Bob and Lisa Margaron are missionaries serving in Stockton, California. Gang activity, violence, drugs, and prostitution are rampant. In a community such as this, what is it like to serve as a chaplain, trying to reach out to police officers in need of the gospel? Read on as Bob tells how he has been sharing life with those facing so much on a daily basis and building relationships that may have eternal results.
By Pastor Bob Margaron
One of the people groups that often need wisdom, compassion, strength, courage, and hope is our country’s law enforcement community. In Stockton, our police officers average over 1,500 calls for service in a 24-hour period. Those calls for service can range from noisy neighbors to multiple homicides and everything in between. Like all law enforcement, our department sees and deals with the worst of the worst situations in our community. One of my duties as a missionary in Stockton gives me the honor of serving our police officers as a Stockton Police Chaplain.
In order to become a police chaplain, I was required to go through an academy with specialized training. In our department, the chaplains’ responsibilities are the sworn police officers, non-sworn employees, and their families. We have the special honor of working with and among some of the best officers in the country. As you can probably imagine, life can get difficult for those who serve and protect in a day and age when many second-guess a police officer’s split-second decisions.
One of my responsibilities is to do ride-alongs in 10-hour shifts with the officers, listening to the challenges they face—when they are willing to share—and giving them support and offering resources, if needed. Periodically, you get an officer who is willing to truly trust you and enjoys the time they spend with you as the chaplain, so they repeatedly request you to ride with them if you are available on their shift. During the shift, you may discuss the calls you have been on that night and/or other nights, you might talk about their personal family issues, and the officer may become transparent about spiritual issues or lack of spiritual issues in their lives. All the while you listen and try to speak hope into that officer’s life.
One such officer I had the privilege of working with is now retired. He would ask me to ride with him constantly during a three-year period. We got together both on duty and off duty. He is a person I would call a true friend. During those three years, we talked about many different things, but the one topic that we kept coming back to was my faith in God. I could tell that something was happening in his life. His wife and daughters were already believers, but this officer was having a challenge with their trusting and believing in someone they could not see. For three years, every time I would ride with this officer all the conversations we had always ended up talking about my faith in God.
Well, as all faith missionaries must do, it was finally time for me and my family to leave Stockton to travel the country to raise our financial support. The day before we left, I decided to go on one last ride-along. The officer I had built such a good relationship with was working, and, like normal, he asked the sergeant if I could ride with him. The night was not any different from any other night until it came to the end of the shift. The officer said to me, “Chaplain, I know you won’t be back for a while. So, if it’s okay with you, I would like to drive you to your car tonight. I have some questions for you.” I agreed, of course. So, at the end of the shift, we let dispatch know we were calling off, and he drove me to my car.
When we arrived at my car, he looked at me and said, “Chaplain, after all the time we have had together over these past years, what you are telling me is I am going to hell!” I looked the officer directly in the eyes and said, “No, that is not what I have been telling you. What I have been telling you all these years is it is your choice! It is your choice on where you are going to end up—in heaven or hell.” He then thanked me for my friendship, and I headed home.
For the entire time my family and I were gone raising support, I would receive two to three calls a week from my friend. By the time we returned to Stockton, he had retired. For some reason I don’t know, the communication between the two of us stopped. What I do know is God was working in this man’s life. I spoke the truth and hope of Jesus Christ to him. The rest is up to him and God.
Would you like to be part of Bob and Lisa’s ministry in Stockton? WGM can help you get involved. Visit wgm.org/thecenter-stockton to learn more about The Center and Bob and Lisa’s outreach in Stockton.