The Church as seen by a Ret. Vol. Fire Chief


It has pleased God to provide much of  my training needed to pastor Dayspring Bible Chapel in fire-halls and in fire service.  My leadership skills with volunteers [ still needing much improvement] , my teaching style, my counseling and discipline abilities were all honed in Fire Service at Mt. Zion Bicentennial Fire Dept.  To me this makes biblical sense.  Moses was trained as a shepherd,  Nehemiah in a king’s court, Luke in study to be a physician and many more examples.  God is a master of cross training.  

Moving from Fire Service to His Service I  have noticed a lot of  comparison points where churches fall far behind firefighters.  One area not lacking is technology. Churches use PowerPoint and email and websites, burning DVD’s of services and using audio visual aids with cutting edge science.  This is an area in which I admit Dayspring is far behind.  Other areas in the visible church could learn much from your local fire department, and my suggestion is we emulate or at least learn from America’s Bravest:

  • Mutual Aid,  one company calling and receiving assistance from others
  • Member Retention,  recruiting is fine, but keep what you have
  • Leadership Hierarchy, know who is in charge of what
  • Buddy System,  a pair beats high card every time
  • Personnel Accountability , know who is where and their condition
  • Member Utilization,  everybody works for the common good
  • Pre-Planning,  prepare for the worst, think ahead
  • Bonding in powerful life relationships
  • Community Service,  cat in tree, pool fill, non fire service calls
  • Effective Mobilization, calling out the troops in time of need
  • Fellowship in leisure activities,  work hard, play hard
  • Emergency Reaction,  no committee decisions on an alarm
  • Training,  the only usable personnel are trained personnel

Take a look at the picture above. A college age woman is using a Dry-chem portable extinguisher on an imaginary fire.  She has been able to hold the extinguisher, feel it’s weight, hear the sound it makes when it discharges, see its range and operate it in a safe environment.   She has no doubt been taught the mnemonic,P.A.S.S.   Pull Pin, Aim , Squeeze, and Sweep.   Imagine how her success at reducing property loss and mitigating a hazardous situation has been improved by this training.  Experience has taught that well meaning people without training have failed miserably in using hand held extinguishers.  More than one person has dropped a CO2  extinguisher in panic at hearing the loud roar it made when used.  Many frightened people have not pulled the safety pin, and strong men have broken many handles squeezing with all their might against the safety pin.  The extinguishing agent does no good against fire if not directed at the base of the flame from the proper distance.  
For the cost of a refill, $38.00, this woman has been made into a firefighter who could save millions of dollars.  No doubt she sees now what area the tool covers, and now understands how big a fire may be combated with this device, and has been taught when the battle is worth fighting and when to bail out.  An extinguisher in the hands of a trained person is a firefighting tool. An extinguisher without training is a red can on the wall that pleases insurance companies and  is usable only as a door stop.  

At church and in His service we fight the very flames of Hell.  How much training do we provide?  Pastors have seminaries  [I have deep rebellion issues on this one that I will get to later] , Lay leaders have conferences, but does the guy or gal  in the pew get training?   Training applicable to real world scenarios?  It just does not seem so. Here is a great read by Willohroots commenter Michael Bell, found on the Imonk site where we met.

“As noted earlier, before the age of 24, most of those who will leave have already left, whether they be Catholic or Protestant.”

Mike points out What is happening, here is my take on Why: They are untrained.  Putting a firefighter in a position of danger without proper training and equipment is a recipe for disaster.  Best case scenario, he will quit the service  feeling he is a coward and a failure, or worst case, he will die.  The church is too often presented as an island of comfort, a refuge from a world of sin, a safe society where sin is presented as “their” problem and we claim to have overcome.  When a young adult is loosed into a world of all nature of sin the flames are too much and the options are either to beat  a hasty retreat or be consumed.  There are some time honored training methods available to us, and we need to teach and preach them if we are to succeed. Here are some areas that we need to address:


  • Witnessing,  not tracts, not acting plastic, but sharing Jesus in a real and meaningful way.
  • Confronting sin face to face, retreat is not the only tactic.
  • Preparation for condemnation from the world , it is going to come, be ready, your professors [most] think we are crazy.
  • Real world issues are not black and white: divorce, sex, drugs,etc,  must be understood – not simply condemned.
  • History of the Bible and the Church, in truth, warts and all,  knowledge is power and many of our youth are powerless.
  • Evils of the Church,  we are His bride, but we have messed up a lot, from crusades to defense of slavery, the truth is good to know.
  • Denominational Distinctives,  we do things differently, get used to it.  Sure ,’we are right and they are wrong’, but God forgives [whoever we are].
  • Sin.  Sin is fun in the short term. Admit it and do not fear, we face nothing alone, He is there.
  • Forgiving, forgiving , forgiving


The church has a choice, to be a a life raft floating on the sea of society, tossed by the waves and adrift, or a surf rescue society, trained people with a mission deliberately putting ourselves in harms way , with purpose and mission , to head out into danger for the purpose of rescuing the lost and drowning.  We can be strictly a social hall, offering a nice place to have fellowship, or with training and the weapons provided by God,  rolling out with a higher purpose, saving the lost from the flames that never die while keeping each other as safe as possible in a hostile environment. 

We were saved to serve, not sit.  Our service cannot be done without preparation.  Next post,  Training.  What say you? Are you trained?  Have you been to some good classes?  Share, we all need to keep sharp.

Daughter Gradutes Cum Laude , BSRN
May 18, 2009, 20:35
Filed under: History, roots of Willohroots, Uncategorized

Fire truck dedicated to Willis ‘Pop’ Hapeman
May 9, 2009, 09:02
Filed under: Fire Fighters, History, roots of Willohroots, Reaction


Mt.  Zion's new truck dedicated May 9 in honor of my Dad.

Mt. Zion's new truck dedicated May 9 in honor of my Dad.

The company started in 1976, and this is the first brand new rig ever to go in the barn.  My dad rebuilt the engine on their first truck, a 1956 Ford,  they have come far.

I have been asked to say a few words in honor of my Dad.  The guys and girls at the company really thought a lot of him.  There is a plaque on the pump panel, in honor of Willis ‘Pop’ Hapeman.  Dad was blessed with 53 years in fire service.  I was really surprised when, at his funeral, the Pittston and West Pittston Fire Companies put the aerial ladders at full extension forming an arch for the hearse and parade to go under.  we call it putting up the sticks.  It is an honor seen most often when a firefighter dies on the job,  but I guess dad fought enough fires in both towns to deserve the honor. 

He was a leader as Fire Chief, then President, then Pop.  He offered marital and relationship counseling to people who had no one else to talk to.  People would confide the most private things to him.  He was a very special man.   I grew up in a small town where Dad wad the borough electrician.  He was responsible for the town fire alarm.  That meant I got to blow the siren a lot.  What a thrill for a young boy to make such a loud noise!   Dad had a key ring with keys to about half the houses in town, in case they needed electrical work he could get in to do it.  He was trusted, and with reason.  He was honest to a fault. 

It will be an honor and a privilege to speak on his behalf today.  There are some things I will not mention to the crowd that I would like to share with you, as shared burdens weigh much less.  

My dad never saw my family sing in church.  When the girls were young my wife would play keyboard, I would play guitar, and we would sing in various churches as a way to serve our God.  He never saw that.  I have been preacher for almost thirty years,  fill in, old age homes, Church of Christ, Baptist, Congregational,etc.  My dad never heard me preach.   I was a soloist in churches and school , college,and churches. My dad never heard me sing.  My dad did not believe as I do.  He often said, “When you are dead you’re dead!”  He wanted no part of church.

My readers can understand why,  when he died I went through a two year period of depression.  He had told me that if I became a preacher he would break my leg, and if I became a Baptist preacher he would break both my legs.  Threats like this from a big powerful man must not be ignored.  I was made Pastor the week he died.  I stood over his bed, looking at his legs, both broken from within by cancer, and just had to wonder. 

I loved my Dad.  We spent so much time together as business partners, hunters, and firemen.  My life was often in his hands, and he always pulled through. Once another company shut my hose line off while I was in a working structure fire on the nozzle, once.  After Dad straightened them out that would not be repeated.After the 72 flood electricity had me stuck to a pipe in a basement and he kicked me off,[ he said he enjoyed that], and we will not speak of the bar fights here.   As far as eternity, I have thread bare hope of a deathbed conversion.  All things are possible  with God,  and even if we are separated after time ceases I still owe Dad much.  He taught me a good trade, made me a Fire Fighter and Chief,  taught me to shoot straight with firearms and people.  There is no doubt he was a good and honorable man. 

I need to get  in fire company mode,  dry my eyes and look the part of a past Chief honoring a past Chief.  On a purely secular level it will be a great day,  I just am not sure I can function on a purely secular level these days.

Pray for my brother firefighters,  they are some of the best people I know.  Introduce them to the Savior with love,  Amazing Grace should be more to them than the name of the song they play at a fireman’s funeral.

The Christian Life, a Study in Humility
April 6, 2009, 18:01
Filed under: History, roots of Willohroots, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

humbledmanDoes humility come easy to any of you?  If so you have my respect and God forgive me,  envy.  Don’t worry , I will get rid of the envy by leaving it at the foot of the cross, and repent, but I could not deny it without false testimony.  Humility has NOT come easy to me.  I always wanted to be the “….est” at something.  Smartest,  coolest, toughest, quickest, some measure of outstanding achievement or performance.  It may have been a result of being the youngest [there it is again], smallest[oh boy], fattest [no brag there], kid in my class.   Reasons and rationalizations aside, I sought niches in which to excel.  I wish I could tell you that this was channeled into socially acceptable, God honoring categories that led me to be a leader of industry and achievement, but that would be going back to the whole false testimony thing.  A lot of the niches I wanted to be captain of were down right sinful. God takes His servants from some odd backgrounds.  I rejoice that Moses was a stuttering murderer.  I am given much hope in the Saul part of Paul’s life.  Abraham’s failures allow me to more readily call myself a servant of the Most High, this is a group whose qualifications are not based on the individual, but on the Holy God who used them.  When Noah went on a bender after doing all the right things he showed a humanity I can relate to, perhaps all too well, a lack of perfection that only goes to illuminate God by the contrast of His light to our dark.

God does not often use the prideful servant.  The Holy Spirit fills the empty vessel, not the one filled with pride of self.  Jesus called us not to lead, but to follow.  Since from birth we are self minded, God must send people and instances and the Holy Spirit to act on us as Nathan acted on David.  “You are that man”, experiences are horrible to go through, but iron is heated, beaten and quenched to be made into a tool.  If we offer God the ore of our basic existence, should we not expect to be refined?  We can trust that His expert hand will not strike harder than we can bear, nor will He withhold the fire until the dross is skimmed away. God has caused or allowed many humbling experiences to come into my life;  He has placed me in situations where I have been helpless, looked foolish, and/or  had no hope except His mercy.  Looking back these were times to praise Him,  even though at the time of occurrence they seemed cruel, or at best humorous. I would like to share a few of these moments, for I am sure they will make you feel better about your humbling experiences.  We all know that pathos is when you trip over a rake in the yard, comedy is when your neighbor does it. Allow me to be your neighbor and have a good natured laugh at some of these situations,  I assure you that neither the neighbor nor I were permanently injured by these events.

On a scorching August day we were called to a ” assist the civilian”  while Hanging around at the Fire House.  The temp was bumping 100 degrees, and most of us were in shorts and tshirts.  The  Hermit had found a dead animal in  his well and wanted us to pump  out and chlorinate the cistern.  A marvelous opportunity to train the new guys , girls, and juniors in the operation of a portable pump.   I took the squad truck and about seven “newbies” and off we went to serve the community.  We set up next to the well with a 300 gpm portable pump and two lengths of suction , with no hose needed as we would just blow the water out of the pump and out of the way.  Everyone listened attentively as I, the experienced Fire Chief shared a chunk of my knowledge.  They watched as I primed the pump and started the operation.  Now it was their turn.  I watched from ten feet away  as the suction was re-lowered into the well, the pump restarted,  but they had forgotten to prime, so no flow was to be had.  I took a step closer as a rookie figured the problem  out on his own, applied back pressure and re-angled the outlet.  At me.  300 gallons per minute of rancid dead animal stew  hit me right below the belly button.  Do you think that is humbling?  No, humbling is when this well water,  freezing cold well water blows your shorts down to your ankles in an instant.  Did I mention it was freezing cold water?  The great Chief stood before the crowd with all the primary sexual characteristics of a Ken doll. That is Humbling. 

I lay in a fetal position on a hospital bed unable to move.  I had been this way for weeks with herniated discs.  The local hospital was afraid to operate due to my cancer history and had shipped me out for expert surgery.  As I  lay there I asked God, “Can there be anything worse?”  I advise you to avoid that comment .  A 6’3″ man with bright red hair in a Ronald McDonald permanent showed up with a disposable razor.  If you wanted to cast a flamboyant gay guy for a movie, you would cast this fellow.  “Time to shave your bummy  for Doctor Martin!” ,  he announced with glee.  Humbling.  By the way, he was an excellent care-giver who understood a man’s pride, and did his best to preserve the gram of dignity I had left. 

I was in a bible study/prayer group.  I looked around the table at my fellow travelers, and realized I was superior.  I was the only one with a college education, actually a GED would have been trump with this crowd.  I was not on welfare,  I was wearing clothes bought just for me when they were new, not from the Salvation Army store.  I did however, have a problem.  I could not pray.  Since my mom died the previous year,  I just could not pray. I called it prayer-locked.  In front of a group I could sound like I was praying, but I was not talking to God, I was speaking so others would know what a good prayer I was.  Then it was Tami’s turn to pray.  She told God how happy she was for the miracle last night, that when she rechecked the cupboard with faint hope, there was a box of macaroni and cheese and her family had supper.  “Thank you Jesus for feeding us.”  She meant every word, nothing fancy, just humble and honest,  from the bottom of her heart.   I did not get my turn, I  was crying.  My heart was broken, I was humbled, and once again I could pray.  Thank you Jesus, thank you Tami. 

I wish I had no more stories like this, but to keep the testimony true, I  must admit there is  a bunch.  Some have no humor involved.   I once thought I was pretty tough, but I found out my own skin cells could turn against me and take me out.  I thought I was smart, but I have done the most idiotic things.  My dependence on my God grows every day. 

Micah 6:8   He hath shewed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

He hath shown me, and I rejoice.

Beware the Ides of March
March 10, 2009, 11:07
Filed under: History, roots of Willohroots


“(3/15/2008) Fifteen years ago this date, two local firefighters lost their lives battling a fire in Pittston City. Today, the community took time to remember our fallen comrades by attending a special Mass before proceeding to the former Water Street Bridge in Pittston City. The bridge would be the focus of events, as it was officially renamed the “Firefighters Memorial Bridge” in honor of John Lombardo and Leonard Insalaco who lost their lives on that fateful day.

Many area departments, including Station 112 participated in the events today. It was our special way of honoring all those who came before us and made the supreme sacrifice.”

“May they never be forgotten”

Photo and quote above from Avoca Fire Dept’s, great site                   http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.avocafire.net/img/incidents/P015.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.avocafire.net/inciden

Another anniversary coming up.  It really doesn’t seem so long ago.  As I remember the call came in late in the evening during a serious snow storm.   Multiple alarm fire Main St. Pittston.  My rural company, where I  served as Chief was not called, but at the time I was a member of West Pittston Hose Co. No.1 , a volunteer outfit in the neighboring town.  I knew I would have a delayed response, but I thought I might be of some help on the ladder truck.  I did not run my red light and siren while responding and would not have needed to, as the streets were deserted.

Route 92 pointed right at the fire, and I could see the smoke “pushing” from the building before I crossed the bridge into Pittston City.  As soon as I got parked, Frankie Roman,  City Chief  at the time, told me to shut the gas main off in the rear of the building and to look for two firemen making their way out the back.  Len Insalaco and John Lombardo had gone in the front on Main St,  and the floor had collapsed.  Frankie asked me to vent the roof ASAP.   I never got off the aerial ladder onto the roof.  The rubber roof of the hundred year old building was bubbling,  and there was no way I would put myself or anyone else on it.  We were helpless.  We went into “surround and drown” mode.   Lenny and John were gone.

There were two signs of love on the rise of the next day.  One was Scranton City firemen. Without being called,  on their own time,  a crew came down to recover the bodies of our brothers.  The other was the sign of the cross.  On the neighboring building, a cross of ice had formed thirty feet high, dead center over the scene.  There was probably some scientific explanation for this, maybe,  but those of us who believed saw the cross in our time of loss.  Scientific explanation or not,  thank you Jesus. 

I did not know John well,  I still miss Lenny.  Our talks covered the full range of firehouse conversation: fires, women, cars,  God.  I speak about God with more purpose and urgency these days.  You never know which conversation will be your last.

Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” 

I wanted to be an Evangelical when I grew up, but..
December 12, 2008, 09:55
Filed under: History, roots of Willohroots, Uncategorized

I think I get it.  I have been reading Internetmonk and blogs linked to him for two years now. It has been hard for me to get through my thick scull  the depth of the emotional hurt many suffer from from a legalistic Evangelicalism.  Years ago I sought a niche in Christianity.  I wanted to belong to some club or group where I could find definition.  Fundamental Evangelicalism sounded great!  Fundamental?  Well of course, who would want to add to what God gave us in the bible?  Evangelical?  Sure! I love to share what I found.

So, when my friends would ask me when I tried to explain God, “What are you?”  I would say I am a Fundamental Evangelical.  Keep in mind this was self diagnosed.  I attempted to fellowship with those I thought kindred spirits, but found they did not want to fellowship with me.  That hurt!

One problem that arose was that I did not think behemoth was a dinosaur, or Job a pre-flood book.  Many cultures call an elephant “the beast with two tails” , I mean how many of us say, “Look at the flexible proboscis on that one!” We call it a trunk because elephants store stuff in there.  So in discussion group at fundy central when I asked why Job should have the descriptive skills of  a veternarian, they got mad.

I was on a fishing trip with a fundamentalist and he told me there was no ice age.  I live on a glacial moraine, but more to the point we were on Lake  Ontario for this discussion, so I asked how the lake was formed and was told,”By the hand of God”.  I believe that, I just think He held a 2 mile high glacier in His hand when He did it.  Again I was told I probably wasn’t even saved.  He also told me there was no Ice age as the earth was 7000 years old.  I have arrow heads almost that old and I live in coal country where fossils abound. Go figure.

Many more examples on request.  Then I found out some of the other distinctives of the faith; no beer,[not one] , no R movies, no open-minded theological debates.  I was floored.  The Holy Spirit had moved me from drunkeness, triple XXX films and bull throwing , but can’t we argue out our thoughts?

Why should my salvation and my ability to witness to others be based on the just one way to interpret the first few chapters of Genisis? Why do people who can’t stand anything at all  Catholic use the dating system of The Bishop of Ulster?  Spurgeon said what a glory God thought of us millions of years ago, but that is not good enough for some.

I should have known better.  When I first became a Christian I remember getting my college student semester sign up sheet back  and it was marked Atheist. The thought that I had filled it out that way the previous semester brought tears of repentance. I saw a square to check for religion: Catholic, no, not me, Protestant, no nothing to protest, Jewish, no, but my Savior was, and other.  I checked other and wrote in Christian.

It came back Catholic, I sent it back again with that crossed out and Christian written in.  It came back this time marked Protestant.  I was frustrated.  I took the card to the registrar and said,” It is a pretty big outfit the Christians, Perhaps you have heard of them? ”  always the wise guy

So I am back to square one Forgive me God for leaving, I will never do it again.  I am a Christian.  I love my fellowship with a lot of people in the SBC, but that does not define me.  Christ defines me.  I seek to be more defined by Him every day.

What Kind Of Place Is This? I. : The Origin
November 3, 2008, 15:00
Filed under: History, roots of Willohroots | Tags: , , , ,

Dayspring Bible Chapel does not readily fit in to any of the accepted categories.  By that I mean, we’re not really an existing work as we have all new people, new name, we’re creating our own new traditions, but then again, we’re not a new start either.  The branch that is Dayspring grew from the stump of something called the Wyoming Valley Baptist Church.  Let me give you a quick history.  In the seventies the SBC looked at a map and decided that Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, really needed a southern baptist work.  Now the area had quite a few American Baptist churches and Independent Baptist churches, but was predominantly Roman Catholic with Methodist and Presbyterian presence.  What church a person attended was by and large based upon his or her ancestry.  Later european immigrants were RC, earlier English and German immigrants were not.

A tent revival was held and I’m told two hundred people walked the aisle.  A church was needed to house these people so Wyoming Valley Baptist Church was formed.  When the church’s temporary headquarters was leveled to put in a bypass a new building was sought for a permanent home.  A fellow named Pacey ran a bar/shoe store on River Road in Plains.  I find that an odd combination.  Pacey was being charged by the stool (barstool) for his sewer hookup.  He told the town fathers that he didn’t like that and for spite would sell his building to a religious organization that would not have to pay taxes just to teach them a lesson.  He actually threatened to sell to a black religious organization but there were none in the market for a bar/shoe store at the time.  The building was purchased and the SBC went to work.

I love how SBC churches work together when they have a mission, and the mission of destroying  a bar, it seems, brought them great glee.  They built a really nice meeting hall for approximately 100 people.  They gave some donated bibles and hymnals from a church in Flordia that had upgraded, helped them call a pastor, prayed for them with loving hearts and turned them loose.  While this was all done with the best of intentions, it didn’t work out.  I can safely say that it didn’t work out because they went through twenty two pastors in twenty five years.  What really had been built was a meat grinder for pastors, their families, and the believers who loved them.  Put the latter into the mix, wait a little while, and watch the bleeding mangled mess that comes out the other side.

Now as all good southern baptists know, right next to the soverignty of God is the autonomy of the local church, so that when some mess like this exists the cure can only come from within.  I admire the courage of the men who accepted the call to this work.  I am forced to admire their courage else I would have to doubt their sanity.  Through all of this a core group of “deacons” and key leaders hung in there.  They prayed fervently that God would finally have mercy on them and send them a decent pastor instead of all the fellows they had put up with to date.  That’s the origin.