Inspired at 72 to Start a New Venture
In the Introduction, I wrote of the unexpected vision for returning to work on a full time basis in January of 2012. I had been forced to retire from full time ministry due to getting stints for clogged arteries in January 2007. I had no energy to do any work of ministry because of constant lethargy. On March 6, 2009 a retirement party was held for my benefit. I reluctantly accepted my fate.
I suspected all along that the reason for the extreme lethargy was the 30 – 60 extra pounds on my body. Suffice it to say here that I was very unhappy after a lifetime of busy activity to find myself unable to put one foot in front of the other to do much of anything. In 2010 and 2011 I began to have success with weight loss and feeling energy to return to work. I made several attempts to restart my professional career.
These efforts to return to work did not seem to be productive or fulfilling so I had finally accepted that retirement was my lot in life and I was content. I clung closely, however, to my part time volunteer position as Fire Chaplain and the hope that the Lord might call me to do more specific additional work for Him. Accepting retirement as my lot in life was made easier by my active participation as
Chaplain. The experiences in the Fire House as Chaplain were the greatest satisfaction of my life and that was the background leading to the dramatic vision to start a web site in January 2012. I believe the inspiration to establish the website came to me from God. It was very dramatic how a clear vision came to me in a short span of 2 1/2 hours while driving to St. Augustine Florida for a weekend. It is very important for me to be straight with you and to tell you why I started to work
again full time at 72 on a website directed to firefighters who have issues with weight. To start with, I think that my deepest motive for moving forward with the vision and making the commitment to return to work on a full time schedule was the opportunity to support firefighters.
At the same time, I was motivated to keep my own commitment to finally do whatever was necessary with food in my own life and to maintain my weight and health. When you read the next chapter of this booklet you you will understand that Chappy has a long history of struggles with weight and obesity. Even today, while I am enjoying a wonderful vacation in New Hampshire and typing the first draft for this booklet, I am still struggling with my food choices. Essentially, I admit that I have made the decision to suspend all of my normal discipline with diet and food choices and to give myself a food plan vacation. I am sure that there will be consequences for those choices and that there will be weight gain when I get on the scale upon my return home in just a few days. So, there it is! I have put my finger on an important motive for establishing Supporting Fire Fighters Inc. I believe that, if I will commit myself to encouraging firefighters to fight the fight with weight issues, I will have a better chance to maintain a reasonable weight. And so, much of my motive is selfish. But, on the other hand, I believe that there is no more noble task that I could commit myself to than supporting my brothers and sisters in the Fire Service. Just think about this for a minute. Every time we firefighters agree to serve the general public we agree to risk our lives for others. We unselfishly say that we are willing to risk our lives to save life and property. I have come to believe passionately that the finest men and women in our land are accepting this call to duty.
However, I also know that many of us struggle mightily with weight issues. In my own life I am constantly confronted with my struggle to maintain a good weight as I am now here on vacation. So, it is my strongest hope that God has called me to this expansion of my Chaplain’s ministry to a new mission field: to encourage firefighters with weight issues. Being very realistic, it is almost impossible for us to overcome this problem by ourselves. However, I believe that we can together make progress toward a reasonable weight and fitness status and thereby be better equipped to do our work. It has been three years since the initial vision to initiate a web site. During that time I have been sharing my desire to support firefighters with weight and obesity with 20 or more Chiefs and Command Officers in six states and the District of Columbia. The investigation has led to the formation of a non profit corporation, the completion of a web site and Facebook page and the initiation of “In Station” training in support of the objective. Now, I would be remiss not to add one other important dimension to the issue of maintaining a healthy weight and fitness and that is the spiritual dimension. It is my job as Chaplain to come along side my brothers and sisters in the fire service. I am fully aware that, as a person with weight issues, it is impossible for me to help myself in my own strength. I have proven conclusively to myself that I do not have the will power. So, it is my personal hope that my decision to serve will open opportunity for me to grow spiritually and to grow as a Chaplain for the rest of my days
In the depths of my collapse, I found a relationship with God and began to help other alcoholics in the 12 step program and at the local hospital in Newport as a volunteer and eventually as a counselor/consultant to businesses in Rhode Island and two nearby states. My life of recovery and sobriety was aided by a strong Christian participation in the church and eventually led to a ministry as a pastoral counselor following a move to Florida in 1988.
In 1994 I established a Christian counseling ministry: Hope Ministries Inc.(hopeministriesflorida.org) in Palm Bay Florida, a ministry that focused on helping hearts heal for Christians who were struggling. I was ordained as a minister at the start of Hope Ministries and the ministry flourished. In late 2005 I began to desire the expansion our ministry to the workplace and a friend at the local Mental Health Center suggested that what I wanted was to be a workplace Chaplain.
I started offering a Chaplaincy to local businesses and enjoyed this work, but did not feel fulfilled because most of the businesses did not take the chaplaincy seriously. In the process, I had a flashback memory of the wonderful relationship that I had with the Newport Fire Department when I was on the City Council and it occurred to me that local fire departments might be interested in a serious commitment to Fire Chaplaincy.
I began introducing my self to several departments offering myself to be their Chaplain. Several departments showed interest in having me be their Chaplain but Chief Jon Macdonald of The Indialantic Fire Rescue Department actually invited me to be a member of their volunteer association and to be the Chaplain to the entire department that was a combination department. However, Chief Macdonald insisted that I take the Fire I class to be eligible for certification as a Fire Fighter if I wanted to be his Chaplain.
So, at 65 I took the full Fire I class. The Chief said it would be all right if I could not complete all the physical requirements because of my age. I took that as a challenge. The classroom instruction was very difficult for me because I am not mechanically inclined. However, at the end of the class I had passed everything including the physical requirements. Chief suggested that I take the test for state certification which I passed with great help from God and so I began to ride Engine 57 on emergency calls and grew to love being a volunteer firefighter as well as serving as Chaplain. All of the members of our department welcomed me as their Chaplain and as a volunteer Fire I firefighter.