‘God Has Never Failed to Meet Me’: Officers & Spouses Find Spiritual Rest

By Todd Sumlin   •   October 23, 2019

The National Law Enforcement Retreat, hosted by the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT), was held this week at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. The three-day retreat offers law enforcement officials and their spouses a chance for spiritual renewal.
The Cove, once a dream of Billy and Ruth Graham, offers peaceful and picturesque views of the mountains in Asheville, North Carolina.
Officers, typically in a hyper-vigilant state, were able to relax and worship their Creator fully. One set of lyrics from Bethel Music's "It Is Well," seemed to match perfectly: "So let go, my soul and trust in Him."
"It’s a great place to come to get away from what we deal with day-in and day-out on the street," shared Sgt. Jamison Keltner of the Winston-Salem Police Department. "It is a place where you can just come and let go for three days and not have to worry about any of that." His wife Mary added, "It’s one of the few places I know where he actually takes his gun off."
For many, the retreat wasn't just an opportunity to get away from the daily grind. There was also time to meet others and reconnect with friends from past retreats.
“Today’s peacock is tomorrow’s feather duster,” Chaplain Chad Stillman, a former law enforcement officer, said as the Cove auditorium burst into laughter. “I mean that. That’s not Scriptural. That’s not in Proverbs, but it’s the truth. Do what matters. Your relationship with Jesus Christ. Your family.”
Katrina Dugger of Middleburg, Florida, was excited to attend her first retreat with her husband Steven for the chance at sincere camaraderie. "Just to spend time and fellowship with others that walk that same blue line that we do," Katrina said. Her husband, a detective, said he was encouraged to know he’s not alone serving Christ as a law enforcement official. "It’s good," he said. "It’s eye-opening."
"We’re police officers. We’re not super human. We have grief, too. We go through different ranges of emotions like anyone else, but when you come here and you hear others share their stories, if you’re going through something you can relate," said Jason Stocks, a student resource officer from Maryland, who attended with his wife Lorena. "It’s a healing process here. It’s like my wife said, 'You’re in heaven on earth here.' You’re at peace."
Lt. Brandon Rollins of the Lancaster County (South Carolina) Sheriff’s Office was shot in the line of duty in 2011, and he shared his faith journey with fellow officers on Tuesday. The bullet from a .357 handgun entered his right side near his rib cage, pierced his liver, went under his right lung and in front of his left lung before exiting his left side and entering his elbow. The bullet is still there today. "I can’t explain why I’m here other than the fact that He rescued me so that I could stand and sing and tell the story of what He’s done for me," Rollins said.
Pastor Chris Amos, a former Norfolk (Virginia) Police officer, delivered the evening message on Tuesday night. He talked about Proverbs 3:5-6 and how he was learning to lean on God no matter what storm occurred in his life. The latest storm happened a year ago when his son Seth, also a police officer, went to be with the Lord after a two-month battle against an acute reaction to medication.
At the end of his very moving message, Amos encouraged people to make a decision for Christ. "Rather than invite you to come down to this altar, I would invite you to join me at this," the pastor said. "Because this is where I live my life, and God has never failed to meet me."
Jeff Kruithoff, chief of police in Springboro, Ohio, urged everyone to be deliberate in pursuing a spiritual walk. “The only time we can meet God is today, and the only time today is in the moment,” he said.
Spiritual fitness, the core of the National Law Enforcement Retreat, is an aspect often lacking in today's training regimen.
Emcee Kelly Burke, a RRT chaplain and former law enforcement official, said he felt the Lord drawing him to Philippians 3:8 for this week's retreat. That Bible verse talks about forgetting what is behind and pressing on toward Christ. "That is our hope," Burke said.
Strong marriages are a focal point of the retreat so the emcee couldn’t pass up an opportunity to honor Jack and Bonnie Munday, who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Munday is the international director of the Rapid Response Team.
"Marriage is work, but it’s worth it," Denise Molatch, a Biblical counselor, shared during her message. Molatch's late husband was a 30-year officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina) Police Department.
Jeremiah and Jennifer Gonzales of Oroville, California, learned about the retreat while searching on the internet. Jeremiah works for his state’s department of corrections and division of parole. They’re both hoping to keep their focus on Christ no matter the circumstance. "I think the tendency right now is to get stuck in tragedy and bounce from tragedy to tragedy and not enjoy the moments of peace and rest," Jennifer said. "I think in law enforcement there’s so much heightened stuff. I want to know we’re resting and we’re where the Lord wants us."
Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina) Police detective Stephen Parker was the first speaker at the retreat, and he encouraged his fellow officers that God wanted to meet them where they were. "In the absence of God, there is nothing else," Parker said.
Breaks were an opportunity for soft-serve ice cream and fellowship on The Cove's back porch.
Proverbs 2:8, a key Bible verse for the retreat, declares, "He guards the paths of justice and preserves the way of His saints."
The next National Law Enforcement Retreat will be held in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, on March 29-31. Registration is now open for that conference.