Eiberger first Atchison Fire Department chaplin

By Faye Miller
Atchison Globe – April 9, 2014
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – May 2, 2014

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Click on photo to view full-size image.

Mary Ann Eiberger is on fire.

What that means now for the 24-year veteran of the Atchison Fire Department is that rather than putting out fires, she is sharing her fire for God’s love as the first chaplain for the Atchison Fire Department.

“When she came to me with this idea, I wasn’t surprised,” said Mike McDermed, Chief of the Atchison Fire Department. “She is very involved in her church.”

While the department here is more than 134 years old, it is the first time it has had a chaplain.

“My pastor at New Life Assembly of God is the chaplain for the Atchison County Sheriff’s Office and he was influential in my making this decision,” Eiberger said.

Eiberger was already credentialed as a certified minister with New Life Assembly of God here. She has served in a variety of areas including bus ministry, Sunday school teacher, and going on a health care mission trip.

But in June of 2011 when she retired as a lieutenant with the Atchison Fire Department, she said to herself, “I am 54 years old, so what am I going to do with my life?”

Then the answer to that question came to her through prayer.

“I am going to do God’s work now, in an even bigger way.”

That bigger way is as the Atchison Fire Department chaplain. As a volunteer, she will be called to emergency situations and fires, always reporting to the incident commander.

“I see her being utilized when we are dealing with victims of fire or tragedy, and helping our families with loss of property or loved ones,” McDermed said.

In addition to that, Eiberger also sees herself as a sounding board and support to her fellow “brothers,” the fire department men who were once her co-workers.

“Firefighters are like brothers,” she said. “Now I can go back and offer them a new service.”

When Eiberger reached the position of lieutenant at the fire department, the next logical step was captain. But that involved more paper work, and more personnel work. She wanted to keep fighting fires.

“The greatest loves of my life is the love of the lord and fire service,” Eiberger said. “What better way to go?”

An organization for the membership of fire chaplains, the Federation of Fire Chaplains, states that persons in these roles are there to “serve those who serve.” These positions throughout the country, both paid and volunteer, require that applicants are endorsed by a major religious denomination. In addition to being on site at a disaster, they can teach classes on how to cope with tragedy, perform funerals for firefighters and work with the incident commander in any capacity he or she sees fit.

“While we have had several firefighters injured severely on the job, we have not lost the life of one of them,” McDermed said. “But for instance, Mary Ann would have been a great resource and comfort at the Bartlett  Grain incident.”

More recently and on a national level, two firefighters lost their lives battling a fire in downtown Boston. And in the Twin Towers attack on 9/11, a fire chaplain lost his life entering a building to provide support to those inside.

“Basically I will be there to provide comfort to the men serving. I have seen a lot of destruction and I want to be a comfort to the families affected by fires,” Eiberger said, adding that she can minister to all faiths, as well as those still searching.

So, maybe another 24 years with the Fire Department here in Atchison?

“Who knows? Time is short,” she said. “I need to be about God’s business.”

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

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