The men and women who enforce the law spend a lot of time immersed in distressing environments—places where child abuse, domestic violence and drug addiction have stolen the peace.
At the end of the shift, it can be hard to shake the sights and sounds of the job. And sometimes, without even realizing it, officers can find their own peace has been robbed.
That’s one reason the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is hosting its first National Law Enforcement Retreat this fall.
Aimed at serving those who serve and protect, the retreat will give law enforcement officers and their spouses a chance to escape the rigors of the job and zero in on the unique emotional and spiritual needs faced by officers in the line of duty.
And it will all take place amidst the breathtaking fall foliage of the Blue Ridge Mountains, at the beautiful Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove.
“We just see a great opportunity for our team to have a positive impact on law enforcement,” said Jeff Naber, manager of chaplain development and ministry relations for the Billy Graham Rapid Response team (RRT).
Naber has spent the past couple of weeks traveling around North Carolina with part of the team and its mobile command unit, spreading the word about the retreat.
After meeting with the North Carolina Police Executives Association in Wilmington, the group headed to New Bern to spend time with the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association Earlier this year, Naber and his wife, Terri spoke to several hundred police chiefs in Cherokee, N.C.. The next stop is a Fraternal Order of Police conference in Durham.
“We’re seeing a lot of response, a lot of registrations,” Naber said, adding that the event is open to law enforcement officers across the United States and abroad. “We anticipate that the retreat will be full.”
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT), a network of chaplains that deploys to national and international crises from tornadoes to mass shootings, has a history of reaching out to first responders since it was founded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
The October 13-15 retreat will take the RRT out of the disaster zone and into the much quieter setting of Asheville, N.C., where officers can spend time enjoying nature and—most importantly—enjoying the presence of God.
“We see this event as the first of its kind, as far as a retreat to provide for the spiritual and emotional care of officers,” Naber said.
“A lot of officers don’t want to acknowledge that there are any issues,” he added. “This will be a safe place for them to recognize issues, or a crisis in their lives.”
A Different Kind of Training
Dealing with crisis is something Jeff Naber has experienced firsthand.
As a 35-year law enforcement veteran, he’s battled some serious problems, including a dangerous situation that brought him to his knees.
“I had a very violent offender I came in contact with who threatened, over the course of several years, to kill us,” Naber said. “It was a credible threat, and it created a lot of stress in my life.”
Not wanting to scare his wife or young children, Naber kept the threat from his family. Soon he wasn’t sleeping at night, and his world was spinning out of control.
“My life was falling apart,” Naber said. “But as an officer I was so opposed to seeking help.”
Eventually, he confided in his wife, and they both sought Christian counseling. The two of them were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had to lean heavily on their relationship with God to push past the fear.
“I tell you though, God has released me from that emotion,” Naber said. “God has trained me to depend on Him to a point where I don’t feel that threat anymore. I know that whatever happens, even if it does mean that I’m removed from this world, I know where I’m going.”
Jeff and Terri Naber have traveled coast to coast speaking with law enforcement officers about crisis intervention. They will be two of the featured speakers at the National Law Enforcement Retreat, along with several current and retired law enforcement officers and Experiencing God author and speaker Dr. Richard Blackaby.
“We want to help law enforcement officers focus on their true identity—what God would have their identity be,” Naber said.
“Officers like myself can get consumed and wrapped up thinking their identity is their job. We want to remind them what their identity is as one of God’s children, as a parent, as a spouse, and that those things need to come before the job.”
Retreat participants must register in advance, and spaces are expected to fill quickly. Married officers are strongly encouraged to bring their spouses. Officers who are single or divorced are also welcome to come.
The cost of the three-day/two-night retreat is $225/person or $395/married couple. The cost includes all sessions, materials, onsite gourmet meals and overnight lodging at one of The Cove’s two inns.
Learn more about the first National Law Enforcement Retreat, including a schedule of events, a list of speakers and registration details.