Summer Memorial Lutheran Church, Newberry, S.C.
Self-employed in family business and volunteer fire chief

I was baptized at Summer Memorial in 1989. Four generations of my family currently attend this congregation. Since our marriage in 2016, my wife and I split time between Summer Memorial and Mount Tabor Lutheran Church in Little Mountain, S.C., where four generations of her family attend church. We rotate weeks between the two as both our memberships are still at our home churches. We take great pride in being raised in strong Lutheran churches alongside our families.

In my 33 years at Summer Memorial, I’ve had both good and bad times. One of the bad times was while I was attending Clemson (S.C.) University, when my house burnt to the ground. My church family quickly responded to assist me in getting back on my feet. I was completely overwhelmed by the assistance and love that was shown. This small-town church is a close-knit group. They were there for me and my wife, Katie, as we lost our first child last year. They were also there while we were getting married to offer their support. Life is full of ups and downs, especially in today’s world, so your church family should always be there—not just in the good and fun times but also in those not-so-fun times.

My family has always emphasized that God is first in your life. You must always have faith at the forefront of your life, whether it’s in those good times or bad times. Over the years I’ve had several mentors in church members, and our church community has always played a big part in my family’s life. A lot of our closest friends are in my or my wife’s church family.

I began volunteering in the fire service in 2007 at the Newberry Fire Department. When I moved to Clemson for school, I was involved in the Corinth-Shiloh Volunteer Fire Department, where I worked my way up to captain. I later moved back home and started as a career fireman at the Newberry department in 2014. I spent six years as a career fireman, working my way to senior engineer.

On my days off I assisted my father with our family septic tank business that my grandfather started more than 50 years ago. After much change in the career fire service, I decided to step away to be of more assistance to the family business. During my time as a paid fireman, I also volunteered with the Friendly Fire Department in Newberry County and now have been the chief there for two years. I’m also vice chair on the Board of Rural Fire Control for Newberry County. I’ve received Fireman of the Year for the Corinth-Shiloh and Friendly fire departments.

I’ve learned from my vocation to always be patient because someone is always having a worse day than you.

In my free time, I enjoy being outdoors. I love to spend time in God’s great creation. When I’m not working or volunteering with the fire service, you can find me turkey hunting, deer hunting, fishing or cheering on the Clemson Tigers. I assist with the Dutch Fork Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Prior to the pandemic, we hosted two turkey hunts a year and a deer hunt for people with disabilities. You may also find me taking youth fishing, as I love to share my hobbies with those willing to learn.

God has shown me that he will never leave, no matter how bad you may think things are in the moment. He has blessed me with a great family, and now my wife and I are expecting a daughter in the coming months.

I’m a Lutheran because my wife and I each come from a long line of Lutherans and also because I trust in the sacraments of baptism and communion being the bridges between God and people.

At Summer Memorial, I was the second youngest person to serve on the council, and I assist with various special projects when needed. I’m also active in Lutheran Men in Mission, as my father has been for many years. I’ve received its Lutheran Man of the Year award at Summer, as well as the Heartland Conference Lutheran Man of the Year award.

Working or volunteering in the fire service can be very overwhelming but also very rewarding. Most of the time we are showing up to what the caller believes is the worst time of their life. One thing I always try to relay to those we serve is that I have been on both sides of the fence. I’m on the helping side when you’re in need, but I’ve also suffered from losing everything I owned in a fire. I must say that when you thank a volunteer or career first responder, you should also thank their spouse, children and family. They are the ones who suffer from the first responder being gone all hours of the night or on holidays or leaving in the middle of hot meals, not knowing how long they will be gone to help a stranger in need.

I’ve learned from my vocation to always be patient because someone is always having a worse day than you. I’ve also learned about the dedication you must have to help your fellow community members.

Some of my favorite church memories are around the Lutheran Men in Mission yearly turkey stews. When I was young, my grandfather would lead the way on cooking, using his recipe, so we would always be involved. During these gatherings you hear a lot of good stories about the “old times” and “how things used to be.”  The event is a fundraiser that allows us to help others in the community.

To me, hope is something that gives you passion in life. I find that in the great outdoors and also in helping those in need. My wife, family, nieces and nephews also give me hope. They mean so much to me, which gives me encouragement to be a great mentor and example to them in life.

Megan Brandsrud
Brandsrud is a former content editor of Living Lutheran.

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