At the height of summer heat and social unrest in 2020, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association brought a message of hope and faith to minority communities hit hard by rioting and protests. But chaplains also ministered to police officers who came under attack like never before in the nation.
One of those helping to bridge the gap was Kevin Williams, a chaplain manager with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (BG-RRT). At a recent Law Enforcement Appreciation Breakfast & Tour at the Billy Graham Library, he urged officers to seek God as they fulfill their calling to protect and serve.
Williams has experience in law enforcement in one of New Jersey’s toughest prisons and served at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11 and chaplain. After retirement, he worked in security for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). He eventually became a chaplain with the Response Team serving as a chaplain during civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; Dallas, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
That law enforcement experience and the fact that he’s experienced racism himself gives him a unique perspective in ministering to both sides of the social unrest.
“You are ministers and servants of God, whether you know that or not,” said Williams
“God knows everything about you,” Williams added. “Everything down to the DNA molecule. And not only does He know everything. He is always with you. The question is are you with Him?”
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The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said Williams drew from Psalm 139 as he talked with officers about the character of God and the realities of His love. Seek God and He will transform your life, Williams said.
“He will make you a new creation. Give you a new heart and mind to be able to respond to this,” Williams said.
“He knows when you were … conceived and He knows when you’re going to die,” Williams said, continuing to reference Psalm 139. “Stop worrying so much about how and when you’re going to die. Turn to God and trust Him to lead you until that day comes. Until that day comes, you have a mission. What you do is not a job. It is not a career. It’s a calling from God. … It behooves you to ask Him to help you with it.”
The message resonated with Aileen Maddox, lead chaplain with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. Maddox oversees a chaplain team that works with deputies and also in the Mecklenburg County jail.
“Being a chaplain means you fill yourself up [spiritually] to overflowing. The overflow is for other people, and oftentimes [as chaplains] we’re depleted. So are officers,” Maddox said. “They’re always giving out and they don’t do a whole lot of feeding. … I’m getting fed [spiritually here] so I can feed others.”
Maddox ministers at roll call and encourages officers to continually ask themselves if law enforcement is right for them.
“Just like ministers have to do, police officers have to constantly and consistently check themselves,” Maddox said. “Is this really where I want to be?
“I’m hoping that the training that’s coming into place for officers will begin to help people understand whether or not they’re supposed to be there. Because you can be qualified for everything but you’re not qualified for everything. Just knowing that is important.”
Mike Doan has wrestled with this question. After nearly two decades on the force, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police detective carries a heavy load with all he’s seen and experienced. But ultimately he feels like he’s in the right place.
“Kevin is right,” Doan said. “This is not a career. It’s not a profession. It’s a calling for a lot of us. It’s a calling for me to deliver the Lord’s goodness and protect His sheep.”
But that calling is fraught with challenges. Line of duty deaths are up nine percent this year according to Officer Down Memorial Page. As of May 13, 125 U.S. officers have died. COVID-19 complications (64) and gunfire (23) account for the leading causes.
Then there’s the concern about their own safety, their families and even their communities as public sentiment seems to continually deteriorate.
“We all make mistakes, but a lot of us—our intentions are there. Good intentions,” Doan said. “It’s just sad to see where the world is going. I know God is alive. I know God is there, but sometimes I question that. My own faith, I question that. I say, ‘Where is He?’ I need Him. I can’t do this alone.”
The Good News? Nobody is called to do this life alone, and that goes for law enforcement officials, too. Williams closed his message with an emotional plea for officers to not only seek God, but ask Him to search their hearts, too.
“I want you to tell God today to search you,” Williams said. “You’ve got so many things pulling for your mind and your heart. You’ve got so many things to deal with every day. Ask Him to search you.
“[Tell God], my soul and my spirit is broken and it needs to be mended. Help me with the anger or the hurt or the frustration that’s in my heart, God.
“Help me to see right, to think right. … [Tell God] I want to serve You. I want to finish the race well. I want to serve those around You but I need Your help to do it.”
Every head bowed and some wiped their eyes as Williams then led the group in prayer. An “amen” later and the brief respite concluded as officers were dismissed back into the realities of their calling.
–Michael Ireland | Assist News Service