Nestled just off a main Oregon thoroughfare in an area brimming with needs, a compact yellow house owned by Solid Rock Baptist Church in Portland sits largely unused throughout the week. But an effort to meet the needs of law enforcement personnel has opened up the tidy property into a rest stop for those that serve the community.
Pastor Randy Duckett has served as pastor at Solid Rock in Portland, Ore., for just one year, but an introduction to Steve Chadwick of Responder Life opened new ministry possibilities for a congregation that sits in the shadow of a major freeway and bustling business district.
“I mentioned to an officer that we wanted to serve our police officers on Halloween because there is so much mischief on that night,” Duckett said. “I heard back from Steve Chadwick, who is a police chaplain and director of community and church partnerships for Responder Life. He told me about rest stops provided for first responders in the metropolitan area.
“We prayed about it for a couple of months and our church wants to do things and not be stagnant,” he added. “Some in our church had been discouraged because of our location, as it is difficult to get to our campus, but we realized it is perfect for this ministry, as it is off the beaten path.”
A recent open house to introduce the rest stop was held for all first responders, including firefighters, ambulance drivers and others, but the facility meets a special need for law enforcement personnel to take a break, use the restroom and write reports out of the eye of the general public. The church will offer cold drinks, snacks, wireless internet and television to those who make use of the church property.
“Law enforcement is a mission field, as many won’t darken the doors of our church, but they will come here,” Duckett said. “Church members furnished the house with donated items and we installed a keypad entry so they don’t need a key. New people drawn to our church have been impressed by our community action.”
There is more and more paperwork required in modern police work, according to Chadwick.
“A serious incident requires an hour of paperwork,” Chadwick said. “With this now open, they don’t have to sit in their car and do it, with a potential to be ambushed. A place off of the street and out of sight is valuable. Most will use it as a quick visit between stops and they want a place that is not political.”
Responder Life is unique to the Portland metro area and has been replicated in other areas. Churches sign an agreement confirming they don’t expect better services because of their efforts. But statistics show nearby residents will see the positive effect, with a 75 percent decrease in crime by just having police cars drive by.
“This reconnects churches with their community,” Chadwick noted. “People tend to live miles away from their church, but this connects them with first responders in an accepted and positive way. This part of Southeast Portland is filled with drug addicts and criminals.”
Clackamas County Sheriff reserve officer Alan Kaiser first heard of the rest stop at his morning briefing and stopped by to check it out.
“This gets more officers on your property and just having a place to use the bathroom is positive,” said Kaiser, who also serves as a medic on a SWAT team. “I just work a couple shifts a month, but regular guys work four 10-hour shifts. It’s nice to have a place just for the cops.”
The rest stop is not the only way Solid Rock members are reaching out, as they participate in Operation Nightwatch, a hospitality ministry to feed up to 75 street people once a month.
“Jesus talked about not understanding the times,” Duckett said. “We want to respond to that, initiate conversations and love on groups that don’t receive this.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article appeared in the Northwest Baptist Witness, newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Sheila Allen is managing editor of the Northwest Baptist Witness.)