I’m in Cannon Beach, Oregon, to attend the Northwest Regional Training Seminar for the International Conference of Police Chaplains. I’ve been coming to this conference, held in February of every year, for about fourteen years.
I am grateful to God for all the friendships I’ve formed with other chaplains during these many years of service as a police and fire chaplain, and am privileged to count among my friends some of the finest people I have ever known. These are individuals who have dedicated their lives in compassionate service to others, touching lives during the most difficult of circumstances.
Chaplains minister to people whose lives have been turned upside down, with the loss of a child, the death of a spouse, the trauma of a fatal car accident, or a homicide. Chaplains serve as God’s presence on murder scenes, or house fires. They hold children whose parents have been killed, and comfort the old woman whose husband of sixty years has died. They serve as pastors to people who have never had a pastor. They are clergy who lend support to a police officer or medic who is traumatized by an incident that would have sent most people running in the other direction.
I, like other chaplains, have broken down in tears while recounting situations that would traumatize the toughest of soldiers. I’ve seen fellow chaplains being strong for their officers, while enduring unimaginable pain themselves. I’ve suffered, like other chaplains, over the death of police officers and firefighters who were my friends.
At the heart of chaplaincy is the love of Jesus Christ, and a compassionate heart that is formed by a relationship with this very Christ. The chaplain runs towards a bad situation, offering his prayers and his heart to those in need. The chaplain is one who is the presence of God in the midst of tragedy, making manifest Christ in the midst of horrendous moments in the life of those whom he is called to serve. He sits in for God during those moments when no words can be found to comfort someone experiencing great loss. The chaplain sacrifices his own comfort zone so that Christ may be made manifest in the most broken of moments.
Chaplaincy is a unique calling, one that takes special training and deep commitment. It is not for the faint hearted, but a vocation that is as challenging as it is satisfying. The chaplain is an instrument of reconciliation between God and the first responder, their department, the community, and the families and individuals affected by tragic events.
Please pray for all chaplains, be they in service as military chaplains, hospital chaplains, or in ministry as police and fire chaplains.