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How Fighting the Marshall Fire Shaped the Way One Volunteer Chaplain Pastors

American Bible Society exists to serve the local church and help it reach its communities with the hope and peace found in God’s Word. After a natural disaster, most people’s first thought is to provide physical help. And that’s so important. We believe it’s also critical to care for people’s mental and spiritual well-being, which is why we have Bible-based resources that help people in crisis navigate heartbreaking situations. American Bible Society is in the middle of distributing resources like these to churches and emergency response organizations so they can respond to the trauma that communities in Colorado will be navigating for months to come.

ChurchLeaders: How has the Marshall Fire impacted you personally? Has it caused you to see your role as a fire chaplain differently? 

Scott Ross: I’m still unpacking this, and probably will be for some time.  The morning after the fire I told my wife we need to develop a 1 min / 15 min / 30 min evacuation plan—something I had never thought about before the fire.  I don’t want to be fearful and I don’t want to be foolish. I realized in a very real way how quickly the physical possessions we accumulate and put value on can be taken.

Regarding my role as chaplain: Although I’m no longer functioning as a local church pastor, I’m still a pastor.  Further, I’m a pastor to those who have no idea they need a pastor. And I do it now in a much less obvious way. I still have so much to learn but I’m seeing the importance of being present and willing.  Washing a fire truck with them, or listening to them process the loss of a loved one, or sitting through a training session, or even fighting a fire with them is all part of my role of chaplain. I’m simply there to serve those who serve.

Interestingly, I have a new credibility with the firefighters because I was willing to “walk in their shoes.”