One man’s mission is another man’s blessing — at least when the Texas bomberos arrive.
A group of 11 North Texas volunteers — all firefighters — returned last Tuesday from a nine-day mission trip to Guatemala City.
Their purpose was to train firefighters and spread the word of God, said Denton firefighter Clay Rozell.
Five of the volunteers came from Denton; the others were from the Lewisville, Coppell, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Fort Worth fire departments.
The idea came about four years ago when The Village Church — to which Rozell belongs — started discussing things members could do to make an impact, he said.
Shortly after the church discussion, Rozell said, his dream of being able to do missionary work came true.
“David Jacket, a Fort Worth fireman at the time, had just came back from Guatemala and suggested we help train their firemen,” he said.
Members of the church started to quickly make the idea come to fruition. Having a sister church in the capital of Guatemala City definitely helped, Rozell said.
“We raised all the money ourselves for the trip — it’s up to us attending to make sure we are able to get our expenses covered,” he said.
The recent trip marks the fourth year for firefighters to travel to Central America, and with each year the response from the community there and back home prospers.
“We even flew 1,000 pounds of retired gear free through American Airlines,” Rozell said. “The government there didn’t impose any fines on us, either.”
The volunteers housed at Station 69 — located centrally in Guatemala City — taught more than 60 firefighters from across Central America. One firefighter drove more than eight hours to attend the weeklong training.
Rozell said most of the men and women are volunteers, but even the ones paid by the government are paid minimally.
“They don’t do it for the money,” he said. “They have very few resources, and so we teach them hands-on techniques that might be helpful in their situation.”
During their time south, not only are the firefighters teaching, they are active in assisting on calls with their students. That might mean helping fight a fire or deliver a baby.
“A couple of our guys from Denton Fire assisted [victims] in a mass shooting of 20 people one night,” Rozell said.
The time spent benefits not only the Central American firefighters, but the American volunteers as well, he said.
“We collaborate and work on things together — each year we return home with new ideas on how to do something,” Rozell said.
Rozell, who has volunteered all four years of the trip, said that while the volunteers go about the day professionally, the identification of a firefighter is just that.
“That’s our ID, but we practice devotion every morning,” he said. “Most are really grateful we open ourselves up as Christians.”
Before the students venture home, every person is given a Spanish Bible with certain verses highlighted.
“If they take nothing else away from our prayer, at least they have a Bible in the house as a reminder of what’s there,” Rozell said.
The Village Church is hoping to take the success of the program and duplicate it in the future in other parts of the world.
“This is really a special thing. I was always interested in helping out in a missionary-type capacity, I just didn’t know what I could offer,” Rozell said. “This helps me not only share training techniques but preach the word of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Anyone interested in helping does not have to be a member of the church to volunteer for the annual trip. For more information about the mission, or to learn how to participate, visit www.bomberosenguatemala.wordpress.com.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.