JONESBORO – All in a day’s work of a Baptist chaplain …
He made the knock on the door that no one wants to make. He was called to “give the heartbreaking news” to a mother that her college-age daughter and her friend had been killed in a car accident. He followed up with the mother some time later to see how she was doing and invited her to a GriefShare ministry at Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro. Today, the mother, who still mourns the loss of her daughter, walks with others on their journeys of grief through the GriefShare ministry at the church.
He noticed her emotions seemed to be overwhelming her. The wife of a rookie law enforcement officer cried as her mind raced to all the dangers her husband might experience on the police force. To offer support and encouragement, he invited the husband and wife to attend a weekend marriage retreat free-of-charge. By the final day of the retreat, the wife admitted, “I have been resisting God my entire life, and I don’t want to do that anymore.” She then made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and was soon baptized at Central Baptist.
He was called as a crisis negotiator for the Jonesboro Police Department SWAT team at a tense standoff where a mentally unstable woman allegedly had shot a worker at an apartment complex. He prayed with the SWAT team before they confronted the situation. During the standoff, a law enforcement K-9 was shot, and he rode with the K-9 and his handler to the veterinarian’s office for emergency surgery. The K-9 survived and is back on active duty.
The police officer asked him to ride along in the patrol car. Around 2 a.m. after much conversation, the young, single police officer, who is now married and serves with the Arkansas State Police, made a profession of faith “right there” in the patrol car. Now the law enforcement officer helps lead the safety team at Central Baptist Church, Paragould, where he and his wife are actively involved.
“It’s great having a front-row seat to what God is doing in so many people’s lives. There’s nothing better,” said Don Blackmore, executive pastor of marriage and family ministries at Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, and a chaplain for the Jonesboro Police Department.
Eleven years ago, the Jonesboro chief of police asked Blackmore if he would serve as a chaplain for the department, a ministry that had been launched in 1993 by Mike Martin, senior adult pastor, Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro. Blackmore quickly agreed and, just as quickly, “fell in love with the ministry.
“It’s truly my ministry beyond the walls of the church,” he said.
Blackmore is one of six chaplains, including two women chaplains, who serve the Jonesboro Police Department.
As a chaplain, Blackmore said his ministry is three-dimensional. First, he ministers to law enforcement officers, who have stressful jobs with demanding hours and relatively low pay. “I feel a true sense of calling to minister to law enforcement officers. I love people, and I love ministering to police officers,” he said.
Second, he ministers to the community, as he assists in tasks such as death notifications. Third, he ministers to families of law enforcement officers, recently helping start a police officers’ wives support network.
He calls his chaplaincy ministry his “ministry with adventure,” he said, because “it can be adventuresome at times.”
Bob Fielding, consultant for chaplaincy and national/international missions at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC), explained that chaplaincy “enables those who represent Christ to go into places where the Church can’t go or in ways the Church can’t go. It’s a kingdom ministry.”
Throughout the Natural State, Arkansas Baptists are involved in chaplaincy in a variety of settings, including hospitals, jails and prisons, nursing homes, and more.
Blackmore, he said, is a “natural” in his service as a law enforcement chaplain.
About three years ago, Blackmore went through 160 hours of training to become a reserve police officer himself. It’s his way of following in the Apostle Paul’s footsteps who said he “became all things to all people that I may win some to Christ” (1 Cor. 9:22), Blackmore explained.
“I became a reserve officer to give me greater credibility with the police officers in order that I can be more effective in ministering to them and with them,” he said.
As a reserve police officer, Blackmore has a uniform, duty belt and the same legal rights as other police officers. He typically rides two or three times a month with officers, sometimes specifically at an officer’s request.
“When I’m in their car, it gives me the opportunity to listen to them, to give guidance. I let them know I care about them, that I’m willing to walk in their shoes.
“They know they can trust me; they let me into their world,” he said.
Even as Blackmore is actively involved as a law enforcement chaplain, he calls on other Christians to minister to law enforcement as well. First, express gratitude to law enforcement officers, he said. Second, he encourages citizens to show “acts of kindness” to officers, such as buying their meals at restaurants. Third, he said, “Pray for the officers. It’s a very dangerous job, especially in the day in which we live.
“It would be awesome if every community in our state had a chaplain program,” he said.
The ABSC offers periodic training for chaplains. In between such training events, Fielding, also a law enforcement chaplain, is available to consult with individuals who are sensing a call to chaplaincy. If a person is interested in becoming involved in law enforcement chaplaincy, Blackmore said, “You have to do it for the right reasons. As a chaplain, you build a relationship and then you open the door on your side, but then they’ve got to open the door on their side whenever they’re ready to walk through it.”
Contact Margaret Colson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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