Being a chaplain is a very interesting job that entails all sorts of activities. Public Safety Chaplains deliver death notifications, council agency staff, provide care and kind words in emergency situations for police , fire and victims of all sizes and shapes. Here are a couple of pictures of our executive chaplain; Steve Brodehl as he learns to burn fire drill and then delivers the invocation at Portland’s fallen fire fighter memorial service this past week. All part of the job and consistent with our goal as an organization to provide excellency in all that we do!
As I approached him riding my bike on the Springwater trail, I almost did not recognize him. He had the same beard and walk but something did not look right. Steve and his wife were walking their beautiful blue eyed Akida and he smiled as I got within 10 feet and said Hi. Steve and I had rode bikes together dozens of times the last 4 years as we made fast friends and brothers to share our struggles with. He had come thru a dark time in his life where he chased many dreams and desires that did not include his family or wife. His son challenged him a couple of years ago to face up to his deceitful life and he did that in front of 1,000’s of people at church one weekend. Boy was that a powerful testimony!
He retired from KATU and started working at a bike store and then the folks at Keen decided to take a chance on an older employee for their company GARAGE store in downtown Portland. He loved working there but almost become full time, so our riding had dropped off to almost nothing the past 9 months. Our last ride in late March, early April he told me about his one kidney going bad and struggling to make a decision to have it taken out. That decision was confirmed the day I met them on the trail as he had already lost over 25 lbs. and was getting weaker by the day.
Carol called days later as Steve had taken a real dip, was dehydrated, needed fluids badly so she had taken him into the emergency room. There the doctors discovered his legs were swollen and full of blood clots, so they tested further with an MRI and CAT scan. To all of our dismay, they found Cancer on his pelvis but did not know where it had come from. He was put on blood thinners and the kidney surgery was postponed has they continued to search for the source of the cancer. He went home but soon returned to the hospital as he could not eat and vomited constantly.
Yesterday, they discovered the source of the cancer was a major blockage in his stomach that caused the nausea and it was already at stage 4 with little prognosis for treatment. He now rests in a hospital bed heavily sedated, surrounded by his wife, kids and 7 grandchildren waiting for God to take him home. I am not able to visit as the doctors have restricted it to close family.
I reflected this morning in my frustration, able to do nothing about the situation, that this is what our chaplains deal with on a daily basis with their agency staff. Police and Fireman see, hear and treat the community, often at it’s lowest common denominator. Hurting, loss of life or property, criminal or victim, it does matter. Often these people are at the end of their collective rope. Then along comes a soothing voice or reason, offering peace and solace and many times the hope of a better life in Jesus Christ. What a special skill this takes and Public safety Chaplaincy is lucky to have 10 of these wonderful caring men on our team, serving their respective agencies everyday.
I do not know if I will get to see Steve again this side of Heaven. But if I do, I will try to impart the same love and care that our guys do and maybe, just maybe, he will sleep a little better that night knowing that another person is praying for him and caring for his family.
Marine Keaton Coffey died May 24th during his 2nd tour of duty in Afghanistan. He was just 22 years and was due to end his tour and fly home in 3 weeks to be married. He had hoped to become a Firefighter when he got out, following in the footsteps of his father who served over 35 years with the Portland Fire and rescue department. Keaton’s parents were notified of his death by the Marine corp and one of our PSC chaplains from Clackamas County; Mike Vermace. Mike is also a pastor at Abundant life but serves diligently when needed and made the trip to notify the family of their son’s death.
Keaton’s casket flew into Portland today at 10am and was meet by a double row of Fire
Fighters and Police from the Portland area and another PSC Chaplain; Bob Dorsey. Bob has worked with the Gresham Police department for over 10 years now, as well as managing his Psychiatric practice here in the Gresham area.
Both chaplains are called on daily, weekly to provide counsel, advice and care to their respective agencies. Death notifications unfortunately come with that territory. Bob and Mike and the other 10 men that serve the local public agencies in the Portland area are constant examples of selfless service, as little to no pay comes along with the job.
quite a debate is brewing over certification and it’s subsequent affect on the work of our chaplains;
read on, any thoughts?
Fairview has less then 10,000 people population in 3.5 square miles but that does mean there are no issues or problems. Chief Johnson oversees a staff of almost 15 officers that patrol an area between Rockwood, the City of Portland and Gresham. Needless to say the big city problems these cities face spill over into Fairview on a regular basis. The Chief retired from the Police agency in Longview 9 years ago and Fairview was lucky to land this 30+ year Police veteran. Having been involved in every aspect of Police work from detective to drugs and sex crimes, Chief Johnson is not yet ready to step down or slow down. A long time advocate for Police agencies in both Washington state and now Oregon, Chief Johnson will be soon head up the State wide Police Chief’s organization. At the tender age of 54 he has also been an Eagle scout, foster parent and is still raising his 2 1/2 year old granddaughter as well.
We are happy that he has aligned himself with Public safety Chaplaincy and one of our newest chaplains; Paul Schmidt. Paul is a retired US airway pilot, school teacher and still rides his motorcycle most weeks. The husband of Dawn, father of two grown children; Brandon and Melanie and papa to 6 (soon to be 7) grandkids, Paul still works as a school resource officer in the David Douglas school district.
Paul hopes to transition to full time Chaplaincy in the near future as soon as he can develop full time support. He covets your prayers and counsel and loves the men and women of the city of Fairview.
At the recent awards ceremony at the Hillsboro Fire department, executive chaplain Steve Brodehl came away with several new awards. He received a medal of Valor for his life saving efforts in Hawaii (while on vacation!!!) when a dive instructor suffered a cardiac arrest under water 75 yards off shore. He also received a Distinguished Service award for his work in assisting 4 other Police and Fire agencies across the state this past year when personnel were murdered.
Steve has set a great example this past year of what it means to be a Chaplain; self-less, tireless and dedicated to the public agencies he serves and the community at large. Public Safety Chaplaincy; an organization of 11 hard working Chaplains are proud to call Steve one of their own.
- You get to stand on the front lines of making a great society. I bet you never thought you were making a great society but I am here to tell you that you are. You make it every time you finish your day and go home. You do it every time you make a stop on a street and advise someone who is driving badly that it is safer for them and everyone else if they obey the law. You are the reason why many drunk drivers actually get home. You do it every time you make a report, or go to a home to help, or talk to kids on the street. You do it every day on every shift across America. America is one of the safest countries in the world because you are there, every day, seven days a week twenty four hours a day you are there and our world is healthier for it.
- You get to work with a group honest people. Now before you start making a list of the offenders you know. Let me ask you. Of all the people that you know who obeys the law, who is more law abiding that the people you work with? Do you realize that the number of law breaking officers in this country is inconceivably small compared to other countries where police graft is rampant? In many countries around the world seeing a police officer is the equivalent of seeing a robber coming. How fortunate you are that the people you work with don’t snitch your lunch or break into your locker or steal your car and if they do it usually makes national news.
- You get to understand and appreciate what it means to have real support. One of the great things about law enforcement is that you get to work alongside people who will stand by you. They will be there when some nut begins to shoot or threaten you or seeks to harm you. Police officers form a bond that holds them together through thick and thin. They are some of the very few people who actually train how to cover and protect each other in dangerous situations. Support is a real thing in law enforcement and you get to work right in the midst of it. You have heard it before but when everyone else is running out it’s your fellow officer who is running in and usually as fast as they can go.
- You get to do something to improve society. Ask any “new” officer why he became an officer and you will get something like this. “I wanted to help my community.” They say that with real conviction because it is the major motivating cause for men and women going into law enforcement. You may not realize that you are doing this but every night someone doesn’t rob a home is a day credited to you. Multiply that by the thousands of homes in your community and you begin to see how much you mean to our community and its wellbeing.
- You get to change people’s lives from going down to going up. I know there are many who are creating chaos in our society but just think of how many you have had the opportunity to at some ideal moment help them make a decision to walk down a different path. I have noticed that even on the free way folks drive better when they see a police car. They make room for others, they watch their speed, they are careful about not crowding others, in a dozen ways they are better because they see your car.
Disclaimer: I know there are bad cops but they aren’t many and for most of you they aren’t in your class. Thanks for being the kind of officers that I know.
Written by Police Chaplain Chuck Bowman, who is honored to work with police officers
With around 100,000 person population and only 130+ officers, captain Dan Gill has his hands full keeping the peace in Beaverton, Oregon. He is a veteran officer with 21 years in the Beaverton PD and currently manages the training and new officer hiring. He has seen it all but is increasingly worried about the effects the job has on his officers and the toll it takes on their personal lives and family.
One of his best resources of support for his team is his Chaplain; Paul Olds. Paul has been around the block as well but God is using him mightly within the walls of the Beaverton PD. Private conversations and moments with line officers seeking some advice and prayer is the easy stuff for Paul. Jumping out of a squad car on a routine ride-a-along to help an officer being attacked by a “perp” was not what he was expecting that day but he did it anyway. As he says; “these are my guys and I know they would have my back in the same situation so what else was i going to do!”
Paul’s hands are full most days, getting his guys to move on and not get emotionally involved in the job that exposes them to the worst of humanity at times. Dan mentioned that he used to have less then 10 officers working sex crimes but now has over 50% of his staff dealing with it at some point in their job. More then ever he is looking for ways to support them and their spouses so that their personal life away from the job is as normal as possible.
The guys utilize any and all resources available including the B&H Officers bible, Courageous movie and books from various Christian authors like Randy Alcorn and Lee Strobel. It’s having a positive effect as he has a group of officers that have taken the same challenge from the movie and started an accountability group and are looking to publicaly declare their allegiance to their families, spouses and their Lord.
Our time ended with both men sharing stories and talking about the Carrie Underwood song; Jesus take the wheel. As you can imagine the lyrics mean alot to both men and left both of them wiping away a tear.
Ya, I would say that Beaverton’s in good hands these days, can’t wait for my next visit with captain Dan Gill and Paul.
Recently several of our police chaplains attended the International Conference for Police chaplains Northwest yearly training seminar.
Take a look at their site, what a great organization and resource for many of our police chaplains at Public safety Chaplains:
The year 2011 will certainly go down as the year of the disaster. Record Tornado’s touched down all over the country but especially devastated the towns of Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Ala. Earthquakes rocked Japan, Turkey and New Zealand leaving over 16,000 dead in their wake.
Disasters do not just come in the form of horrible weather either, as we experienced incredible tragedy when representative Gabby Gifford and 18 other people were shot on January 8, 2011 during a public meeting held in a supermarket parking lot near Tucson, Az.
The scary thing for most of us is that this is possible and/or has already happened in your town or to your friends or family. Needless to say we hope that you had a great support group or church family surrounding those involved.
The police or Fireman that responded, often placing themselves in harms way, became the cushion of support or safety for those most affected by these events. Little noticed at the time, ducking their head under the yellow tape and headed straight toward the victims or surviving family is a chaplain.
He has been called out of his home at short notice and responds within moments and sometimes gets to the scene before the police or fire department staff.
He has seen tragedy before and by God’s grace is prepared to dispense kind words and practical insight and care. Most have Critical incident training and know how and what to do within a crime scene, accident or fire.
Many public agencies know and appreciate the care and concern they bring to their organization, as this same counseling and prayerful concern is extended to those police and fire staff everyday.
I have talked to police on drive along’s in gang invested neighborhoods, seeing the worst of what our society has to offer and they freely admit they could not do their job without the support of their chaplain. Carefully placed words in midnight phone calls or O’dark 30 coffee talks are the medicine that soothes their fragile ego’s or greatest fears.
Public agency staff experience the highest divorce rates and incidents of substance abuse with alcohol or pain pills. Long hours behind the wheel, mixed with low public respect and a hightened sense of self-survival are not the ingredients of healthy relationships. At times the ONLY person they can talk to and feel safe is their chaplain.
At this time of year as we renew old pledges and commitments and check our heart for things needing cleansed, we ask that you keep our chaplains in your prayers.
Additionally, if you have enjoyed God’s blessing this past year we would even (dare) ask that you contribute to a chaplain in your area. Public Safety Chaplains has staff on site in almost 15 public agencies within the tri-county area surrounding Portland. They serve by God’s grace, most without a paycheck and constantly pulling money out of their pocket to help a fellow officer out.
They need your prayers and support.