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Summary: When Jesus commissioned his disciples to make disciples of all nations, he sent his church into the search and rescue business.

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Search and Rescue

Matthew 28:18-20

Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister

First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO

Introduction: One of the great legacies of the 9-11 disaster four years ago today is a greater appreciation for the debt we all owe to the “first responders.” I don’t remember hearing that term before 9-11. Now we all know what it means. We all depend on men and women whose job it is to step into harms way to rescue the rest of us. That’s true of great disasters like 9-11 and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It is just as true on a smaller scale of the kind of personal emergencies that we are more likely to face. We all owe much to those who are in the search and rescue business.

I remind you of the definition of a major and minor surgery that I have told you before. Minor surgery is when the doctor is cutting on you. Major surgery is when it’s happening to me. That’s equally true of disasters. It is hard for us to truly comprehend the magnitude of disasters that happen half way around the world. That’s human nature. The closer it gets to home the bigger it seems. That it certainly true of the most recent events on the Gulf Coast.

In an emergency, the police are the first line of response. Even our own small town patrol men and women face unknown dangers every day. Before moving here five years ago, I served for several years as a volunteer police chaplain with the big city police department in Aurora, IL. I know first hand the dangers the police faced. In another ministry, I helped lead to the Lord and baptized a couple of different members of the local police department. I have heard them tell stories of situations they faced. A police man never knows who’s driving the car he stops or who will be behind the door of the next call he answers. Every policeman is trained to assume the worst. They have to. It can be a matter of life and death. They still do it. That’s their job—their mission.

Next on the scene are the firemen. Fortunately, our local volunteer fire department seldom has to confront major situations. But even an auto accident or grass fire can turn into a life and death matter at any moment. When a home or business does catch fire, the men and women are trained to risk their own lives to save others. Four years ago, when the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were struck firemen stepped up and did their job. Company after company of New York City firemen marched into the Towers even when they knew it might mean their certain death. They did it to save others. They were in the search and rescue business.

Right alongside the police and firemen stand the medical emergency people. I can’t imagine what it takes to be prepared to step into an unknown situation and provide life saving help like our EMT people do every day. We are lucky to have such well-trained and well-prepared public servants even in a small rural community like this. Can you imagine the kind of situations medical emergency people faced in the wake of 9-11 or the recent hurricane disaster?

Recent events have reminded us that we need to add to the list of special responders, the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and regular military people. They are the ones being called upon to rescue the stranded, bring relief to the victims, and restore law and order when the regular services were overwhelmed. To that we can add the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and countless other relief professionals and volunteers. We owe them much to those who are in the search and rescue business.

There’s still another level of people helping people that happened on 9-11 and in the aftermath of the hurricane and flooding. Some ran for safety leaving behind children and sick and elderly neighbors and family members.

Others embarked on their own search and rescue mission. Neighbor helped neighbor. Friend reached out to friend—not because it was their job. They were confronted with a need. They did what they could because it needed doing. Somebody had to. They weren’t trained. Nobody told them what to do. Sometimes you do what you do because that’s what friends and neighbors do—even for strangers. People waded through contaminated water to rescue an older neighbor. Others carried somebody else’s children on their backs for blocks. Men in boats rowed up and down streets looking for people to help. One young seventeen year old boy commandeered a bus, hot-wired it, and drove a bus load of people out of danger.

The Los Angles Times carried the story of seven children discovered walking together in the flooded streets of New Orleans. They had become separated from their parents in all the confusion. A six-year old kept them together and led them to safety. Three of the children were about 2 years old, and one wearing only diapers. A 3-year-old girl, who wore colorful barrettes on the ends of her braids, had her 14-month-old brother in tow. The 6-year-old spoke for all of them. The children were eventually reunited with their parents who feared they would never see their little ones again. (Los Angeles Times, Monday September 05, 2005).

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