Souper Heroes: Community Benefit Leads to Sweet Reunion
By Carl Stagner
Six years ago, Austin Delisle responded to an overnight accident on Interstate 55. While waiting for more help, including an ambulance, the firefighter did everything he could to assist the trapped, severely injured driver. While the firefighter sought extraction, the two gentlemen talked and prayed together. In situations like this, once the ambulance takes the injured away from the scene, firefighters hardly ever see them again; they rarely find out what happened. But, because of the generous souls of First Church of God in Portageville, Missouri, a sweet reunion took place that could have only been orchestrated by Providence.
David Dittman has served as the church’s pastor for less than two years, but since taking the reins of leadership has inspired a sense of mission within the congregation. Having gotten acquainted with the local fire chief, Pastor David learned that the department was supported by a very limited budget. One example of the constraints they felt was the financial inability to train new firefighters. David asked the church council to host a fundraiser meal for these local heroes in an effort to address the need.
“The council ran with the idea and expanded it to include a soup dinner and dessert auction,” David explains. “It was planned as a simple time but took on a life larger than we could have imagined.”
Among members of the community that showed up to support the fire department, several firefighters and their families attended, even participating in the auction. “Our firefighters have been overwhelmed to see so many show support and care for them,” David explains. “The fire chief even said he couldn’t believe anyone would offer help in this way.”
David Dittman beams. He wants to see a culture in the congregation of community involvement and service, motivated by the love of God. That’s why they delivered gift bags to the local teachers at the beginning of the school year in the fall, also committing to pray for them throughout the year. It’s also why they’re planning to give a scholarship to a graduating high school senior this year. “It was clear from the beginning of my ministry here that there was a deep desire to be a church for the whole community,” he reflects. “We want to give our community a positive image of Jesus, so we work at finding ways to reach into the community and let them see a little bit of the love of Jesus through us. We are always looking for ways to include all of our community in what we do.”
Sweeter than all the dessert auctioned off that night was the reunion of the injured driver from 2014, and the hero that saved his life.
“Today, something happened worthy of praise,” Austin Delisle wrote on social media. “The man from the accident in 2014 saw on our Facebook page where the First Church of God was having a dinner and auction to raise money for the department. This gentleman not only drove all the way [three hours] to Portageville to attend, but also brought some items to auction. This was an awesome feeling. Things like this seldom happen.”
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