With the Ddraig Goch (flag of Wales) flying high, Paul Thomas cuts dry wall as he and other volunteers from the United Kingdom build house #912.
--Photo by George Hipple

Welsh Firefighter Combines Faith in God with Desire to Help Others
By Leanne McElroy

Standing in the center of a storm of building on house #912, house leader Paul Thomas is a beacon of tranquility, issuing calm instructions to fellow volunteers from the United Kingdom. As a 34-year veteran of the South Wales Fire Service, Paul’s relaxed behavior comes naturally.

“My work is a great preparation for the intensity of a blitz build,” he says. “When other people are running from a situation, firemen are the people running to it. The greater the pressure…the calmer I become.”

Paul believes that firemen and Habitat for Humanity are a perfect fit, adding, “I would like to see firemen from the United Kingdom and across Europe get involved in this work.”

His enthusiasm for Habitat is contagious, even inspiring his colleagues at the Poltyclun Fire Station of South Wales to hold a car wash to help raise money for the JCWP in Durban.

While his experience in the fire service helps in handling the intensity of a five-day build, Paul admits the work itself is very different. “Normally, the house I am working on is on fire,” he points out. “Now, I am actually building one.”

Paul was initially drawn to Habitat’s work through his local church, Danescourt Christian Fellowship in Llantrisant, Wales. When a fellow parishioner introduced him to Habitat, the idea of helping those in need stuck a chord with him professionally and spiritually.

“We show our love of God through our behavior,” he says. “God has put us in the position on this build to show that love.”

Soon after his return from South Africa, Paul will retire from the fire service to pursue his new calling as joint pastor and missionary for his church in Wales. More Africa travel plans are also in his future, as he plans a trip to Uganda later this year for a missionary assignment.

—Leanne McElroy is communications manager for HFHI’s Europe/Central Asia area office


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