Serving Those Who Serve and Protect
by Chaplain Clif Cummings
Everyone who has had a driver’s license for very long has had an experience and thoughts similar to these: “I was just driving down the street and all of sudden I look in my rearview mirror and there were these flashing red and blue lights! Why is he stopping me? Doesn’t he have something better to do? I wasn’t going that fast! Man, this is just so wrong!”
However, there are times when the presence of a police officer or first responder is a welcomed sight. We need and appreciate them when our house has been broken into or when we are involved in a serious automobile accident. We long for their presence and service when a crime has been committed against us or our loved ones.
What many of us don’t realize is the same person you criticize for stopping you during a traffic violation may be the exact same person who solves the crime committed against you or your family. They may even be the first responder who helps save your life or the life of someone you love.
I offer this as a very simple example of the complex life of a police officer and their family. They live a life of “no one wants to see me or even likes me… until they need me!” AND we live in a world where sin abounds! No one on earth sees the consequences of the worst that sinful man has to offer like those who are asked to serve and protect our community – the police officers and other first responders.
When a citizen in our community faces a crisis, they need the police, a fire fighter or EMS. When a police officer, a fire fighter or EMS personnel face a crisis who do they call? That’s the role of a chaplain.
As Chaplain for the City of Sugar Land Police Department, my primary role is to “serve those who serve and protect us.” Specifically I attempt to accomplish this in four ways.
- Availability – is a vital factor in the ministry of every chaplain. If he is not available to them when they have need for him, they will find someone or something else to replace him and that which he stands for in their lives. Officers are geared to provide a quick response time, and it is imperative that chaplains be available to respond as quickly as possible when requested by officers. My goal is to not only be available to serve alongside the officers when needed but also to serve the officers and their families. (I am thankful that my role as Associate Pastor of Sugar Creek affords me this opportunity and flexibility.)
- Visibility - means that the chaplain is willing to walk the road of service with the police officers, regardless of how difficult it becomes or how embarrassing it may be. The chaplain has to be visible for the police personnel to get to know him. Appearing at roll calls, dropping by when he sees the officer on a run to see if he can be of any assistance (without getting in the way or interfering) requesting the opportunity to ride along, and taking time to enquire about them as individuals and/or their family are the ways that a chaplain makes himself visible.
- Adaptability – the most constant thing about a police department is change. Change is a part of living and we expect it. If a chaplain is not adaptable he cannot be available to minister to the needs of those seeking his assistance. Regardless of the circumstances, if someone needs a chaplain he must be willing and able to respond. No situation can be too ill-timed, too rough, too dirty, too gruesome, too nice, or too anything else for the chaplain to not get involved and do what he can to help.
- Credibility – is the foundation of an effective chaplain ministry. Credibility undergirds everything a chaplain has to offer. As a chaplain, and minister, I must conduct myself in such a way that merits respect. I am ministering not only on behalf of our church, but also on behalf of our community. I must be able to represent the essential elements of a man’s relationship with God, be a source of emotional and spiritual strength and provide teaching and counseling when called upon.
Some may wonder “why would you be involved in such a ministry?” There are two reasons; one theological and one personal.
Theologically: God’s word is clear… “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.” (Romans 13:1–6, ESV)
Do you see it? First responders, especially police officers, are servants of God and ministers of God’s justice for our good. This theology needs to be restored and promoted loudly in our society!
Personally: In 37 years of ministry, my short tenure as a chaplain (8 years) has been some of the most rewarding and challenging at the same time. From riding along with an officer in a patrol car… providing a listening and confidential ear to being involved when a S.W.A.T. team had to take the life of a perpetrator to save the life of a hostage, chaplaincy is a “front-line, battlefield” ministry. It provides the opportunity to support and befriend those who have been called by God (whether they know it or not) to serve my community, my church and my family.
As Associate Pastor of Sugar Creek, I hope to prayerfully lead our church to engage in active ministry to the first responders of Fort Bend County that will honor and serve them and their families. The Adopt-A-Cop ministry launched at Sugar Creek in May of 2014 and already has over 200 individuals and families have committed to pray for a specific law enforcement officer by name on a daily basis.
Remember the next time you see those flashing red and blue lights in your rearview mirror the person you are about to encounter is not just a police officer but a servant of God!