Well here we are my Christian brothers and sisters, smack dab in the midst of a pandemic, struggling to make sense of it all. And between the politicians and news media, I don’t know who the bigger liars are. The hypocrisy and ideological warfare coming out of the TV every night is so revolting and counter-productive, that I’m training myself to just shut it down. Admittedly, this is tough for someone like me, as I like to be in the game so to speak, when it comes to battling the so-called “mainstream media” and the twisted narratives they’re constantly trying to shove down our throats.
Meanwhile, and albeit not the end of the world many so-called journalist types would have us believe, there are indeed folks suffering from a contagion, likely manipulated by human hands, which has, as of this writing, caused global chaos the likes of which we haven’t seen. Now there is great debate over COVID-19 and how its being handled here in the U.S. and around the world, but that’s an article for another time. Nevertheless, I don’t know about you all, but I’m leaning on my Lord and Savior more than at any time I can remember. Every day, my prayers begin and end with “shelter me Lord”, but not from what you might think. Now even though I’m considered a higher risk being diabetic and all, I’m looking to God to protect me (and my country’s leaders) from the evil one, who is clearly hard at work manipulating mankind for his purposes as we fight this invisible enemy. He exploits our fear and puts doubt where we must keep faith. He turns us against one another when we should be coming together, and he puts lies in the mouths of those we’re looking too for reassurance. Thankfully, Jesus is in my heart and fighting with me (and you) always. He is there to right these wrongs if we will only open our hearts to Him.
Now in the midst of all this chaos, most of which it seems pretty clear is of our own making, our country still has to function. A free republic must endure, and our daily lives must continue. So must our system of governing, from the high offices of politics to the enforcement of our laws, so we may have confidence in society and our way of life. I write to you this month in recognition of the normalcy and sense of security the brave men and women of law enforcement provide for us every day. Disclaimer here, as I’ve worn a few uniforms in my day and still do. So notwithstanding a bit of bias, I think it’s fair to say that eight years of a prior president who didn’t exactly “have our six”, only exasperated and tensioned that “thin blue line”, which serves as the barrier between mayhem and a safe/secure community. Now in fairness and as (someone) told me recently, every generation of peace officers faces its own challenges, and I agree. But there is a palpable disrespect I don’t remember. Now this might be because I spent too much time at the FOP and not enough time in church back in the day, but in my view, police officers today face pressure from both those they mean to police, and the elected officials who send them out with mixed signals and little support.
So, what’s a police officer to do when the pressure turns to stress, and the stress turns to depression, or worse, begins to affect their personal lives, all while trying to keep us all safe? Well if this COVID calamity is showing us anything, it’s that our front-line folks, police officers included, are in the thick of it and fighting hard to get it right and come out on the other side with all their faculties. And then there’s the everyday stuff that goes with the job, that law enforcement families face every day, the fear of injury and even that they may not go home at the end of the watch. If it sounds daunting, it is. And that’s the reason for my anger and frustration every time an officer goes down doing his/her job.
For years I too struggled for answers. And now that I’m saved, that old saying comes to mind: “I wish I knew then what I know now”. It’s true, now that I have Christ, that constant feeling of searching is gone. No matter the struggle, I know He’ll be there. So, I was thinking, (actually for quite a while), If God is the answer, then how do we get Him on the force. Well it turns out, He’s already there!
As the end of a WWII was unfolding, the son of a German soldier and his mother were liberated from a bomb shelter and fled to America, settling on the west coast and eventually opening a restaurant. With a significant language barrier holding him back though, a young Karl Traber figured the best way to learn English fast was to join the military. Along the way, Karl gave his heart to the Lord and struggled with being a purveyor of alcohol at his family’s restaurant. Karl pondered his future as he wanted to do Christ’s work but didn’t know which way God would move him. But one day walking down the street he saw a billboard that read, “Become a Los Angeles Police officer LAPD and earn $500.00 a month”. Well then, Karl figured he could get paid to be a police officer and turn a few hearts to Christ while he was at it. Heck, it might even be his own little ministry.
Meanwhile, another young gentleman by the name of Ralph Evans had left Hawaii after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and settled in the LA area as well, and what do you know, he saw the same billboard. Ralph was also a Christian, but much like Karl, he knew not how to spread the Gospel and earn a living at the same time. $500.00 a month sounded pretty good.
Unbeknownst to both men, God was moving them toward one another as they became LA’s finest. They would join forces at a Bible study in Long Beach California where neither of the two expected to find many police officers. The year was 1971 and the FCPO (Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers), by way of Karl Trader and Ralph Evans was about to be born. Karl and Ralph immediately recognized one another as LAPD officers, though Karl’s lingering accent didn’t make him hard to forget. And to the surprise of both men, they recognized a number of fellow officers in the crowd as well. It turned out that many of their peers were also seeking the Lord. The fire was lit and to this day, Karl and Ralph know that their efforts to bring Biblical principles to the beat, is the best way to make Law Enforcement and community outreach effective.
From the FCPO website: The group, having acknowledged their shared faith “began meeting regularly to read and study the Bible. They also began to pray as to how they could effectively share Christ with lost officers around them. News of these meetings spread through the department and ultimately, to the general public. Originally calling themselves the Fellowship of Christian Policemen, the group changed their name to the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers in 1972 to include members from all areas of the law enforcement community. The Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers was incorporated as a nonprofit ministry in 1974, and as news of the ministry spread, other Christians in the law enforcement community with a burden for lost officers began to form local chapters, reaching a total of 100 chapters by 1983”.
Ok, well I’m perusing their website and it reads like a roadmap to fixing what’s broken in law-enforcement today. From Bible study to community outreach to marriage enhancement and fellowship, all of the pieces seem to come together on the pages before me. I simply had to talk to someone in this ministry. Enter retired Chattanooga Police Department and current FCPO Executive Director Captain Paul Lee. I received an instant response to my inquiry on the website and had the opportunity to speak to Capt. Lee on the phone for a good long while. A street cop through and through, we immediately hit it off and began to reminisce about the old days. Paul and I recalled the academy and how we were taught to come down to the level of those we policed rather than picking them up. We talked about the current state of affairs in law-enforcement across the country, the losses we’ve suffered, and about how policing in a free republic is about being an authoritative figure, working in a framework of government where authority can be and is often challenged. After what seemed like a long time, the Lord pointed us back in the direction and reason for the phone call. I told Paul, we need God on the department, and he told me that “He was already there”.
Paul W. Lee is a retired police captain, son of police officer and married to Donna. They have 5 children and 4 grandchildren. You could say, he has some skin in the game. Paul never saw the glory in advancement, remaining a street cop for 25 of his 29-1/2 years with the LAPD. Logistics and a desire to retire comfortably finally convinced him to ascend the ladder of rank. He did so reluctantly and longed for his days on the street all of his remaining years with the department. A self-described “knuckle dragger”, Officer Kelly was a hardnosed street cop who wore his profession on his sleeve. This was not lost on his family and he struggled with many of the pitfalls inherently built into a police officer’s life. But on October 16th 1995, that all changed when Paul lost his mom. Everything caved in on him and he “surrendered” to Christ. “What do you want from me” he begged. And God answered.
Paul would eventually find himself at an FCPO Bible study being questioned by another member as to his reason for being there. Paul’s immediate response was cop like and he was defensive to say the least. It was only after a somewhat heated discussion about what had brought him there, that then “Executive Director” for FCPO, Grant Wolf chimed in and finally told him, “Well thank you for that Paul we’ll see you all next week”. Paul had unknowingly showcased his life before Jesus for all at the meeting to hear, and there was no looking back.
An official member since 1995, Paul Lee would eventually rise to become Executive Director of the FCPO and to this day promotes the absolute necessity to have a Christian mindset while acting in ones capacity as a law enforcement officer. We talked of the ministry’s mission statement, that being “FCPO provides biblically based training and tools to strengthen the officer’s personal, family, and group spiritual growth through: Bible Study, marriage enrichment, discipleship training, fellowship, service and outreach. Paul explained that police officers are actually “ambassadors for Christ, cleverly disguised as police officers.” He spoke of the “one year Bible” given to new members so they may begin reading on day one, and with 20 or thirty minutes a day of devotional reading, will have read the entire Bible in one year. Who doesn’t have 20 or 30 minutes a day to understand the world as it was meant to be understood?
We talked more about the “war on cops”, to which Paul reminded me again, that it was a war on authority, and that if we approach our jobs from the Biblical perspective, and are able to align our position responsibilities with the Biblical principles our nations laws were most certainly built on, we will better understand what it was God wants us to do with that authority. We talked about our past trips to the Policemen’s Memorial in DC, and how disappointing it was that COVID-19 will sideline this year’s event. Paul was then reminded of a past event where the American Bible Society handed out “Strength for the Street” Bibles for free, and how they had been asked about how to get one going forward by many in attendance. For whatever reason, folks were told to call the FCPO or email them, and they would send a Bible. Paul remembered receiving a sudden influx of emails from all over the country from the spouses of law-enforcement officers inquiring as to how they could get this Bible so they might give them to their LE spouses. Paul was caught off guard and wondered what to do. Long story short, praying on the fact that God had provided in the past for FCPO and would do so again, the organization have delivered 1900 Bibles in the last year and have no plans to stop. God is indeed good. Moreover, the FCPO, in recognition of the fact that the memorial will not take place this year, will send 146 copies of the Bible adorned with a gold plate with the name of their lost loved one on it, to the families of the fallen this past year.
As we wrapped up and I pondered trying to write a 5000 word story in under 2000 words, Paul and I talked about discipleship and how the efforts of the FCPO could only be augmented if they’re teaching the members to pass it along to other cops. This is Paul’s focus at the present and yes FCPO continues to push ahead with God’s help during these difficult times. As we said our goodbyes, I was touched once again by a truly Godly mission and it’s administrators for Christ. I finally feel a bit of peace now, about the future of law enforcement in our country, and the efforts of men like Paul Lee, the members of the FCPO staff, and all the officers whose lives they’ve touch. Thank you for what you’re doing Paul and God bless you. And God please bless peace officers around this country who go out every day and walk that thin blue line between Satan and “We the People”.
For additional information about existing chapters or starting a chapter please visit fcpo.org. See how you can support this critical ministry in their efforts to make God foremost in the hearts of peace officers around the country during these difficult times. It’s good for them, and it’s good for “We the People”.
Be well and be safe!