(Joey) The one thing I always say to our people, “think and act like a missionary.” So you want to meet people where they are, and point them to Jesus. We get into our comfortable churches and our comfortable cars, and we forget that there are people who are hurting right across the street or right across the bridge.
(VO) Joey Anthony is the pastor Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Virginia, a church that is surrounded by hurting people. Joey and church members like firefighter Paul Teodoro see them every day, all the time.
(Paul) Your life can change in a split second. You can go from completely normal, mundane life to the bottom dropping out. The burden of the brokenness of this world, can crush you.
(VO) “Stories of Hope” is a podcast about people who meet needs, and change lives.
(VO) In this episode, pastor Joey Anthony challenges his church to touch the lives of their neighbors in the simplest of ways, like making sure their smoke detector works. In their community, it’s led to conversations about Jesus, and it’s even saved a life.
(VO) This is “Stories of Hope” from Send Relief—“Episode 17, “Bless Petersburg”
(Paul) The easiest way to say it is, “it’s the greatest job in the world.” It’s full of thrill. It’s very gratifying. You’re helping all types of people.
(VO) Paul Teodoro is a firefighter in Petersburg, Virginia. For Paul, it is the best, hardest job in the world.
(Paul) When I meet people on a call, it is most of the time the worst day of their life.
(VO) And for Paul, his mission field is his firefighter friends.
(Paul) They say, “You really believe in God with all that we’ve seen.” I love being able to be there and bring scripture to the table of those conversations. That’s what I love to do. That’s why I love to go to work.
(VO) Paul is a member of Joey Anthony’s church, Mount Pleasant Baptist. And he and the other firefighters at his station have a special place in their heart for Pastor Anthony because he’s their chaplain.
(Joey) To have somebody like that who loves Jesus and loves them and is willing to speak truth, in the midst of those situations, is definitely God ordained and God uses those.
(VO) Paul Teodoro has not been in Petersburg long. Before he was a firefighter here, Paul, his wife and their five children were living a comfortable life in a northern Virginia community.
(Paul) We for a while had been living the sort of American Dream life. We owned a home. I had a good job in another fire department, and the Lord sort of grabbed a hold of us through his Word, and gave us a heart for the sort of disenfranchised.
(VO) Paul and his wife read the scripture about caring for the “least of these”, but where they were the “least of these” were hard to find.
(Paul) We lived in a relatively affluent area and I looked around and thought, “I don’t even know any “least of these.” We were like maybe the Lord is telling us to go to a different place, and the city of Petersburg is relatively impoverished, there’s a lot of unemployment, there’s a lot of vacant structures. There’s a lot of need.
(NS of Joey driving and describing Petersburg, “The city of Petersburg has a really rich history, currently it is in a state that’s reminiscent of a lot of post industry small cities. At least structurally, it’s in need of repair, and spiritually it’s in need of Jesus, it’s in need of the restoration that Christ brings.”)
(VO) Even though Paul is new to Petersburg, he already speaks of the city with a lot of affection.
(Paul) We came to Petersburg and bought a house, and moved to a place where I walk outside my door and there are people and they’re always asking for stuff. You know, they get some physical blessings from me and they get the Gospel.
(VO) For Pastor Joey Anthony, the Teodoro’s made the kind of choice he wanted for all of this members.
(Joey) To see Paul and his family leave their comfort zones and move to the Petersburg area, a place that they really did not know, a place that was far different than what they were used to, with one purpose to point people to Jesus.
(Paul) It was about a year ago, I was on C Shift that day, we got knocked out for a structure fire. We know what to do. I was riding on the ladder truck that day which means that it’s my responsibility to force entry into the building if need be, and search for any occupants still inside the structure.
(Paul) And so we arrive on scene, and there was obvious smoke coming out of the structure so we knew that something was on fire in there. We were able to make entry, and search for any occupants upstairs and there was a small fire in a sofa on the second floor.
(VO) For Paul, that call was just a day in the life of a firefighter. A day with a happy ending. The fire was put out and nobody was hurt. To him, it seemed like a very average, very forgettable house fire. To understand what made it special, you have to know what happened six months earlier.
(Joey) Send Relief is a very important part of our missions strategy and it should be. Today, especially in our culture, people won’t just automatically give you an audience to hear what you’ve got to say about Jesus. But a lot of people will hear you, if you show them that you care about them.
(VO) Six months earlier, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Joey Anthony, Paul Teodoro, the Petersburg Fire Department, and the Red Cross were part of an event called “Bless Petersburg”. And as part of that event, teams went to homes in the city and offered smoke detectors and batteries.
(Joey) We would go into the homes with the Fire Department with us say, “Hey, the fire departments here, we with Mount Pleasant and Red Cross, we would love to come in and see if you need a smoke detector.” But then the last thing we would do is go, “Hey, I’m with Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. We are with Bless Petersburg today, is there anything that I could pray with you about.” So it opened up the door for us to be in a part of Petersburg and be in people’s homes that we probably wouldn’t see typically.
(VO) Fast forward six months, and Paul is rolling up on a house fire at a home where they’d placed a smoke detector… a smoke detector that alerted an elderly man and helped him to escape.
(Paul) We had installed this smoke detector in this house and it was actually six months later that there was actually a fire. And the homeowner was saying that we had put a smoke detector in this house, and the resident heard it and was able to exit out of the house before he was overcome with smoke or being injured at all and everyone was healthy.
(VO) Sometimes it’s hard to know what impact an outreach has. But this time, Joey and Paul and everyone at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church can see what God did—he blessed Petersburg.
(Joey) Say, “Hey, guess what? You may not have understood exactly what was taking place, but this is what happened when we prayed with people, but not only that but a person actually had their life saved.”
(Paul) The excitement that I felt from our church saying, “We want to be part of this event in Petersburg.” To be able to serve the community that the Lord had brought me to serve in this way, in this practical way, and be able to pray for them, be able to leave tracts with them, and tell them about Christ.
(VO) Now, Joey Anthony shares with other churches what God can really do with compassion ministry.
(Joey) Every church can be involved in church planting, everyone can be involved in compassion ministries in the smallest amount of ways in the greatest amount of ways, it doesn’t matter what size of church you are.
(VO) And for Paul Teodoro and his family, they are more certain than ever that God has placed them exactly where He wants them.
(Paul) To be a part of a church that wants to be in these communities, with the people and to point them to Jesus which is exactly what I would love to do the rest of my life.
(VO) This has been “Stories of Hope” from Send Relief, Episode 17, “Saving Lives, Now and Forever”.”
(VO) To learn more about compassion ministry and events like Bless Petersburg, or to find a NAMB Ambassador in your area, go to send relief dot org.
(VO) If you enjoyed this episode of “Stories of Hope”, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It will help other people find us and hopefully enjoy it, too. And join us in two weeks for another episode of “Stories of Hope.”