I can’t believe that I spent almost ten years working in law enforcement in our community. What an honor it was to help patrol the streets at night as you slept safely in your homes. What a blessing it was to be there for you when you suffered loss, were harmed, or just needed someone to check things out. For all those who have had their homes burglarized when you were away, I remember the feeling you had of being violated. It was like your entire home had turned into a place you don’t recognize. Someone came into your home and plundered things that were precious to you and took items that could never be replaced. My heart went out to you as I dusted for fingerprints, took pictures, and inventoried all that you could identify as stolen.
I remember patrolling through your neighborhoods late at night and in the early morning hours to ensure your homes and neighborhoods were safe. I would drive by at night and see your lights on and wonder, “Was that the family watching television together?” I would ponder each of your unique homes and the stories about your lives. You invited me into your homes for meals or a friendly chat. I was welcomed into your businesses and restaurants where you would always put an extra helping of the meal you happened to be serving at the time. Some of you wouldn’t even let me pay for my meal. At times, I ate so much that the bulletproof vest had to be removed to breathe, LOL. You were such an encouragement to me as I had to witness many sad things during a typical week of patrol. These kind moments lifted my spirits many times.
I remember getting so hot while on duty on Pensacola Beach, with the sun up and a bulletproof vest on. It was like torture; the heat was so intense. I had many hours to contemplate inventions to hook up your car’s AC system to your bulletproof vest to cool yourself down. Every time I took my bulletproof vest off and said, “That’s it, I’ve had it. I’m not going to wear that thing anymore,” I would get a call: “Shots fired, be en route. Man is shooting at…” It never failed. I’d have to put the vest back on in a hurry and head towards the shooting. Wow, can you imagine having a job where every day you have to put on a bulletproof vest?
I remember having to arrest those who broke the law, yet my heart also broke for them because I knew it wasn’t going to be good for them. I remember young men who hung out on the streets and were heading towards great trouble. They were kind to me, and I was kind to them. I would tell them, “You can’t do this, it isn’t good. It won’t end well for you if you continue.” Then I remember, a short time later, these young men getting arrested. It broke my heart. I remember one of these young men; he was so kind. His family was also kind and a blessing to many. I warned him not to hang out as he was, but he didn’t listen and got arrested. He was very tall yet very young. He was in the jail booking area and was weeping. He was so tall that his tears covered my right shoulder as he cried on my shoulder. There was nothing I could do at that point. He didn’t listen to wisdom, he didn’t listen to his parents, he didn’t listen to my warnings, and now he had been arrested and charged. His life, as he knew it, was going to be changed forever. I wanted, more than ever, for this tragic moment in his life to be “undone,” but there are things in life that cannot be repaired. We just have to live with the scars they cause. We all have those kinds of scars.
I have so many memories of those 9+ years, but most of all, my greatest memory is when I was on patrol one early morning. It was quiet, and nothing much was happening. I was patrolling as usual when suddenly I felt a hunger in my heart to know God. I know it doesn’t make sense, but I could feel the Lord drawing me to Himself, even though I didn’t understand what was going on. So, I pulled over into a church parking lot and began trying to find a “Christian Radio Station,” but I was unsuccessful since I had never listened to Christian music. At that time in my life, I listened to artists like Luther Vandross and others. So, I called a dispatcher named Patti and asked her, “Do you know where I can find a Christian Radio station?” She told me, but back then, it didn’t come on until 6 AM in the morning. So, I parked there and waited since there were no calls to respond to.
While waiting in the church parking lot, I looked up and saw the church sign that said, “Dinner Thursday Nights, FREE!” As a single man who didn’t know how to approach God or a church, I thought, “A free meal, that’s a perfect way for a single man to get a meal (that I didn’t have to cook) and meet ‘church people’.” It was on that Thursday night that I walked into the church with my future wife Donna (unknown to me at the time) right beside me, and it became the church where I would give my life to the Lord. I discovered amazing news at this church! I couldn’t believe it—God gave His Son, Jesus, to pay the price for all my sins. Jesus loved me and proved His love by dying on the Cross, paying the price for my many sins, and was raised from the dead by God three days later. As I wanted to “undo” the tragic arrest for the young man who was arrested and cried on my shoulder in the jail booking, Jesus did do for me! All my many sins, where I sinned against God, others, and myself, what I couldn’t do for that young man in jail, God did for me through His Son Jesus Christ. Wow! Now, I know that God and His Son, Jesus, are both in heaven, with Jesus at God’s right hand. Jesus saw me, called me to Himself, and saved me. It was at that moment I belonged to Him. Though the ride was bumpy at the start, it got somewhat smoother as I was able to learn more about the Lord, His leadership in my life, and being under my new pastor, who is still my pastor today after all these years, Pastor John Kilpatrick.
You can learn more about my story at GregLancaster.org/KnowGod
Thank you to all the law enforcement officers who patrol our streets and neighborhoods today. We are grateful for you. If you need a drink, a nice meal, or a kind chat, know that you can stop by my home anytime. If you ever wonder what’s happening when you pass by late at night and see our lights on, know that we are blessed! God has done great things for us, and because of Him, we have this house to begin with. You are welcome anytime!