The blazing heat of the sun was unrelenting as we stood in the shadow of an industrial building. The lifeless body of a young man lay on the sidewalk a few feet away. Blood slowly rolled toward the flowerbed from beneath the white sheet. Officials swirled around us in a methodic precision that only comes from facing this gruesome duty countless times. In synchronized harmony, deputies secured the scene, forensics gathered data, detectives interviewed witnesses and the coroner prepared for transport.
Co-workers of the young man gathered on the sidewalk, sobbing in disbelief over the shocking death they just witnessed. The call came to the chaplain’s office to respond, and we arrived to comfort those in grief on the scene. It is hard to know what to say, if anything at all. We cannot remove or even mitigate their pain, but we can stake ourselves next to them, and in that moment, offer love and comfort that needs no vocabulary or prior relationship.
As chaplains, we are spiritual first responders. Our mission is to serve the law enforcement community by being a trusted and unflinching source of encouragement and comfort. We are trusted to be at the station or scene, not with the tools of a deputy, but with a calming and compassionate presence and message. Each “call out” is a walk with someone through their worst day. Each conversation is a chance to steady a deputy as they process the evil they encounter, provide counsel for personal and professional challenges, and build their hope for navigating the pressures of life.
Our arms hold the hurting, our ears actively listen, in tears we bear burdens and, when appropriate, share life-giving words that give hope and strength (Romans 5:8; Psalms 23; Lamentations 3:21-24; Romans 8:35-39). While our resources and training go far in serving others, there is a comfort and hope that only God provides. Oftentimes our prayer is for God to extend His hand of grace and mercy on those in a way that goes beyond our words and actions.