SALEMBURG — With his hands raised, Pastor Ernest King looked into the eyes of the emergency responders sitting in the pews at Zoar Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church. Between burst of “Amen” coming from the crowd, King spoke with a thunderous voice.
“I want to remind you that you’re not alone in what you do, He’s with you,” King said referring to their service and Jesus Christ. “We as a body of believers are very thankful for what you do and you do it well.
“Good job…good job,” King repeated with excitement on Sunday.
The church in western Sampson County held its Emergency Responders Appreciation program on Sunday. Its purpose was to show gratitude for the men and women who respond to crisis situations. The service included visits from law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, rescue squads and emergency management leaders. After King’s sermon, the guests were treated to a barbecue lunch.
“I’m really excited about the beautiful day that we had and the response from all the different departments,” King said about the second annual event.
King knows first-hand about the experiences of emergency personnel. His history with law enforcement goes back to the late 1980s. He was formerly with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Department.
“With my law enforcement and also fire department background, I know that a lot times, the emergency response people are not appreciated as much as they should be,” King said. “I felt impressed upon my heart that the Lord blessed us to do this.”
All of the emergency departments in the county were invited to participate in the spiritual-based event.
“My goal as a pastor is also to be interested in their spiritual aspect of it to make sure they have their heart right with the Lord,” King said.
King believes it was also important to show appreciation because of conflicts involving law enforcement departments throughout the country.
“I know that the times that we live in today, especially with law enforcement, they’re not shown appreciation,” King said about some officers facing scrutiny.
Joe Dixon Jr. was one of many responders in attendance. As a member of Zoar PFWB, Clinton Fire Department and Sampson County Honor Guard, he hopes the appreciation day expands in the future too.
“We’re trying to start something and hopefully make it bigger or maybe get other churches involved,” Dixon said. “We just think it’s something they deserve. We really appreciate them coming out and we want to see more.”
Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said it was a rewarding experience for the church to show appreciation to the personnel who help people throughout the county.
“I appreciate it,” Thornton said. “It’s certainly a benefit to my staff.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.