Szeto named first-ever MFD Chaplain
Earlier this month, St. John Lutheran Church Pastor David Szeto was selected as the first chaplain to ever serve with the Merrill Fire Department, in its 130 year history.
According to a press release issued by the department, the process to select a fire chaplain started in May when the fire department contacted each of the religious organizations in the area to see if their leader would also be interested in serving as chaplain for the department. MFD received five responses back from interested church leaders. Each chaplain candidate was brought in to meet with each of the three crews that work at the fire department. Members of the department were then allowed to interview each of the candidates.
After the interviews, Pastor Szeto was selected by MFD personnel to serve as their chaplain. Dave graciously accepted the new role.
The primary duties of a fire chaplain are to provide mental, psychological, and spiritual support to emergency responders. Today more than ever, first responders are burdened with the post-traumatic stress they face from doing their jobs. Many times it is not a single tragic or gruesome call that triggers this disorder, but a cumulative effect after many decades of service. Fire departments today are promoting more than just physical health, but also mental health for their members.
“I have always said as fire chief, it is my job to return our members back to their families at the end of their shift and the end of their career in one piece,” noted Fire Chief Josh Klug.
In addition to providing service to members of the Merrill Fire Department, Chaplain Szeto will also be available to assist on emergency related calls in the community. Death notifications and immediate grief counseling are also functions that Pr. Szeto is willing to provide.
“While the position is voluntary and thankless, we know that Chaplain Szeto will play an important role in the success of our department and the overall well-being of the Merrill community,” explained Klug. “If Chaplain Szeto is needed, the fire department can send him an immediate request to join them on scene.”
Even though this is the first time Szeto has served as a fire chaplain, he has been in the ministry for 13 years.
David attended Concordia Seminary at St. Louis, MO and first served at Trinity Lutheran Church & School in Hicksville, NY. He and his family moved to Merrill in 2009 when he was called to St. John. They left in 2013, only to return again in 2015 to serve as the lead pastor at St. John Lutheran Church.
“I am honored and humbled to serve the Lord and members of the Merrill Fire Department as their chaplain,” said Szeto.
Chaplain Szeto is planning to attend the annual fire chaplain conference held during the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs conference. He will also receive additional training throughout the year when available to assist him with his new chaplain duties.