Our nation’s first responders—firefighters, police, and emergency medical providers—face extraordinary challenges. Former SWAT team commander Tony Kollias describes the pressure on those in law enforcement: “In this line of work you don’t know who to trust most of the time. You have to [stay alert] because somebody might kill you at any minute.”
Spending working hours constantly responding to crisis or emergency situations can lead to problems at home, he says. “First responders come home depressed.
Alcoholism is high. Many police officers are on their third marriage by the time they retire.”
This sort of reaction is a coping mechanism to numb the pain or deal with the stress. Without God, they have no hope. But many are finding the hope they desperately need through The Navigators First Responders Ministry.
Intentionally Reaching Those You Work With
Chris Green, who was serving as a reserve police officer in the Portland, Oregon, area, was grieved by the brokenness he saw in his colleagues. God prompted him to do something about it. In 2012 he launched The Navigators First Responder Ministry.
The ministry addressed a unique challenge of working with first responders: “If we want to reach them with the gospel, we’re going to have to use insiders,” Chris says. “Outsiders are not going to reach this culture.”
So, Chris recruited SWAT commander Tony Kollias to begin encouraging the people around him that there was a better way to deal with the stress—through God. Tony, too, understood the importance of the insider in this ministry.
“In law enforcement we don’t trust people,” he explains. Bringing in someone from outside, who’s not part of the culture, would not be effective. “But to have one of those trusted people who’s a Christ follower share Christ on the inside of the culture, that works. God wanted to use me in the community where He had placed me—inside the Sheriff’s Office.”
Chris reports, “Just in his own agency, I bet Tony has impacted 50 people. He’s led numerous people to Jesus, he’s discipled many, many people, and he’s challenged people to disciple.”
How to Change Your Work Culture
Tony began inviting first responders to his home for Bible studies. He made one of the objectives clear from the beginning. “The goal is, to go and do likewise. If you’ve been changed through this, then go and start your own group.” And that’s what happened.
As people encountered Christ, the whole culture of his team began to change.
Instead of using drinking and other vices to cope many turned towards God.
“Our SWAT parties used to be centered on drinking,” he says. “Now they’re family parties—we invite them to bring their kids.” Each month the First Responders Ministry in Portland hosts a get-together for those on the team and invites their families. They share a biblical message to both kids and their parents—helping to bring families together, not tear them apart.
Tony felt called to retire from the SWAT team and is now ministering full-time with The Navigators. Because insiders are so effective in ministry, Chris is recruiting other retired first responders who have been discipled by Navigators to join in the work. As with Tony, their firsthand experience of the intense challenges these men and women face daily can open doors for the gospel of hope to transform lives.
Pray for The Navigators First Responders Ministry
In the United States, 4.6 million first responders serve, rescue, and protect us. These men and women need the hope found in the gospel! The Navigators First Responders Ministry now reaches and serves 18 different regions throughout the country.
How you can pray:
- Pray that God will raise up more laborers and leaders in the areas where we are developing new ministries. (Matthew 9:37)
- Pray that the many regions where ministries are forming would mature and have lasting fruit. They include Seattle, Southern California, New York City, San Antonio, Minnesota, Tampa, and Washington, DC. (Isaiah 54:2-3)
- Pray that first responders and their spouses would have vision and passion to reach their families and co-workers for Christ and help them grow in their faith. (Matthew 28:18-20)
Ask God how you can show His love to those you work with and watch for the opportunities He provides—like inviting a co-worker to read the Bible with you!
*The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) visual or content does not imply or constitute DOD endorsement.