Saturday, April 30, 2011
Your Final Call
Two significant events happened this week that reminded me of how important it is to live life with purpose. The first was the funeral on Tuesday of PSO Eric Zapata, the first police officer ever killed in the line of duty here in Kalamazoo. Officer Zapata had responded to a call from a fellow officer who had been fired upon, and in doing so, lost his life. His death truly reflects the words Jesus shared with us 2,000 years ago, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.” (John 15:13, NKJV) It’s safe to say that Officer Zapata’s death really shook up our community. I’ve been to a fair number of funerals over the years, but I’ve never seen anything like what I saw that day. Before the funeral began there was a processional, for roughly an hour, of uniformed officers from all over the country, and even Canada, who came to pay their respects and pass by the casket.
I’ll never forget the tape they played of Eric’s “Final Call,” in honor of his last day of duty. It went something like this:
“Lincoln Radio can you raise Baker 22 for me,” Lt. Mike McCaw said, followed by the dispatcher’s call, “Radio to 22…Radio to 22…Radio to Baker 22. (No response) Lincoln Two, I am unable to raise Baker 22. The time is 23:28 hours. The date is April 18, 2011.” “Take Baker 22 off the watch,” Lt. McCaw responded. “Baker 22 is off the watch…Kalamazoo Public Safety honors the service and sacrifice of Public Officer Eric Zapata, on his final call; Officer Zapata…rushed bravely toward the sound of gunfire in order to aid a fellow officer. In doing so, Officer Zapata gave the full and final measure of devotion; on behalf of another he made the ultimate sacrifice…the sacrifice of his own life. May his example of selfless courage be an inspiration to each of us, may we find hope in his valor, and may he rest in peace and in glory, in the company of those who have gone before him. Officer Eric Zapata, employee No. 11611, is off duty for the final time at 23:28 hours on Monday, April 18, 2011. Godspeed, Eric.”
Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. We all left that funeral with a greater appreciation of the men and women in law enforcement, the military and the first responders who place their lives on the line every day to keep people like us safe. We thank God for those of you who serve God and us in these ways, and we promise to pray for you even more than we have in the past.
The second event was the death of David Wilkerson, author of the famous book, “The Cross and The Switchblade,” founder of Teen Challenge, and founder of Times Square Church in the heart of Manhattan. Pastor Dave didn’t serve in law enforcement, but he did invest his life in saving the lives of others. He and his wife Gwen were in a head-on crash in Texas on Wednesday and as I write this she remains in critical condition. Please keep her in your prayers today. “The Cross and the Switchblade” is one of the most popular Christian books ever written. The ministry of Teen Challenge remains a powerful tool, used by God, to help change the lives of thousands and thousands of hurting people around the country. Then on top of these two major works, he founded the Times Square church, which now has 8,000 members. I don’t know about you, but I’d say that's a pretty significant work.
Even though they had very different careers, Office Zapata and Pastor Wilkerson both heard the same words that Jesus shared in Matthew 25:21. They are words we all would like to hear when our work here on earth comes to an end, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
So let me leave you with a few questions. What causes a person to run into danger when their natural response should be to run from it? What causes a person to preach the gospel in the hard places, to folks who don’t want to hear it? Is it because they know their God given purpose and are willing to give their lives to fulfill it? If that’s the case, here is a question for you: Are you giving everything you can to fulfill your life’s purpose? How you answer that question will determine what you hear on the day of your “final call.”
God Bless Officer Eric Zapata, and Pastor David Wilkerson, and may God use how they lived their lives to teach us how to live ours.