NC Calvary Chapel Honors Police Officers

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Blessed are the Peacemakers: North Carolina Calvary Chapel Honors Police Officers

Story by Kathy Symborski
Photos by Elizabeth Hebner, Emily Hebner, and Madison Burner

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, more than 100 law enforcement officers (LEOs) from the Lake Norman, NC, area came to church. As they filtered in the doors of Calvary Chapel Lake Norman for a ‘white glove’ appreciation luncheon around 11 a.m., they were warmly greeted by a church volunteer and invited to choose a seat at one of the tastefully decorated tables.

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Law enforcement officers are served, find their seats, eat, and enjoy time talking amongst themselves and members of Calvary Chapel Lake Norman, NC, the day before Thanksgiving. CC Lake Norman organized its fourth annual “white glove” appreciation luncheon for more than 100 officers from over five different departments.

“Police officers put their lives in harm’s way day in and day out. As a community [of believers] we wanted to make a statement that we love them, that Jesus Christ loves them, and that we are praying for them and their families,” said Senior Pastor Mike Burner.

Mike, once on the “other side” of the law, knows firsthand the ugly side of life police officers deal with that can cause strain in their family life. “It’s no secret about the divorce rate among LEOs; churches can play a vital role in saving marriages.”

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Senior Pastor Mike Burner greets the Statesville Police Chief, David Addison. The event offers an opportunity for these law enforcement officers to be encouraged, even by each other. Mike observed, “These guys never talk to one another, and here they all are, together, being supported by people who love the Lord Jesus, and them.”

Mike elaborated, “If we can have one-on-one communication with them, share the Gospel, or have a volunteer chaplain-type of ministry for them, that could be a difference-maker in a lot of lives.” Over the last few years, Mike and Iredell County Sheriff Darren E. Campbell have cultivated a relationship of mutual respect and love between the church and their local deputies.

Darren stated, “This event is just icing on the cake, but it gives my deputies a chance to go to church, and maybe think about coming on Sunday, and get their spiritual life in a better place.”

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Assistant Pastor Isaiah Burner (back left), his wife Mackenzie Burner (back right), and Olive Sumner (back center) serve members of the Iredell County Sheriff's Office and the Statesville Police Department. Other agencies represented were from the Troutman Police Department, North Carolina Highway Patrol, lake patrols in surrounding counties, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

LEOs from six different departments showed up: Statesville Police Department, Iredell County Sheriff’s Department, Troutman Police Department, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, and even a few from sheriff departments’ Lake Patrols in surrounding counties. Mike observed, “These guys never talk to one another, and here they all are, together, being supported by people who love the Lord Jesus and them.

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Abigail Burner gives an Iredell County Sheriff's Office detective a homemade chocolate shaped as an officer's badge. Pastor Mike noted, “They come for prayer, some for private matters, and one police officer has rededicated his life [to the Lord] because of the event.”

Mike delivered a message of thanks, support, and continued prayer while they were all gathered, edifying the officers for being courageous men and women in jobs that can be very thankless. “I wanted them to know that this church appreciates them and that every time they pass this building, there are people here praying for them,” he remarked. After sharing how Jesus Christ loves them, Pastor Mike and his leadership team circulated among the tables to sit with, talk to, and pray with those in attendance.

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Isaiah Burner (right) speaks with Officer Ballard of the Statesville Police Department about the gifts that the church is giving away to the officers via a free raffle. Other officers are listening or entering their names on tickets and dropping them in the bowl to have names drawn after the event.

Now into the event’s fourth year, Mike recognized some returning LEOs but also saw many first timers at the luncheon. Since the event, he has spoken with numerous officers, noting, “They come for prayer, some for private matters, and one police officer has rededicated his life [to the Lord] because of the event. And now they come to park on the property to write reports and have a meal break because it’s a safe place to park.”

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Olive Sumner (right) of CC Lake Norman greets North Carolina Highway Patrol State troopers. She is also giving them a thank you bag, which included gifts and chocolate. In the background another volunteer fills sweet tea glasses.

Sheriff Darren is keenly aware of this two-fold benefit for his deputies and the community. “It’s like going to a friend’s house to do homework. My deputies feel safe and comfortable there, and [their visibility] is the Number One deterrent to crime,” he explained.

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

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Cam, a child from CC Lake Norman, greets law enforcement officers. He was one of over 35 church volunteers who assisted in the event to show their gratitude for the great job they do to keep their neighborhoods safe.

In preparation for the event, Law Enforcement Appreciation Luncheon flyers and business cards are created and distributed to local police departments by Mike and the church leadership team. The entire church pitched in to purchase gift cards, plaques, and chocolates while others put together goodie baskets and made hand-crafted wooden Christmas ornaments for each officer. Over 35 volunteers helped decorate the sanctuary, park cars, create and serve home-cooked meals and desserts, and refill drinks—all to show their love and gratitude for the great job local law enforcement does keeping their neighborhoods safe.

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A local North Carolina Highway Patrol State trooper and office staff member exit CC Lake Norman’s main sanctuary after eating, receiving gifts, and engaging in conversation.

“We wanted to honor them because ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends’(John 15:13). We want them to know we appreciate them—that they shouldn’t be hated, portrayed as criminals, or defunded. Imagine the anarchy that would take place in a world without them,” Mike cautioned.

Darren feels this relationship between law enforcement, the public, and the church is of paramount importance these days. “We are honored and humbled by the relationship we have, and by this event. It’s what all communities need.”

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Members of the Statesville Police Department are served desserts after finishing their meal.

Next year, the church will offer two separate events so that more police officers will be able to attend. “We are going to serve a morning breakfast and an evening dinner, so that both shifts can be blessed,” Mike stated. But his heart is that other Calvary Chapels around the country would also embrace their local law enforcement and to share the Gospel with them, “because many [LEOs] don’t know the Lord; some do, but not many; and what’s better than our ‘peacekeepers’ having that peace that passes all understanding as they serve their community?”

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Iredell County Sheriff's Deputies arrive at the CC Lake Norman parking lot for the appreciation luncheon.

                  

Click to visit Calvary Chapel Lake Norman
                  

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Mike Burner stands with Statesville Police Chief David Addison.

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2021 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.