How one pastor, church serve those who serve, protect

by Jennifer Deibel, posted Friday, January 26, 2018 (10 months ago)
Tags: Chaplaincy

LAKESIDE, Ariz. (BP) -- Facing shootings, domestic violence, car accidents, drownings and more, police officers and first responders experience gruesome things on a daily basis. It can be difficult for first responders to process what they experience in healthy ways.

As a chaplain, Jim Stansberry, pastor of Porter Mountain Fellowship in Lakeside, Ariz., ministers to police officers, firefighters and other public servants. But he's quick to point out he couldn't do it without his church's help.

When asked how he can both effectively pastor a church and minister to the law enforcement community, Stansberry said, "There's no way I could do this on my own. The church family at Porter Mountain supports me fully."

Many in the area expressed their appreciation for Stanberry's availability. Show Low Police Chief Joe Shelley said his officers could not do their jobs as well without him.

"Our police chaplain can be the difference in someone returning to work with the right mindset of being the community servant-warrior we signed up to be," Chief Shelley said. "I'm afraid without Jim, the situation and lasting effects would eat at [them], which then starts the downward spiral of emotions and disdain for the great work we do."

David Sargent, chief of police for the Pinetop-Lakeside Police Department, also values Stansberry's presence.

"Jim always picks up the phone, and many times has arrived at the department ... before other responding resources do," Sargent said. "Chaplain Stansberry always seems to go the extra mile ... and has often stopped by the department, just to see how everyone is doing."

The pastor, who works out of his Jeep rather than the church building, is constantly meeting with officers and firemen for coffee, meals and just to say hi.

"The church has never expected, or even asked me, to office out of the church," Stansberry noted. "They are all about the community, and that's what they expect of me as well."

Longtime Porter Mountain member Mike Desmond noted there was never a question that the church would be involved in the chaplaincy ministry.

"God has called Pastor to this chaplaincy," Desmond said. "So we do whatever we can to make it so that when God opens the doors, Pastor can crash through them without obstacle."

One of the most beloved ministries for the church is operation "Shielding the Badge." Members were each given the names of two firefighters and one police officer, and they committed to pray daily for "their" officers and firemen. After a year of praying, they hosted a picnic for the officers, firemen and their families.

"It was so neat to put a face to those names and tell them, 'I've been praying for you!'" member Kimberly Wallace said. "It creates such a neat bond."

Porter Mountain members are also quick to point out the chaplaincy is not just Stansberry's ministry.

"We are serving alongside Pastor," Angie Desmond explained. Whether hosting picnics for first responder families, entertaining the children of fire evacuees or holding a fancy thank-you dinner, the members of Porter Mountain Fellowship are passionate about getting out of the four walls of the church and serving the community.

"It's a church full of service-minded people," Stansberry said. "We have retired teachers, retired policemen and firefighters, young families and older men and women. They just love to serve."

Stansberry earned his doctor of ministry degree with an emphasis in chaplaincy from Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention in December 2016 thanks to the church -- which has about 100 members -- funding his schooling. He also earned a master of divinity degree from Gateway (then called Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary) in May 2011.

Jennifer Deibel, a freelance writer living in Glendale, is a member of Mountain Ridge Church, Glendale. She blogs at https://thisgalsjourney.com.
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