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Arresting Death

Chattanooga Police Sergeant John A. Baker made his final pitch for his faith to his fellow police officers on Dec. 15 — the day of his funeral.

At his funeral at Grace Baptist Church, a tape was played of a Sept. 27 sermon Baker delivered to some 250 officers at the Country Place Restaurant.

Baker knew he had a cancer "death sentence," and the message he delivered at the Country Place restaurant resulted in twenty-nine police officers accepting Jesus Christ.

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Lee said Baker "has successfully accomplished his last mission. He has accepted his transfer. He is now pounding his new beat on the streets of gold."

Hundreds of officers gathered at the church also heard tapes of hymns sung by the officer in the emotional rites.

Baker died Dec. 12 after a short bout with cancer in his pancreas and liver. The thirty-six-year-old Southern Baptist police officer is survived by his wife, Zina, and two small sons.

Paul Lee, a sergeant in the Chattanooga Police Dept. and Baker's friend, told of how he had met with Baker on the funeral plans. He said Baker had not wanted his family to have to deal with it. He said, "He was always putting others before himself."

Lee said the officer known as "Gabby" to his co-workers "loved his job and loved his fellow officers." He said he would pray for each of the patrol officers by name.

He said Baker "loved to laugh and he loved a well-placed practical joke. But his ultimate mission was to tell others about his commitment to Jesus Christ."

Chattanooga Police Chief Jimmie Dotson said Baker "had a great work ethic and attitude, but he will best be remembered as being true and honest to God's calling."

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Dotson recalled Baker's mission trip to Romania where he helped form an international chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers.

"But his greatest concern was for you" — that his fellow officers would join him in Heaven, Dotson said.

Dotson said Baker "refused to take any medication. He said he wanted to remain alert so God could use every ounce of him every moment he had left on earth."

The chief had ministers and chaplains in the office stand, and he urged officers to speak with them after the funeral. He said, "If you want to be with John, spend some time with them before you leave today."

Chief Dotson put on his cap and saluted the casket. He said, "John, enjoy your new assignment."

Then the tape was played of the Country Place sermon, in which Baker said, "I can stand up here and be happy because I know where I'm headed. I love you guys too much to let you go to hell on my watch."

The tape concluded with Baker singing It Is Well With My Soul.

"There were a lot of tears," said fellow officer John Stuermer. "It was a very powerful moment."

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