"May I speak to you, chaplain?"
As he turned to close the door, my mind started racing. "Why does the cop want to talk to me?"
Talking is a way to cope. Cops see dead babies, teens, adults, senior citizen, cats, dogs and deer. They are called to the scenes of mangled cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, marriages, childhoods and finances. Their marriages, parenting and humanity are affected by the work they do. Each one finds unique ways to cope with the pain of their profession. My brief reply hid the terror of watching him close the door. What did the officer wanted to talk about?
I met a cop who copes by making stained glass windows. After the shift, he spends time in a workshop creating delicate, translucent beauty. Working with his hands keeps him balanced. Art gets him ready to engage his family with health and vitality.
Health and fitness are coping mechanisms. Bodybuilding, power lifting, tough mudder competitions, triathlons and endurance races litter the law enforcement landscape. Some cops work twelve hour shifts on limited calories because they're preparing for competition. They stick to the regiments, no matter how badly they want comfort food.
Comfort food is a way to cope. Ice cream, cake, peanut butter and things with cheese on top are helpful to some.
Some cops drink. Others use prescriptions and a few snort or smoke. Gambling, cheating, porn and theft bring short term relief for a few. Coping with the yawning, relentless, violently indifferent chasm of the human condition is required. If a cop can't cope, a cop might not last.
Suicide rates among cops are higher than the general population.
He turned around after closing the door and said, "Thank you chaplain. My grandfather is dying. Though I've known him all my life, he has not demonstrated any faith in God. I am a Christian and worry about his eternal soul. I've never offered Christ to anyone; I don't know how. I would like to offer Christ to my grandfather. Can you teach me how to offer the gift of salvation before it's too late?"
What followed was a brief explanation of the Roman's Road. We prayed for his courage in interacting with his grandfather and he was off into the night. Below are paraphrases of follow up text messages:
Chaplain: Thank you for the trust yesterday. How is your grandfather?
Cop: No, thank you sir. Been working and haven't seen him.
A few days later...
Chaplain: Praying for your grandfather. He is blessed to have you in his life.
Cop: I've been praying too. We saw him but he was asleep the whole time.
Cop: Saw him today but there were too many people around.
Chaplain: Lord, thank You for growing a burden for souls in a grandchild, in Your child.
Weeks after first conversation...
Cop: I saw him and asked him.
Cop: He said yes to Jesus. Thank you for your help.
Two weeks later his grandfather died. I asked to attend the memorial. There were no people of color in the room. Many looked at me as if to say, "What in the world are you doing here?" If you've never walked into a room full of strangers, to pay respects to a man you've never met, it's hard to explain.
What is not hard to explain is the warmth the cop and his wife showed when they saw me. She heard stories about me and smiled as if we were old friends. The plan of salvation connected me to a stranger in a room full of strangers. In the beginning, in the Garden, God knew we would be smiling and crying and hugging and praising over the soul of his grandfather.
We are trusting that God knows what to tell us, show us and teach us as we walk among cops. There are more souls to consider.
If you've never heard someone surrender their life to Jesus, try it. The thrill of listening to someone praise God after they win a first soul is also hard to explain. If you try it, you will like it.
I like reaching first responders as a member of a team. I was available to that cop, that night, and the days after because of the prayer and financial support of the ministry team. We are doing this work together.
Together we find ways to serve in a police station and wade through the F-bombs, various ways the Lord's name can be taken in vain, chewing tobacco and attack dogs because we might get another chance to see another person trust the Lord for eternal life.