Pastor recognized for impact on community

Tyson Priest, TheRiver, Lapel, Indiana

Helping to raise $10,000 to rebuild a dilapidated fire station is one thing, but to be recognized for community involvement is another. TheRiver Church, Lapel, Indiana, recognized a need of the Lapel Stony Creek Fire Station and responded last year. Due to the church’s $10,000 donation, construction finally began after 30 to 40 years of plans for a new station. Pastor Tyson Priest knew the way to connect with his community was through service. He just didn’t know how far God would take it.

Priest continued to work with his local volunteer firefighters, including inviting them for Sunday morning service and supporting more fundraising efforts. In March, at a meeting the fire department chief asked him a question that left him speechless. "Will you be our chaplain?"

“I said sure, I’ve never been a chaplain anywhere, but of course, if you need me,” Priest said. “It just all goes back to what I was taught about being a pastor to the community, and that’s the mentality and approach I’ve had the entire time.”

Lapel Stony Creek Fire Department

Priest’s chaplain title was officially announced in April at the fire department's board meeting. His duties include visiting the station once a week to connect with the men who work there. While Priest says he was trying to figure out his new role, the officers surprised him with something special.

“I was up there just hanging out, and I took some information to look over when an officer came over and just said, ‘You’ll need this,’ leaving a badge on the table,” Priest said. “I was just floored. Absolutely floored. It’s such an honor.”

His 7-year-old son thinks it’s pretty cool too. Priest says his son was showing off his new “wallet” for him. Besides a badge carrying a lot of honor, it also grants Priest access inside a police perimeter. Officers will now be able to call him on scene if he is needed in an emergency.

“The important thing for me is to make sure TheRiver stays healthy and continues to grow, and that we can be there for community. I would not have been in this spot if it weren’t for the church God laid on my heart for me to start.”

There also was a small change in the fire station plans. Instead of having a weight room upstairs, it was decided to put it downstairs in the garage bay with the trucks. Upstairs will now be a quiet room where the officers can decompress and meet with Priest, if need be.

Lapel Stony Creek Fire Department

"They are looking at the whole person, soul, spirit and body,” he said. “Deciding to move the weight room and use the space for mental health is huge.”

Priest and others in the community were invited to attend the fire station’s open house May 16. He says it was a success, with a large turnout of the fire department families from neighboring counties, community members and congregants from TheRiver. There were free hot dogs and drinks for everyone and a meaningful memorial for a fallen firefighter, who unexpectedly passed away the week after TheRiver made their donation a year ago.

“It’s just so cool to see these firefighters and their families starting to come to church regularly in the past two months. The whole goal of being generous is to lead people to Christ. We are starting to see it come into fruition.”

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    Point - Fall 2017

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