Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Decision Magazine.
It’s not often that a fire chief’s goal is to start fires, but that’s exactly what Shreveport Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran aimed to do as executive chair of the Ark-La-Tex 2005 Franklin Graham Festival. “We are trying to set our community on fire for the Lord,” he said. Here is his own story of how Jesus Christ has changed his life.
I grew up in the Allendale section of Shreveport, a poor area close to downtown. I had three big brothers and two little sisters. While we were still small, my father and mother separated, so my mother raised all six of us by herself.
At one point we moved to the 1600 block of Rear Snow Street. It was there I realized how terrible it was to be living in poverty in our little shotgun house. My brothers and I all slept in one bed, my two little sisters in another bed in the same room. My mother received food stamps and was on welfare.
It was also there that I first confessed faith in Jesus Christ and was baptized—at Galilee Baptist Church. One Sunday, back at our house after church, we heard a fire truck that sounded as though it was coming right at us. We opened the door and saw the house across the street on fire. I was fascinated as I watched the fire fighters. From that time on, my dreams were to get out of poverty and to be a fire fighter.
After high school, I went to college. But after about a year I found myself on academic probation—I was more focused on having a good time than on getting good grades. While I was on probation I filled out an application for the fire department, and I received a call from a chief officer. That call ultimately led to my becoming a Shreveport firefighter in 1981.
Soon after, I married Carolyn Fay Marshall, whom I had known since the fourth grade. At that point I had the job of my dreams, the girl of my dreams, and I was no longer poor. But I was complacent in my relationship with the Lord, and I began to take for granted both my job and my wife. After we had two children, I decided that married life was a burden and that I “deserved” to be single. I left my family and lived a life of partying, drinking and spending money.
I woke up six or seven months later in despair and loneliness. I prayed, “God, if You’ll give me my family back, I’ll serve You for the rest of my life.” I went back to Carolyn and asked for forgiveness. She let me back in her life, but it wasn’t easy. I had to regain her love and trust. God healed our relationship, and we had another beautiful daughter. We love each other more and more as the years go by.
Now I serve in my church faithfully. I have more fun being a husband and a father than I ever had hanging out with the fellas, and my life is far more than I ever dreamed about while growing up on Rear Snow Street. I praise God for Jesus Christ and for the power by which He does “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).