the early 70s when two firemen, one of them named John White, met together for an hour of prayer each morning at a fire station in Los Angeles. White, now president/chaplain of FFC International, and his prayer partner differed in their doctrinal beliefs, but they decided to put that aside and come together in prayer.

That one prayer time sparked other prayer meetings, and before long men were praying during every shift. Then one of the firemen suggested having a breakfast event.

“So they made a flyer and sent it out to other departments, and we figured maybe 20 or 30 people would show up,” White told AFA Journal. “And that morning in January of 1976, at the Holiday Inn in Hollywood, California, we had 140 guys show up at one moment,” and FFC was established.

In June 1978, FFC became an international, incorporated, non-profit organization. The 1976 breakfast grew into an annual weekend event that includes a guest speaker, guest vocalists, dinner and breakfast meetings and a ladies’ brunch.

“So here we are 31 years later, and there is no one in the organization that can [in] any way or [at] any time say, ‘Hey, look what we’ve done,’ because we just show up and God has brought the increase,” White said. A big part of that increase is the lasting friendships among the firefighters.

The heat of ministry
Through FFC, New York firemen Lt. Jerry Sillcocks and Mike Anson met White, and the trio share a passion for what FFC is all about.

“Our mission and our purpose is to encourage firefighters to live their lives for Jesus Christ,” White explained. “That encompasses a pretty large field, but there are three types of firefighters [to whom we minister].

“One is the person that has never before invited Jesus into his heart, so we encourage him to do that,” he added. “The second is a guy that maybe drives a bus for the Billy Graham crusade and goes to church with his wife, but when he gets to the station, he’s just intimidated by the guys he works with and nobody really knows that he’s like an undercover agent or a closet Christian. … So we just want to encourage that guy to be the man God has called him to be. And then the third guy is the guy that is living fully for the Lord, and we just want him to go more for it.”

The FFC Web site (www.firefightersforchrist.org) goes into great detail about the purpose, principles and policies of the ministry. It outlines the ministry’s vision, goal, focus and doctrinal statement, which can be summed up by the phrase “to know Christ.”

FFC seeks to reach firefighters with the Gospel and to encourage them to live lives that glorify Christ. FFC does this through various forms of outreach including Bible and tract distribution, a CD tract ministry, races and firehouse expos. The purpose of it all is to plant the Gospel seed in the hearts of all firemen, which takes a major commitment.

In 2003, the FFC Chapter of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) began working toward its goal of placing a leather-bound study Bible in each of the 221 firehouses in New York City. After starting in Queens and hitting all the burrows, the final phase is taking place in Manhattan, and Sillcocks said, “We’re almost done with the city.”

Under the leadership of Sillcocks, chapter president, members of the FDNY FFC have been visiting three to five firehouses a month with permission of the officer at each station.

“We don’t just go in and hand them a Bible, but we go in and share [with] them our testimony, share the Gospel with them for about three minutes and then we pray for them,” Sillcocks explained. 

As of early November 2007, Anson, a fireman of 25 years and secretary of FDNY FFC, said he and his fellow members were only 20 Bibles away from meeting their goal, while entertaining the idea of taking God’s Word to emergency medical responders next.

The change in temperature
This overwhelming desire to share the Gospel is the result of a shift in their perspective of firefighting following the September 11 attacks. Anson remembers how in 1998 and 1999, FFC members were practically throwing Bibles into the firehouses and running out like they were on fire.

“It was almost like, ‘Here’s a Bible. God bless you, and we’re out of here,’” he explained. “But after 9/11, we realized that God was [calling] us to become bolder. We needed to move.”

Sillcocks and Anson had a common vision that involved more than just dropping off a Bible. They believed God was calling them to share their testimonies along with the Gospel message.

Sillcocks, Anson and White were all 9/11 responders and all three have personal testimonies of God’s rescue in their own lives.

“I got saved through a fireman in the bunk room of a firehouse in New Jersey where I was a fireman,” Sillcocks said.

God saved Anson from a marriage that was falling apart as well as from a life of alcohol, pornography and adultery.

“There are so many men, not just in the firehouses but worldwide, who can relate to that,” Anson explained. “I can go in there and say, ‘Hey, I’ve been through it, you know. If the Lord did it for me, He can do it for you.’”

White, a Los Angeles fireman of 45 years, has also experienced a lot, specifically in the way of tragedy, including the near death of his wife, the tragic death of his son and his own battle with cancer. Not to mention the days he spent digging through the piles of rubble at Ground Zero in search of life.

God brought White through it all, giving him a true understanding of the perfect God that he serves.

“So Ground Zero was just a step along that path of serving a God that never makes … [a] mistake – never,” White said.

Which is also why Sillcocks is able to look at Ground Zero as a blessing in his life. In no way is he making light of the situation or seeing it as an opportunity for personal gain. Rather, he is now able to look back and see how the power of God’s Word sustained him then just as it sustains him now.

“God put me in situations at Ground Zero where my life was at risk,” Sillcocks said. “There was a possibility that I would not be home the next day. … He used His Word to give me strength through one of those nights, … and I was able to work on that pile for another three hours in a situation that was crazy. …

“We did what we had to do. We risked our lives, and that was that,” he added. “I’ll never forget how powerful God’s Word is in my life, how a Bible verse can just walk me through one of the darkest nights in my life. That’s a blessing, even though my life was at risk.”

The factor of risk
Risk is an everyday factor in a fireman’s life. Anson explained how each time a fireman walks out of the firehouse he doesn’t know what’s about to happen or if he will even return.

“Being part of Rescue 1 for the firemen, we are aware that our priority is to help the firemen if they get in a bind in a fire,” Anson explained. “I try to tell them as Rescue 1 … I can physically help you out of this fire, but what about the eternal flame that is to come? Only Jesus Christ can rescue lost souls from those flames, which is the driving force behind FFC.

“God is sending people out like John, Mike and me to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Sillcocks said, “and people are being saved for eternity.

“The ministry of 9/11 opened up opportunities for firefighters in New York City who know the Lord Jesus,” he added. “People want to hear our stories. … People’s lives were lost there [at the World Trade Center] that day. Three thousand people went to work and never went home. But [now] there are thousands who have heard the Gospel and received it and are going home to heaven.”

 

Fireproof
Firefighters for Christ (FFC) leaders Jerry Sillcocks, Mike Anson and John White have a heart for the Gospel and a passion for ministry, which is why they went the extra mile to meet up with each other on a movie set in Albany, Georgia. It was the set of Fireproof, the fall 2008 film from Sherwood Pictures  – producer of Facing the Giants.

Fireproof is about a fictitious fireman named Caleb Holt (played by Kirk Cameron) whose marriage is failing due to his pornography addiction and his need for Christ.

Fireproof not only tackles tough issues. It also includes some dramatic fire scenes. Therefore, having been through personal trials and fought numerous fires, the FFC trio went to lend their expertise and support to the cast and crew.