SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Responding to emergencies and stressful scenarios can burden the life of a firefighter or any first responder, both on and off duty.
One fire department chaplain now hopes to change that in Spartanburg County.
Clint Fleming, 43, has launched "Responding to the Call," a biblically based ministry for first responders geared toward bettering their relationship with God, and in turn bettering their service to their community.
"That's what it's all about. Get right with God, get right with self, and get right with others," he said.
Fleming has been the Reidville Fire Department's chaplain since October. He is also an adjunct Emergency Medical Services professor at Spartanburg Community College and an emergency room nurse at St. Luke's Hospital in Columbia, N.C.
Coming to the Upstate from Florida, where he began a career as a firefighter and paramedic, he said God has been calling him to help emergency responders grow in their spiritual relationships.
That call was put into motion shortly after stepping into the chaplain role at Reidville.
His program first involves completing a spiritual fitness assessment and "Spiritual Fitness Manual" found in the "First Responder's Bible" published by Gallagher's Army: Fallen Officer Fund. The course then moves onto a discipleship cooperative where program-takers study devotional material from several partnering ministries.
Books such as "Man Alive" by Patrick Morley and "You are the Church" by Steve Lorch are among the readings, and Fleming said someone from each partnered ministry will come to fire stations to speak with those in the program.
"Firefighters have to go out and establish command and bring order to the chaos. . Their relationship with God improves not just the function of the department but their physical health," Fleming said. "It's emotionally stressful to internalize it."
Divorce rates and addictions are more common among those in law enforcement and public safety professions, he added.
Fleming is starting by reaching out to local fire stations but plans to span across the Spartanburg County community to include law enforcement, communications and medical personnel.
Plans thus far are off to a slow start — no one has inquired since a presentation to a fire chiefs association meeting more than a week ago — but all good things come in time, he said.
"Soldiers don't come in and immediately win a war. It's a battle," Fleming said.
Reidville Fire Chief Patrick Evatt said he's heard positive feedback from a "handful" of firefighters at his station.
"But that's how it grows. It starts small," he said.
Like many of the developments in Fleming's life, he said it was a call from God that led him into the Reidville station to meet Evatt during a commute to work one day this past October.
It only took two visits with Evatt before Fleming was handed the station's chaplain badge, he said.
"I told him, 'But I'm not ordained, does that matter?' He told me, 'Clint, it's not a title, it's a calling,' " he said, accounting his first conversations with Evatt.
Evatt said the two were like-minded, and both were focused on providing such a service to firefighters given the stressful nature of the profession.
"Honestly, God brought us together," Evatt said. "This is a different kind of job. You see a lot of stuff and spend a lot of time here. There's different stresses and hard calls. We're looking for something to help these guys."
Information on Fleming's program can be found at www.respondingtothecall.org.
Information from: Herald-Journal, http://www.goupstate.com/