MERRILLVILLE — Emergency personnel wear various types of gear to keep them safe while on duty, but religion was used Saturday to add another layer of protection.
The Congregations of Merrillville hosted the inaugural prayer service and breakfast for the town’s first responders.
“Protect them, keep them safe, Lord,” the Rev. Randy Scott, of Pentecostals of Southlake, said during a prayer for the town’s police, fire and emergency medical personnel.
The Rev. Richard Boshoven, of Trinity Memorial Lutheran Church, said first responders deal with people who are in crisis and they enter into others’ pain.
“The impact this has on first responders shouldn’t be overlooked,” Boshoven said.
That’s why the community gathered to provide spiritual care for them, he said.
Saturday’s event also provided an opportunity to honor Merrillville emergency personnel for their many contributions in the town.
The Rev. Cheryl Clemes, of Word of Life Christian Fellowship, discussed a time when she called 911 for her mother. She said the Fire Department provided outstanding care and support while responding to the medical emergency.
“Thank God for the firefighters,” Clemes said.
The prayer service and breakfast will be an annual event and include a rotating fundraiser each year. Funding generated Saturday will benefit the Merrillville Police Department, which will use it to purchase Kevlar vests. The amount collected Saturday wasn’t immediately available. Next year’s program will benefit the Merrillville Fire Department.
In addition to the spiritual protection and financial assistance provided Saturday, there are other ways the community can help first responders, said Dean Larson, an Indiana Emergency Response Commission member.
He explained the need to be prepared for situations, such as fires, by creating plans that include where families would meet after evacuating homes during emergencies.
The Rev. Joan Mier, chairwoman of the program, was pleased with the outcome of the prayer service.
“I think it was beautiful,” said Mier, of Peace United Church of Christ.
She’s also looking forward to next year’s event.
“It will grow,” Mier said.