SBC Life Articles

Troopers Serve Public While Serving God

When a Highway Patrol trooper knocks on a door, he's usually the bearer of bad news. But not necessarily so with the new chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Gary Adams.

Adams is chairman of deacons at Twelve Corners Baptist Church near Noble, Okla., and one of three "dusty trail" deacons who do visitation ministry.

Appointed head of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Jan. 15, Adams, 52, oversees 619 troopers and a $36.5 million budget which includes the statehouse patrol He had spent the previous ten years in charge of 100 troopers on Oklahoma's ten turnpikes.

"I had been in gun battles, kicked in doors, and participated in manhunts, but to save my life, I couldn't stand up before the church and read Scripture," Adams said.

Adams admitted he really wanted to be a deacon at the church, but when time came for nominations, his name wasn't even mentioned. Then when he was asked to serve as a deacon at Twelve Corners about five years ago, he said he couldn't do it.

"One of the older deacons in the church visited with me, and then returned to my house to tell me he had never before had a revelation, but God had told him I was supposed to be a deacon," Adams said.

By this time, Adams said he had learned life's priorities: God, first; family, second; work, third.

Still, Adams says his overriding desire is to serve God, acknowledging it wasn't always that way after his 1955 profession of faith at First Baptist Church, Hobart, Okla., his hometown.

He quit going to church after high school, and after an eighteen- month stint with the Marines in Vietnam, he returned to Hobart to work in his dad's automotive repair shop. When a Highway Patrol recruiting trailer came to nearby Altus, Adams signed up and graduated from the 24th Academy in 1968.

"I had my priorities all wrong," Adams said. "I idolized my work and put all my efforts into it."

Still, he often told his wife, Lanette, "to keep me in church."

When Adams was transferred to the Norman area, his wife visited Westwood Baptist Church where David Henson was pastor.

"She encouraged me to go to that church," Adams said, "but l wasn't even sure if I could go while I was on duty." His supervisor said it was perfectly all right for him to go to church in uniform with his patrol car parked out from.

But, because he was a clean-cut former Marine, Adams said his wife warned him the preacher "was a little like a hippie."

Henson did have a beard, but he was "an exceptional preacher who led me back to the Lord," Adams said.

Adams and his wife, with son Chris and daughters Melissa and Abby, have followed Henson wherever he has become pastor. At Woodland Hills Baptist Church near Blanchard, Henson asked Adams to read a Scripture verse during a worship service.

By this time, Adams said he had learned life's priorities: God, first; family, second; work, third.

Adams noted, "I've spent a lot of money trying to find happiness. But helping people is where we find real joy."

With twenty-nine years of Highway Patrol service, Adams had planned to retire and devote full time to deacon ministry. "I had figured l would lose about $1,700 in salary and benefits a month by retiring at this time," he said, "but I knew God would take care of me."

However, the assistant commissioner of public safety came to Adams and told him the Highway Patrol was looking for a new chief. He asked if Adams would like to compete for the job.

"I told him, 'When I was younger, I would have jumped at the chance, but now I had committed my life to deacon ministry," Adams said. But the veteran officer told the commissioner he would compete if it was God's will.

Adams said everything he said in the interview for the job should have put him out of competition.

"I told them I was not involved in politics and would do what God tells me to do," Adams said. But the assistant commissioner nevertheless came to him and announced, 'We want you."

"He explained the decision was made because so many of the troopers called in wanting me for the job," Adams said.

Adams said he told the Lord he had been in the Highway Patrol for twenty-nine years, was tired, and had had two bad accidents and should have died in both.

"The Lord told me, 'You've got a lot more hurting people here than in the Twelve Corners area. You've got the entire state."

Deacon Spreads Servant Faith
by Barbara Little Denman

As Florida Highway Patrol trooper Mike Strickland was completing an automobile crash investigation, he felt God's leading to witness to the woman driver.

The young woman shared with the trooper that she was experiencing a number of personal crises, including some serious health problems. "In the front seat of that patrol car, she accepted Christ," said Strickland, a deacon at Seminole Baptist Church in Tallahassee. He gave her his own New Testament that he kept in the patrol car to help her start a new life as a child of God.

About a year later, the young woman died from her health problems. Her family found the Bible with Mike Strickland's name, called the trooper and asked him to preach the funeral, which he did.

The verse, "Blessed are the peacemakers," is one that Strickland takes quite literally while he is performing his job. "I can't just be a trooper. I'm a deacon trooper," said Strickland. "I seek God's will in sharing my faith. I may not share the gospel with a drunk I'm taking to jail. But if they're coherent, in my way, I share my love for the Lord. It makes me a better trooper."
Sharing his faith through his profession is one

way Strickland sees himself fulfilling his call to minister as an ordained Baptist deacon.
Twenty years ago, Strickland was ordained at Seminole church. The pastor at the time, Richard Wynn, instilled in him a heart for training for himself and other deacons, building a foundation for the future.

"When I was ordained as a deacon, I asked 'what do I need to do.' I was hungry for ministry," Strickland said. "I guess I was naive, but then they gave me the deacon's ministry plan, I went and did it."

He also found he enjoyed taking care of his flock, the home and hospital visits, and the interaction with families in times of joy and sorrow.

"Deacon ministry is all about service, being a servant. It's no different than being a trooper. You've got to love people. You've got to want to serve them, help them, encourage them and move them closer to Christ," Strickland added.

"There's more to the deacon ministry than business and management, it extends the pastor's ministry and can keep the pastor better informed."

Barbara Little Denham is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.

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  • Dana Williamson