It has been over four years of memorable volunteer service as a Department chaplain and part of the Psychological Services Bureau at LASD. What an amazing journey, from being the spiritual covering for the Department and the Walnut Sheriff’s Station to learning varied topics related to what our men and women in uniform do in serving the residents of the local community.
I would never have predicted in my life as a senior pastor of New Life Ministries California that being a Sheriff’s chaplain would open up broader opportunities to be equipped as a volunteer chaplain and to be a part of prestigious organizations like the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC), Sheriff Chaplaincy Conference and Southern California Chaplain Association. From learning contemporary topics of worldwide terrorism to critical incident stress management tools, the sky is the limit in what there is to learn and experience. Nothing is black and white when chaplains are expected to serve the spiritual and emotional needs of others. From avoiding saying “I know how you feel” to just stating “No words can describe what you are going through right now” suggests that being sensitive to different challenging situations is very important.
I fully understand that our men and women in uniform are equipped with different tools and choices of weapons, and are highly trained when to apply each of these as each situation arises. I have attended and participated as a chaplain or just an observer in different scenarios, from crowd control to active-shooter situations.
As a volunteer chaplain, the first tool that I rely on is my Bible. The Bible is the Word of God. The second tool that I have as a chaplain is prayer. Prayer is talking to God. Prayer is a direct address to God. Prayer can be audible or silent, private or public, and formal or informal. It is common for us as chaplains to be called to respond to critical incidents, when the only thing we can do is to practice our ministry of presence and listening.
I remember September 2016, when I was asked to do a graveyard memorial service for Mr. James Warren, a retired member of Volunteers on Patrol, at Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes. What a blessing to be a part of this ceremony, praying for someone who dedicated his life for 18 years as a volunteer to LASD. I prayed for comfort and peace for his wife and family, knowing that he now dwells in the House of our Lord.
Every time I prepare for my regular ride-along at the Walnut Sheriff Station, I pray. Although it is mandatory to wear my bulletproof vest before I ride, I pray for God’s mighty shield of protection for the deputy and myself for the entire shift. Not only that, I pray for all the law enforcement personnel who are out there protecting the local community. The law enforcement body is doing a good and Godly thing. The role of every Sheriff’s deputy is the restraint of evil in society. It is a dangerous profession, a noble calling, and a career with a biblical desire for justice and righteousness. I pray unceasingly for them. Prayer is a powerful defensive tool. The power of prayer is the power of God.
As I pledge to continue my humble work as a volunteer chaplain, there is an emotional high that I will never forget that happened on October 5, 2016. Our three-day Peer Support Program at the Santa Clarita City Hall had just started that day. This annual conference was coordinated by Deputy Mike Rodi. This training was being attended by chaplains and active and retired Sheriff’s deputies who wanted to be part of this support program. Right around noon, I observed and heard cell phones vibrating and ringing all over the conference room. Law enforcement personnel in unison stood up and briefly announced the tragic shooting in Lancaster that day of Sergeant Steve Owen. I could not describe the emotions that overcame the entire room and the mood that overtook us. The expression on their faces was indescribable. The pain was hard to bear. I felt the sorrow that overcame everyone. All of them left, and that first day of training ended abruptly. It is not easy to understand why a 29-year Department veteran’s life ended when he was just doing his job of protecting others. I stayed and did what I do best — I prayed. I prayed and prayed. I prayed for God’s peace that only He can give.
How can I contact a chaplain? Chaplains are available at their unit of assignment, or by calling the Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500.