Jonathan Rockey

This summer I gained a renewed respect for public servants who go to work every day putting their lives on the line for others. Specifically I am now thinking of firefighters. On June 5 my daughter, Mary, and I were driving down to the Kenai, and saw the smoke that marked the beginning of the Swan Lake fire. But, on June 24-26 I drove down to Sterling and back myself. On the way down to Sterling there was some smoke and minor delays. But, the trip back to Palmer was memorable.

First, traffic stopped a number of times just east of Sterling as we travelers waited in smoky conditions for a possible trip through the affected area between Sterling and Cooper Landing. It is interesting to get out of your car and hear the conversation and the conjecture. One person talked about the road being closed, so some people turned their cars around and drove back toward Sterling and Soldotna. Another person talked about a previous wait of 9 hours to get through the fire. Others just visited and waited, not sure if we would get through, or when that might be.

Finally, after about 2 hours of waiting, traffic began to move. However, there was so much smoke I personally had trouble seeing the cars in front of me. In addition, there were billowing plumes of smoke from active fires, seemingly only 50 or 100 yards off the highway behind some other trees. I glimpsed a burned path close to the road where a back fire had been set by the firefighters. At one point, just north of the highway I looked and saw a spruce tree with a large crown of branches which was erupting in flame, seemingly not more than 50 yards off the road I was traveling. The limited visibility and heavy smell of smoke continued throughout my journey back through Cooper Landing, through Turnagain Pass, even around Turnagain Arm.

More inside

Throughout the wait and the trip I saw vehicles with fire fighters driving back and forth, and even into the woods for the fire. No wonder there were signs on businesses and schools saying, “Thank you Firefighters.” One church had a sign saying, “Praying for the firefighters.” These men and women put their lives on the line to keep the fire in check, but also to protect the life and the property of people who live on the Kenai Penisula. And this fire is not even the biggest fire on the Kenai in the last 5 years. The Funny River fire in 2014 was bigger. It’s just that everyone driving from Anchorage to Soldotna did not have to travel that route as they did for this Swan Lake fire.

However, those who fight fires are not the only ones who willingly risk their lives to protect and serve others. Policemen leave their house everyday, not sure if they will return home, especially in today’s times of division. Those in the military know when they enlist that they face the possibility of armed conflict. Living in Alaska we know that many of those who serve on JBER have given of their time fighting for our country, and some have indeed given their very lives. And others face danger on their jobs as well. For example, it is often when the temperatures drop and the winds are blowing that linemen climb poles and work with dangerous high voltage electricity. I personally wouldn’t want that job. Doctors and nurses, and other health workers, expose themselves to communicable diseases every day. We are truly blessed by the willing, sacrificial service of many in our community!

However, it often seems that we in the public who receive this service don’t know of the sacrifice these public servants make for us. Or, perhaps we ignore what these people do to serve us. Worse yet, we may take their sacrifice for granted. But, our lives are safer because these dedicated people go to work every day.

Jesus calls this sacrificial service for others “love.” 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 13:14-15) The reason that Jesus can tell us to “Love each other as HE has loved us, is that He is the one who really loved us, the one who really laid down His life for us. Jesus came to this world knowing He would face opposition, and suffering, and even a cruel, unjust, painful death. Yet, Jesus tells us in that He laid down His life for us willingly. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:11, 17-18)

How do you respond to those who have served you sacrificially? Jesus calls us to believe in Him as our Savior, and to follow Him with our lives. But, in this verse, Jesus also recognizes others who lay down their lives for us. Their sacrifice is love.

This year I am especially thankful for our firefighters! How about you?

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