In the most tragic moments of life, when a loved one dies suddenly and unexpectedly, the family left behind is often overwhelmed by its loss.
In the last two years, the grieving families of four fallen police officers—three from the Dallas Police Department and one from Little Elm—have turned to Prestonwood Baptist Church.
Each time, the people of Prestonwood have stepped up, making arrangements, opening the Worship Center to the families, friends and co-workers, doing all they can to bring the love of Christ to those grieving their loss.
“We have appreciated the privilege of hosting police funerals through the years,” Pastor Jack Graham said. “These tragic deaths have given us the opportunity to minister to the families and to our community.”
Most recently, police officers from across the region gathered with family, friends and well-wishers on July 26 to celebrate the life and faith of Dallas Senior Cpl. Earl James “Jamie” Givens III, a motorcycle officer who was killed as he served as an escort for the funeral of another officer. Senior Cpl. Givens’s motorcycle was struck by a drunk driver.
When a law enforcement official is killed or passes away, Prestonwood reaches out to the police department and offers to host the funeral at no cost. Longtime church member Mike Gurley, who retired from the Dallas Police Department after nearly four decades, often is the liaison between the church and police officials.
“Really, this comes from the Pastor’s heart,” Executive Pastor Mike Buster said. “For any funeral and any family, we seek to minister to that family. This is not just benevolence. It’s an opportunity to bring people to Christ.
“People who have never set foot on our campus before, we can present them with the Gospel, and the way, the truth, and the life,” he said.
Police deeply appreciate the outreach of Prestonwood to first responders and their loved ones.
Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall thanked Pastor Graham and the people of Prestonwood from the pulpit during the funeral service for Senior Cpl. Givens. As did others who spoke on that day and in the days that followed.
“Our department and the families of our fallen are incredibly grateful to Prestonwood Baptist Church, to the members and the staff, for their sincere support and service to us during the most painful times,” said Senior Cpl. Debra Webb, a public information officer for the Dallas Police Department.
“Prestonwood has stepped up on multiple occasions to support and honor our fallen and their families,” she said.
“It’s a true statement to say that we would not be able to get through these tragedies without your loving support,” Senior Cpl. Webb said. “We cannot thank the staff and the members of Prestonwood enough for everything you have done for our department.”
The funeral of Senior Cpl. Givens was the fourth held at Prestonwood Baptist Church for local police officers killed in the line of duty since 2016.
Dallas Police Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, 48, and Officer Michael Krol, 40, were shot and killed in an ambush in downtown Dallas on July 7, 2016 that took the lives of three other officers. Police officers from throughout the country, including Boston, New York, Wisconsin, Florida, California and even Canada and Australia attended the services, which were just two days apart.
Several months later, in January 2017, Little Elm Police Det. Jerry Walker was gunned down by a man who had barricaded himself in a home. Again, police from throughout the region attended.
Most had never met the officers they came to honor. But they felt the need to be present to show their support for the police departments and especially the families.
Many of those attending the service for Senior Cpl. Givens said they were grateful to enter in the doors of a place where friendly faces greeted them, made them feel welcome, and thanked them for their service to the community.
“We thank you very much for allowing us to gather here to express our condolences to the family and everyone he worked with,” said Officer Terrence Nunn, of the Bryan Police Department. “It’s not a pleasant occasion when we come, but we thank you for doing this.”
Officer Stephen Foster of the Houston Police Department was touched by the service.
“It’s an honor to come here to pay tribute to someone I didn’t know personally,” he said. “Prestonwood has done a great job with hosting this solemn occasion.”
And on a day with scorching, triple-digit temperatures, they were grateful for the little things, such as smile from Prestonwood Christian Academy middle school students passing out ice-cold water bottles.
“I definitely feel welcome,” said Officer John Carnes of the Tyler Police Department. “I am thankful that everybody here is on board with hospitality, and handing out water on a hot day like this.”
Serving the families of police, firefighters and other first responders with God’s love is part of the mission of Prestonwood, Pastor Graham said.
In front of the church, near the fountains where an honor guard fired a 21-gun salute to their fallen comrade, stands a statue of Jesus, the humble fisherman.
“Follow me,” Jesus says in Matthew 4:19, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
Leading the hurting and the lost to eternal life in Jesus Christ, Pastor Graham said, truly represents the heart of our church.
Photos courtesy of The Dallas Morning News
Published: August 15, 2018
Author: Michael Young & Roger Howerton
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