As police chaplains, the most gratifying act of service is the opportunity to engage in heart-to-heart, one on one conversations with the police officers whom God places in our path. We loiter with intent and hope that we can share words of encouragement that will brighten their day. Occasionally, through chaplaincy, relationships develop that extend to persons and organizations that have an association with a police agency. A decade ago, I received permission from my Police Chief Ian Grant to attend the Westman & Area Traditional Christmas Dinner for the sole purpose of waiting on tables serving food to the underprivileged. I did so in full police uniform as chaplain and officer with the hope of building bridges between law enforcement and a segment of our community who, due to previous interactions, did not view police as public servants. The reception from some was less than warm (I could share some interesting stories); however, with others it sparked positive conversations and positive interactions. Serving in this capacity has also demonstrated to new immigrants coming from police oppressed countries, that there is another side of policing that exists in Canada which centers on "Community First." The real ice breaker during those conversations occurred when I shared that I am a police chaplain, a man of faith. The family pictured above came to Brandon from the Congo only two months ago. I had the privilege of engaging in conversation and praying for this father of six who is a man of faith.
In the CPCA, we emphasize the importance of relationship and a litmus test for this is whether we are reliable, relatable and relevant. These are elements that should be part of any solid relationship whether within the family dynamic, faith community, or with persons outside the faith community. Gladden Smith (pictured on my right) has been involved with the Westman & Area Traditional Christmas Dinner for 35 years. For many years he has chaired the Board of Directors, and he leads his team of volunteers by example putting in countless voluntary hours. Between the formal sittings at the Keystone Centre and the deliveries, over 3000 meals are served from Noon to 6 PM Christmas Day. One can only imagine how much preparation goes into an event of this magnitude. I met Gladden the first time I volunteered and after a couple of years of developing a relationship, he asked me to pray over the first formal sitting.
Yesterday was particularly special for I was asked to open the event and I felt the freedom and acceptance to share a short Gospel message. After a prayer, it was time to serve the people. Throughout the afternoon, I met many recent immigrant families who came from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Mexico. While a few had some initial concerns for why a police officer was present, sharing about my role as chaplain and pastor was the ice breaker every time.
I share one final story from yesterday that was heart touching. I met several young boys from various ethnic groups. The encounter that stands out the most was meeting Carsten, a seven-year-old Indigenous lad whose mother approached me asking if I would speak to her son who was shy but really liked cops. After my initial meeting, Carsten would continue to call me over to his table to tell me things. After an hour, the family got up to leave and upon going over to say goodbye, Carsten held my hand and wouldn't let go. It was a blessing from God to me because it now dethrones a negative memory from years ago. Over 30 years ago, I investigated a series of dumpster fires in the core area of Brandon. I caught an eight year who was responsible. Under the age of 12, he was detained, not charged, and I was shocked by the profanities and words of hatred that were shouted at me from this young Indigenous lad. Upon taking him home to his grandmother, my intention was to help by encouraging her to enroll him in a fire stop program and receive counsel. The grandmother accused me of many things while wasting no time in expressing a dialogue similar in nature to that of her grandson. Now 40 years old, I continue to deal with this man for frequent and multiple criminal offenses. Yesterday, my Christmas gift from God was my time with Carsten and receiving the initial invitation from his mother to approach her son. I'm quite sure his grandmother was seated at the table as well, and she wished me well. Upon arriving home yesterday, I shared with my wife that "my heart is full." Below is a photo with eight-year-old Ayden whose mother shared that he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour just a week ago. He arrived ready to volunteer and serve, understanding at a young age that, "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve ..." Matthew 20:28.
As we serve our fellow police officers and their families in 2024, keep in mind we are also serving our community. I heard this quote first from the same BPS Police Chief who had released me to first serve at the Westman Christmas Dinner; "the police are the public, and the public are the police" - Sir Robert Peel father of modern-day policing. If you are starting out as a new police chaplain and you are questioning whether you fit in, just remember Sir Robert Peel's words and work at building genuine relationships with the women and men of the police agency you are called by God to serve.
All the best to you and your families today and in the future as you continue to serve in 2024. Thank you for your membership with the CPCA and giving us the privilege of serving you through training and connection. We are stronger together. Looking forward to seeing you on Zoom for our Jan 24th Webinar - "Walking With Suffering - When Your Colleagues Are Hurting." Here is a link to learn more and register for this certificate training course available to CPCA and non-CPCA Members https://www.canadianpolicechaplainassociation.com/event-details/walking-with-suffering-when-your-colleagues-are-hurting
BPS Chaplain/Constable Bruce Ewanyshyn
ICPC Director of Region 1