Asked about what he’s seeing and experiencing in the wildfire disaster, TSgt Padgett said, “It’s heartbreaking to see a city of 1,500 homes reduced to rubble.” Among the police and first responders he’s assisting, he said there’s a “serious get-to-work” tone because of the daunting scope of demands upon them.
And on the civilian side, “there’s a profound, deep undercurrent of fear, because ‘wildfires and displacement—those things happen to other people, and now it’s happened to me.’ They’re scared. Everyone knows the fire is there—and they don’t know what to do,” he said.
“Since I was in uniform, a frightened woman in a restaurant was asking me what she should do. One thing I encouraged her to do was to pack a 3-day bag ready to take just in case we’d all be evacuated too.” He and his family themselves have their 3-day packs ready to go.
As a servant leader being the hands and heart of Christ to others in life’s tragedies, TSgt Padgett suggested that helping others is as simple as being aware of the ways you can do so. “Listen to others in their pain. If you can, fill a practical need—a glass of water, where a shelter is, a place to get a meal. Those little things make a big difference.
“As it’s said, people don’t care what you know; they want to know you care,” he said.
When the reaction to help others in a calamity eventually tapers off, what are some ways servant leaders can continue modeling true Christ-like service to others? “Most people walk through everyday life with blinders on,” said TSgt Padgett. “When there’s a clear need, they come off and most people try to help in some way.
“Be that someone who gives a glass of water to someone needing it. Or just walk with them in their pain. Rejoice with them. Cry with them. When you ask someone how they’re doing, stop to listen. Be quick to listen, slow to speak. Be inconvenienced—go out of your way to help someone. It cost the Good Samaritan time and money to help someone (Luke 10:33).”
Asked about the inevitable rejoinder of “where’s God in all this?” when disasters strike, TSgt Padgett replied, “God is not an evil god. He uses unfortunate circumstances to draw us closer together, laying it on the hearts of others to take care of each other. It’s only through being vulnerable in our lives that we can be blessed by Him through others working to help us.
“God’s there if you truly stop to look for Him, in the way strangers are helping strangers. No one is doing this as a show or for a pat on the back. Cups of cold water, as spoken of in the Bible (Mark 9:41), are literally being handed out to share with others. They’re sharing water, the thing they have, because it’s the right thing to do.
“It’s been encouraging to see local churches rally together to help others, living our lives as a family as we are meant by God to live. As it is said, we’re to preach the Gospel at all times, using words only when necessary.”