A couple years ago, I received my certificate – I was now a brand new member of the local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). I was so excited! As I participated in the final mock disaster scenario, I felt a type of excitement and adrenaline rush that I hadn’t felt in many, many years.
I’d always dreamed of getting involved in such organizations, but never had the time while our special needs son Jeffrey was living at home. Then God opened amazing doors, and my husband and I one day found ourselves empty-nesters – which we were unsure would ever happen.
Months passed after my certification, and then one day a call came out asking for our assistance in a search & rescue located in a heavily wooded swampy area about 30 miles away from where we lived in Texas.
I was keyed!
The following morning we met at the local fire station, and carpooled to the location. But when we got there, the skies broke wide open and the rain came pouring down in typical Texas-style drench, leaving mini-lakes all throughout the school parking lot we were meeting in.
We were grounded – for quite awhile.
Here’s where I have to share with you that unfortunately I have a habit of jumping into things without really researching and understanding the logistics of exactly what it is I’m jumping into…
The first thing I noticed was that many of the people joining the search had on full rain gear – with backup dry clothes. I had on my official uniform, but that was it.
Still, it wasn’t a cold day. I’ll be alright.
When the rain finally let up, the officials overseeing the search split everyone into teams of 4-5. There were a couple other neighboring CERT teams joining us, as well as a few firefighters. We made sure our radios were charged up, and then were given specific instructions on what we were to be searching for – and what to do if we found anything.
As I connected with my other 4 team members, my rookie-self also realized that I hadn’t thought about bringing along a walking-stick. I was quickly told it would be a good idea to find a good sturdy stick on the ground to use as soon as possible. In that way I’d be able to a) keep my footing better in the wet mud; b) use it to hold back sticky thorny bushes that we needed to go right through as we kept in as straight a line as possible; and c) use it to rustle around in the brush areas to make sure there was nothing hidden in there we needed to be aware of.
Oh… Thankfully one of my team members knew me, and she quickly found me a stick, sensing (no doubt) that I was getting a little uneasy.
Then I was reminded I should have on a good tick repellant. “Oh,” I replied, “I already put on mosquito spray.” But they warned me that not all mosquito repellants kept away ticks, and they loved to latch on to you!
Whoa – growing up on the west coast we didn’t have ticks. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even sure what they were! Thankfully one of my teammates took her repellant and sprayed me liberally on my face, neck and anyplace else that could possibly be exposed to the little varmints.
Finally our team set off. It wasn’t too bad at first, until one team member warned me that I also needed to keep a lookout for snakes – kindly showing me what snake holes looked like.
Finally we were done searching our first grid, and then we were informed we needed to move on to a heavily wooded area.
Here’s where I found out that rain boots and gaiter (gator) pants were definitely a good idea, because we had to traipse through little streams and creeks which were crawling with … who knows what!
Oh my, Linda, stay brave – God’s got you!!!
I continued trying to stay focused, even after slipping and falling into a little creek in the slippery Texas mud.
No worries, it was a just a small stream, and I didn’t feel anything inside my pants or boots.
Finally we finished that area, and then for our final grid we were to search a swampy area.
And here’s where I began to freak out inside…
All I can tell you about the terrain we were traipsing through was that we all were walking blindly through most of it. We had no idea when we took a step what we might be stepping on as it was so marshy; and images began flashing through my mind of being surrounded by snakes.
Then I saw a guy from one of the other the teams literally running through the swamp a short distance from me – with his legs and arms flailing!
It was through this grid where I really began to pray – earnestly…
Finally we were done, and trudged back to the central meeting point. We were safe. Truly God is good all the time (2 Corinthians 9:8)!!!
As we carpooled home, everyone began sharing stories of how their searches went. I shared a couple of my blunders, but basically listened – making mental notes for next time.
When I got home, I jumped in the shower and reflected on the day. It certainly had been eye-opening. Was I cutout for something like this, Lord? What would I have done if I had come across a snake? Would I have panicked?
Friends, there will probably be times when you find yourself scared out of your wits. But remember that no matter where we find ourselves, our loving Father is always right beside us, and He promises to answer us when we call (Psalm 120:1).
That search & rescue mission scared me in many ways – culminating a couple days later when I discovered I actually had a tick buried behind my left shoulder that neither my husband nor I had noticed! After panicking for a moment, I “Googled” how to pull it out correctly with tweezers, then flushed it down the toilet. Thankfully it was not a tick that carried the dreaded Lyme disease.
And, of course, I kept praying, continually turning my fear into trust for my Father (Isaiah 41:10).
He promises the same thing for you – and He is always faithful, even when we’re walking blindly, with no idea where we’re going (2 Timothy 2:13).