In one of last month’s posts where we read about Paul Thomas being awarded the British Empire Medal, he mentioned the work that firefighters and more specifically Firefighters for Christ have undertaken in Uganda. This month we speak with Omagh Watch Commander Paddy Quinn of the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service.
Paddy, when did you decide to become a firefighter and why?
I became a Retained (part-time) Firefighter in 1995 and a Fulltime Firefighter in 2000. I never considered being a Firefighter until a friend told me that the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service were advertising for Retained Firefighters in Omagh, and he encouraged me to apply as I lived and worked close to the Omagh Fire Station, both of which were advantageous for being a Retained Firefighter. I applied and the rest is history. I truly believe that this was all part of God’s plan for my life – I wasn’t a Christian at the time and would never in my wildest dreams have envisaged all that has happened since.
Tell me about Firefighters for Christ – what do they do? When did you get involved?
Firefighters For Christ was established in January, 1976 at a breakfast meeting in Southern California. In June of 1978, Firefighters For Christ became International.
VISION: To reach firefighters worldwide with the gospel of Jesus Christ and to make disciples of them. Matthew 28:19-20
GOAL: To encourage firefighters to live their lives for Jesus Christ.
PURPOSE: To glorify God in the Fire Service.
To fellowship together for individual growth in the Christian life.
To serve the cause of Christ through the church of one’s own choice.
To encourage those in the fire service in their Christian life.
To bring all Christians in the fire service to a common goal of praying for the fire service and its members.
To be perfected in unity so that the world will know that God has sent His Son Jesus Christ.
Firefighters For Christ in Northern Ireland started in February 1998 at a breakfast meeting in Belfast – it was birthed from the long standing Fire Services Christian Fellowship. In 2009 we became part of Firefighters For Christ International at their International Conference in Hume lake. We are employees of the Fire and Rescue Service who see the importance of meeting together on a regular basis to encourage each other to live our lives for Jesus Christ. This in itself takes many forms, from organised meetings to casual coffee after work, but taking every opportunity to invest in each other wherever and whenever we can. Any Firefighter can be involved in Firefighters for Christ. It is a faith in Jesus Christ choice.
What type of activities did Firefighters for Christ Northern Ireland get involved in to raise funds and gifts for Uganda?
Most of the funds were raised through street collections in Omagh, the Omagh Firefighters doing charity car washes with the assistance of the ladies from Springlawn Nursing Home Omagh where Wendy my wife works, and donations from St Columba’s Church of Ireland in Omagh.
What training did you carry out in Uganda with the Fire and Police Force?
We have carried out Fire Safety Training, Road Traffic Collision Training, Search Procedures in a smoke filled building and CPR. The main training we carried out was the use of the ‘Rescue Straps’. We gave every Firefighter their own personal rescue strap and karabiner. We know that on several occasions the straps have been used to successfully rescue people from life threatening situations.
That is amazing, how many people have you trained in Uganda?
We have trained Firefighters in Kampala, Jinja, Mukono, Mbarara and Bweyogerere. I guess we have trained approximately 150 firefighters.
I can see that Firefighters for Christ members from USA have been part of your team. How did they get involved?
Jerry and Jennifer White (San Diego), became personal friends to Wendy and I through serving with Firefighters for Christ. We shared with them about Tŷ Cariad Africa and the Uganda Fire Service which touched their hearts, and this type of mission would give them the opportunity to serve on mission together as a husband and wife team.
Is there one particular moment or person that sticks in your mind during your time in Uganda?
There are so many people and moments that stick out in my mind from our missions. The children and staff at the Victory Child Care Project children’s home all bring back great memories!
The other “stand out moment” was the day 7 of us travelled to approximately 350 miles from the children’s home in Namugongo to Mbarara and back to train the Firefighters and share the gospel. The journey was made in one vehicle, crossing the Equator, and included a road traffic collision. While we were in Mbarara, we met Fred who we had previously met at Bweyogerere Fire Station on our 2013 mission.
Are you planning to revisit Uganda?
Most definitely, however we are not sure when.
What are you planning to do when you revisit?
We have discussed going to stations in Western Uganda which would mean us having to stay over for several night to be more effective in training and encouraging the Firefighters to live their lives for Jesus Christ. We would plan to carry out more strap training, CPR and maybe for the first time, Water Rescue training.
It seems to me that as Firefighters for Christ members you are having a fantastic impact on the skills levels of the Ugandan firefighters. If there were no limits, no boundaries, what would you like to achieve in Uganda in the name of Firefighters for Christ, and what legacy would you like to leave there?
You are correct, there is so much scope, we have only scratched the surface. As for legacy, Jude 23, that the Ugandan Firefighters would have been encouraged and trained by us “to snatch others from the fire and save them” both Spiritually and Physically.