ASHEVILLE, N.C. (Christian Examiner) – More than 200 police officers and spouses gathered at Billy Graham's Cove Oct. 13-15 for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's first National Law Enforcement retreat.
The purpose of the event was to offer encouragement and spiritual guidance to law enforcement officers and their families BGEA leaders said.
"We do much, and we should, for the military, and I don't think we can do enough for the military," said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response team. "But when I look at law enforcement officers who are serving and protecting us here domestically, I believe there is a great need to provide support and encouragement to them."
The three-day event was designed to be fun and relaxing for officers and their spouses from across the United States and Canada. Time also was spent discussing issues officers routinely face, such as post-traumatic stress, staying cool under pressure, and ways officers serve and protect their families. Most of the speakers were former or current law enforcement officers themselves.
"Law enforcement officers live lives of hyper vigilance; they're on high alert every minute and when they come home it's real easy not to talk about their work," Munday said. "It's easy to isolate themselves from their family, and that can breed more issues and problems."
A goal of BGEA's Law Enforcement Retreat was to provide officers and their spouses a safe environment where they could be around others with similar needs and receive solid biblical teaching, Munday said.
Since the event, the BGEA has received a great deal of positive feedback.
"Our relationship was dry and distant, but the Lord has renewed our marriage," said one officer of his wife. "I am so grateful for the Billy Graham organization and the work they do."
Recent events – including the widely publicized incident this August in Ferguson, Missouri, when a young African American male died after being shot by a police officer – have invoked increased national scrutiny of methods used by law enforcement officers.
"Twenty years ago police were well revered in communities," Munday told Christian Examiner. "It seems like the pendulum is moving away from that."
Although the blame in the Ferguson situation is still up for debate, one thing is certain: Law enforcement officers regularly put their lives on the line.
The death of three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in a shooting in Moncton, New Brunswick, this June was a blow to RCMP morale.
Seven RCMP officers who served in the same unit as the shooting victims attended BGEA's Law Enforcement Retreat. It was the first opportunity many of those officers had taken to discuss their grieving process in a supportive Christian environment, Munday said.
Because of the success of the three-day retreat, BGEA has set Nov. 4-6 as the date for the second annual National Law Enforcement Retreat.
"A lot of us will remember after 9/11 that we had flags out and when we saw a police officer we thanked them for serving," Munday said. "I think we need as a nation to come back to expressing appreciation every day to those who serve and protect us."