Rev. Joel De Boer said being sensitive to people is required whether he is pastoring or putting out a fire.
De Boer is pastor of both Britt and Woden Christian Reformed churches in Iowa, and is also a volunteer firefighter with the Britt Fire Department.
“One of the challenges in a pastoral role is that I’m Christ’s ambassador, whether in the pulpit or going into a house to fight a fire,” De Boer said. “I always need to be sensitive to the people I’m dealing with. Whatever the task, the people are sacred. There’s always joy and a sense of accomplishment when you have a sense of community and connection. I see that in both worlds.”
De Boer joined the fire department five years ago. Some firefighters were initially skeptical about accepting a pastor.
“After the first year, we blended well together,” he said.
Six members of the fire department have joined the Britt congregation and another regularly attends. Four or five families are in the congregation as a result of De Boers’ firefighting connections.
Along with fighting fires, De Boer writes grants, leads community education, and serves as counselor and chaplain. He also leads devotions at various firehouse functions.
“It has been a blessing in ways unimaginable,” he said. “There are lots of moments that God makes holy that don’t look spiritual in nature.”