Beyond the Badge
“Can you meet with a trooper?” was all the text said. I responded and spent the next morning with a trooper who had experienced his first fatality. Except it was not one person who died that day on I-16, it was six.* We concluded our time together in a “holy moment” as I held the bag containing the cell phones of the crash victims and prayed for this trooper, the young people, their families and all involved.
That moment is imprinted on my mind forever–as are all the other memories gathered over 40 plus years of law enforcement chaplaincy and ministry. As a ministry, we go wherever we are called, letting law enforcement personnel and other first responders know that we chaplains have their backs.
After 40 years of pastoring in local churches and serving law enforcement departments as a volunteer, I founded Caring Connection Chaplaincy in 2009 as my platform to serve law enforcement. Serving in this capacity has provided an incredible opportunity to raise awareness for our public servants and to give people an avenue to provide support to law enforcement personnel through us, as a 501(c)(3) organization. We are also an Advance Mission Special for the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, which means that every year our financial records are reviewed and verified.
The mission statement for our organization is: “Caring Connection Chaplaincy is passionate about serving and ministering to departments of public safety, their families, and the people they encounter and serve in the line of duty.” The recipients of our services include law enforcement personnel, their families, and civilians we aid as first responders.
The law enforcement community is a tight-knit family with its own unique set of gifts and challenges. When a parent, spouse or partner serves in law enforcement, their family serves with them. Our organization strives to build relationships between law enforcement, local churches and other organizations to provide spiritual support and a ministry of presence to law enforcement personnel and their families.
A proud cornerstone of our ministry is our “Beyond the Badge” program. Through this ministry, we provide spiritual support and tools to help law enforcement officers prioritize the self-care needed to maintain a healthy spiritual and emotional well-being, both in the field and at home. Through this program, our team travels to Georgia law enforcement training centers to worship with cadets who are beginning their law enforcement service.
Following worship, the team talks with cadets about the importance of prioritizing spiritual self-care, shared from the point of view of veteran chaplains and police officers. We then present each cadet with the spiritual self-care guide Beyond the Badge and devotion book, Strength for Service to God and Community.
Our team frequently partners with local churches to host law enforcement recognition Sundays, where we reach out to local law enforcement to share in a time of worship and provide the spiritual guides and other resources.
One of our most powerful opportunities to serve often presents itself through the International Conference of Police Chaplains. We are the chaplaincy representative for Georgia, and through this ministry, we minister to law enforcement agencies and families at their most vulnerable time. When there is an officer Line of Duty Death (LODD), we travel across Georgia or into North Florida to share a plaque in honor of the fallen officer, along with a time of prayer with the family who lost a loved one, and with the department who lost one of their own.
We feel so blessed to be able to touch the lives of first responders and military, active and retired as we travel across Georgia and have opportunities to individually thank those with whom we come in contact, thanking them for their service, and hopefully reminding each of them that we who are called to be Chaplains “have had their backs” across countless years and miles.
Last, it would not be possible to perform this ministry without all the support from churches, individuals, and businesses across the state of Georgia. Thank you for all that you do to enable what we do.
* Which helped lead to Georgia’s No Text While Driving Law.
Dr. Charles L. Houston, Jr. is the Senior Chaplain with the Georgia Department of Public Safety (Georgia State Patrol/Motor Carrier Compliance Division). www.chaplaincharles.org
LODD plaque presentation, Clay County, Florida Sheriff’s Office
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