Albertville police chaplain ministers to variety of peoplecomment (0)
July 17, 2003
By Erin Webster
Hunting for plastic toys and sorting through soldiers’ trash may not be the usual duties of a law enforcement chaplain.
But for Randy Smith, chaplain with the Albertville Police Department, they are just two of the many ways he has found to minister.
The First Baptist Church, Albertville, member helped begin the department’s chaplaincy program last October with fellow church member Chief Benny Womack after the suicide of an Albertville police officer.
Smith said the suicide and the helpful response by some Birmingham chaplains made him realize the need for chaplains in Albertville.
Womack said that experience showed him that the officers and department employees needed someone to talk with to help them through the tragedy. “The chaplaincy program was the most obvious way for them to have someone to talk to,” he said.
Womack said he asked Smith to help him begin the chaplaincy program, since Smith had expressed interest in it. Smith is now president of the program, which numbers six chaplains and two others who are on call as needed.
Smith said what helps him most in his duties is that “God called me, not to a position, but to a relationship with Him, and in that I have been able to serve Him in a variety of ways.”
That variety has included chaplain’s duties such as counseling police officers and firemen, helping victims and helping the families of victims and officers.
It has also included some opportunities that could be classified as unusual.
Smith was driving to Guntersville when he spotted a wreck involving a family with two younger boys and an overturned van. He stopped, pulled out his chaplain’s badge and proceeded to help by looking for the youngest son’s plastic toys that were spilled among glass on the van’s roof. “He was really worried about his toys,” Smith recalled.
But the experience that Smith counts among his most fulfilling was a trip to Landstuhl, Germany, before Easter this year.
He went to help at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the hospital where many of the United States military’s wounded from Iraq were being treated. His duties included everything from counseling to sorting through trash that had been left behind.
“It had nothing to do with the police department, but by virtue of being in the chaplaincy program, I got to go,” Smith said.
Although Smith has enjoyed his adventures, his main focus is the men and women in law enforcement, such as Sergeant Chad Ginn, who was recently involved in a motorcycle wreck.
Smith and fellow chaplain Keith Williams went to the hospital and visited with Ginn and his family.
“It is a comfort having a chaplain there,” Ginn said. “In times of emergency or, like my accident, it’s not a stranger coming in.”
Womack said Smith’s ministry includes anyone around him, not just officers.
“He’s even ministered to alleged perpetrators [at crime scenes],” Womack said. “Anyone who’s around him, they’re going to know who Randy is and what he’s about.”
Womack added that he himself had been ministered to through the program. “It has helped me grow in Christ and in my life,” he said. “It’s helped me to realize there are people out there that do care for law enforcement and their families.”
The Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) helps law enforcement and fire departments across the state set up non-denominational chaplaincy programs like Albertville’s.
The SBOM also provides training for all the law enforcement chaplains in the state of Alabama. For more information on chaplaincy programs contact the SBOM at 1-800-264-1225.