Hometown Heroes Find 24-Hour Refuge, Hope at Boise Church
By Kim Ousley
Ministry for those in need within the congregation has always been a focus of the church. What about those, however, who are working for our good in the local community—for those on the front lines? The police officers who patrol our neighborhoods and keep us safe need rest from the chaos of a job filled with uncertainty on any given day. The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has added to the need for places of calm in a storm.
Several years ago, Cloverdale Church of God in Boise, Idaho, began providing a break room for the local Ada County Sheriff’s office police as a place for rest while on duty. This allowed officers to save on driving fifteen miles into the city for a break. Six to ten cars are in the church parking lot at different times during a twenty-hour period. “These guys have been so appreciative of the space,” said Pastor Tom Dougherty. “They even have some of their meetings here.”
The space offers a dry-erase board, chairs, television, and tables. Additionally, the church provides snacks, drinks, and coffee. A sink, fridge, and microwave make the room complete.
Many officers share how blessed they feel just having an accessible, close option for relaxing. This is especially true for those on the night shift. “Sitting in their vehicles in the dark can be risky,” notes Dougherty.
The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, changed the routine for these officers in a location that has offered comfort over the years. Being mindful of social distancing, officers have taken to getting provided refreshments from the break room and meeting in their vehicles in the parking lot. However, some still use the room but sit apart to have their meetings.
A twist for both church and officers is the partnership of keeping this place of rest safe for all. Housekeeping has become a cooperative venture. The congregation cleans the building and this room constantly. Officers have pitched in to sanitize the area, as well. “Some officers bring in their own cleaning supplies and help us stay vigilant in cleaning the space,” said Dougherty.
How did this unique ministry idea come into reality? “I was at a conference in Anderson, Indiana, where I talked with Pastor Melissa Pratt about a ministry she was interested in pursuing.” She shared with him that a friend of hers in California had a similar police ministry. Pratt, in ministry with her husband, presently serves the Teays Valley Church of God in West Virginia. The Pratts also conduct conferences for church leaders on outreach for their perspective local communities.
Pratt says resourcing people to minister for the here and now is just as important as sharing the story of eternity with them. “We have to learn to live here, teaching others to connect to the immediate needs of people first,” she said.
Dougherty is grateful to the church for its continued support of this ministry, which has now continued for over five years. Even in the face of this pandemic, “our giving went up by sixty-five percent in March,” Dougherty says. These generous gifts are taking the church above and beyond the monthly budget. “There are enough donations, specifically from one family, to provide food and drink for up to three years now,” he emphasizes. Recently, a donation of seventy-two boxes of Girl Scout cookies came in for the officers to take home to their families.
A unique ministry to local law enforcement has not faltered during COVID-19. This outreach continues thriving for those protecting and serving on the front-lines every day with a few adaptations and partnership.
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
Kim Ousley is a freelance writer from Anderson, Indiana.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.