Published August 7, 2018
ASHLAND—Pat Boggs did what was needed and necessary during his first four mission trips to Ecuador.
If that meant construction, then hand him a hammer.
If he was supposed to teach crafts at Vacation Bible School, then pass the Popsicle sticks.
You name it, he would do it.
But something was missing for the Kentucky Baptist who has been a 30-year career firefighter that currently works with the Lexington Fire Department. The trip was expensive, and Boggs thought his skills, or maybe just his passion for firefighting, couldn't be used to the highest degree in Ecuador.
"It's not that it wasn't good," he said of the previous trips, "but it wasn't in my wheelhouse."
Boggs told Sheila Duncan, who has coordinated 20 trips to Ecuador starting with Central Baptist in Lexington, that he was not going back to Ecuador unless he could give something more back.
She asked him what he'd like to do.
"I said, 'Well, I'm pretty good at fire stuff. If I could work with their fire department, that'd great."
Duncan went to work finding out how that could happen and, as so often happens with God's work, a way was provided. She learned that the fire colonel (like the fire chief here) happened to be a first cousin of the pastor's wife in the Province they were serving.
It was a perfect match.
"God worked out it beyond what we could have ever dreamed of working it out for ourselves," she said.
Boggs and his wife, Angie, who are members of LifeSong Baptist Church in Russell, went to Ecuador in February 2017 and met the fire colonel, who immediately embraced the idea of a firefighter from the United States training his men.
The last two trips to Ecuador have been, to say the least, uplifting for Boggs, who is teaching firefighters techniques he's learned over a long career along with sharing the gospel of Christ. He is using what he loves on the mission field and developing important relationships along the way.
"Humanitarian and assisting are good but we wanted it to be evangelical, too," Duncan said. "One of the missionaries interpreted for Pat and then they added another one."
Boggs marveled at how God worked out the entire situation. "We ended up getting our foot in the door with the main person in the whole Province because of the pastor's wife," he said.
He trained the firemen in Ecuador on more aggressive interior firefighting and other techniques that would make their jobs easier and more efficient in life-saving situations. The firemen there, he said, were willing listeners and soaked up the information he brought to them. Boggs also took them eight dozen firefighting gloves and work gloves that he gathered up over a year.
"Gloves are super expensive in Ecuador," he said. "It was like we were giving them $100 bricks. They were so grateful to get a pair of gloves."
The firefighters looked up to Boggs and friend Rick Garr and invited them to be part of a grand graduation ceremony. They just didn't know how grand it was going to be.
"We showed up in our work clothes and figured out pretty fast that we were underdressed," he said.
Dignitaries were wearing suits while police, fire and military officers were in Class A uniforms. They invited Boggs to the main stage where he sat next to the fire colonel.
Boggs was surprised when he was asked to pin epaulettes on the shoulder of one of the graduating firefighters.
"Here I am in work clothes with this big ceremony, reserved for family, and I got to pin one of their recruits," he said. "It was a major honor to do anything."
Boggs and Garr, a fellow Lexington firefighter and paramedic and Boggs' wife Angie, taught CPR to more than 100 students and teachers at a large high school in the province. The Ecuador firemen also got involved with that training. The 911 system is just being installed but "still has some bugs in it," Boggs said.
The 52-year-old firefighter has found his calling in Ecuador and he looks forward to future trips with more firefighting friends—two others have already expressed an interest in going. He's also looking at the possibility of having some of the Ecuadorian firemen coming to the Kentucky Firefighting School, the oldest in the United States, as soon as next year. And to think he was almost shutting the door on Ecuador.
"I know life situations change," Duncan said. "He told me, 'I love the kids and love the people but …' I told him this is not my mission, this is God's, and it's going to work out and we will know it's Him."
Duncan said the pastor and wife have been praying for their first cousin for years and he's just now become open to listening to the gospel. Obviously, he's been listening to Boggs about more than the proper way to reconnect a fire hose.
"If people are feeling led to do something unusual (in mission work) that's the very people God is touching and saying, 'Come on, let's do this!''' said Duncan, who has recently led trips to Ecuador through sponsoring churches LifeSong Baptist Church in Russell and Oakland Avenue Baptist Church in Catlettsburg.
Pat Boggs is living proof, maybe even fireproof, of what Duncan is saying. (KT)
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