RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Being a cop is a tough job. But being tough doesn’t mean cops don’t need a soft and pliable heart for God.
More than 120 law enforcement officers from 13 states, many with their spouses, attended the first annual Law Enforcement Summit sponsored by and held at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina Oct. 1-3.
Ralph Sexton, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Asheville, N.C., who has served for 30 years as a special deputy and chaplain in surrounding Buncombe County, emceed the summit.
“The implications in your life after these three days could be life-changing, not only personally, but professionally as well,” Sexton said as he welcomed the officers to Ridgecrest. “You can be helped and encouraged and can take that light back with you to your places of work.”
Sexton said on Sept. 11, 2001, America saw that the first line of defense against terrorism in America is not the military, it’s local law enforcement officers.
“You are our homeland security,” he said. “The reason you are the first line of defense is you know your towns, your neighborhoods. You know the good guys and the bad guys.”
Most people have no idea the pressures police officers work under each day, he said. “Most people who go to work don’t wear full body armor.”
Wayne Barber, pastor of Hoffmantown Baptist Church in Albuquerque, told the officers not to condemn themselves when they feel like they have failed in their jobs.
“Failure is a wonderful tool. It teaches us that you can’t, but God can,” he said.
Now a psychologist, Bobby Smith, a former Louisiana police trooper who lost his vision after being shot in the face during a routine traffic stop in March 1986, told the officers to leave their cop side at work and trust God and their families.
“Never bring the cop into your home. Leave the cop outside the door,” he said. “I lost my sight, my position, my wife and my financial stability.
“I lost everything, and I knew I needed something. When I was lying in a pool of blood, not knowing if I would live or die, I called out to God, begging for one more chance. You see, even though I was a Christian, I had put God on the shelf for 10 years.”
Smith said because officers are taught to trust no one, they assume that means God and their family.
“In the academy, we are taught to put up this shield that separates ‘us’ from ‘them.’ But soon it starts to separate us from our wives and our kids. This can cause problems when we don’t let ourselves trust God either.”
In commenting on the conference, Scott Flowers, deputy sheriff in Rowan County, N.C., said it was “just awesome. It’s so good to see other Christian officers who aren’t scared to share their faith. I loved seeing how so many sheriffs and captains were here, and how they are so vocal about their faith. It’s encouraging.”
Jenny Creel, a corporal with the Louisiana Department of Public Safety, said the conference served as “a renewal. I needed this. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The spiritual side of being in law enforcement just isn’t talked about at work.”
Creel said she learned about the summit from the minister of music at her church, Sales Tree Baptist in Lake Charles, La.
“He found out about the conference on the Internet on LifeWay.com and said I should think about going. My church even helped sponsor my trip.”
Paul Phillips, a Ridgecrest volunteer who is retired from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and his wife, Elizabeth, coordinated the Law Enforcement Summit. The second annual conference will be held Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2003, he said.
“I know law enforcement,” he said. “I know we made inroads on what will happen back at home,” he said after the conference.
“After the response to this summit, I expect next year’s to be even bigger. There are so many officers who could be helped. I hope more churches will consider sponsoring their members who are in law enforcement.”
For more information about the 2003 summit, call 1-800-588-7222.