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Ceremony of blessing held
for first responders

Story and Photos by Duane Good

Area first responders are prayed for, with one of the Halifax Fire Department engines  as a backdrop.

With words of thanks for all they do, and a commendation for the example they set, first responders received a prayer of blessing at a ceremony held in the Halifax area Aug. 22.

Fire, ambulance and police and military personnel  were praised for following the example Jesus set – they ‘‘go about doing good,’’ as part of the prayer offered to them as they stood in front of a Halifax Fire Department engine while others laid hands on them to pray.

Held at the Youth Center of Halifax United Methodist Church, the ceremony of blessing was the first in what is being planned as an annual event for first responders in northern Dauphin County. 

While most of the emergency personnel in attendance Aug. 22 were from the Halifax region, the intent is to have many more people on hand in 2016, according to organizer Chuck Matter.

‘‘We’re opening it up next year to all of upper Dauphin County – from Peters’ Mountain to Pillow and from the Susquehanna River to the county line,’’ he said.

First responders do a great job working together and deserve more recognition than they often receive, said Randy Bistline, the event’s keynote speaker.

‘‘It's an unsung thing; they don’t get enough credit. But it is God who gives you the credit,’’ Bistline, a Duncannon resident, said.

A veteran police officer who has served in the military and with departments in Millersburg and at the State Capitol, Bistline  said there was a time in his life when ‘‘God wasn’t always there

‘‘Let me rephrase that – I wasn’t always there for God. I didn’t let Him there,’’ he added.

Saying he believes the United States is going in the wrong direction because people haven't allowed God to work in their lives, Bistline said that in his career, he has ‘‘seen ugly things that people do to other people. With God in people’s lives, those things wouldn't happen.’’

After Bistline’s presentation, Matter added, ‘‘Christ is the ultimate rescuer.’’

The audience also heard from Lynn Hess, an area native now retired from the Pennsylvania State Police after more than 30 years' service.

‘‘In all the places I worked across the state, the first responders from upper Dauphin County were the best I worked with,’’ he said. ‘‘Everyone throws in together and helps each other out. That's especially impressive, considering most of the first responders in this area are volunteers.’’

While saying he never heard God audibly call him to be a state trooper, Hess noted that ‘‘every crossroad in my life’’ pointed him in that direction.

There were times, he added,  when he wondered if he was making any positive difference in others' lives, especially when he would speak with young people who’d run afoul of the law and asked them what they thought their future would hold.

‘‘Around 2008 I was at a football game, and a lady came up to me and asked if I remembered her,’’ he said. ‘‘She told me hermaiden name and said that 15 years before, she had been in a dysfunctional family situation and had run away from home.

‘‘I always thought I annoyed kids with that speech I’d give them, but she thanked me for it and said it helped her turn her life around,’’ said Hess.

Before the prayer, Matter said it was important also to say thanks to the spouses and children of first responders.

‘‘They have to pick up the slack when we have to make our runs and attend the trainings,’’ he said. ‘‘Without them stepping up and doing what they do, we couldn’t be there for the community.’’

The prayer of blessing was offered by Rick Crone, chaplain of the Tribe of David, a local chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association. Crone related how a man with medical training saved his father’s life after a home accident, so he always has had tremendous respect for people in that field.

The chapter meets the second Saturday of the month (except December) from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at the Ranch House Restaurant near Duncannon, and welcomes anyone who wants to com and see what it is about, said Rick Willier, the Tribe’s vice president.


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