Pastor Serves Through Crises

January 13, 2019 | chaplain | Jay Wintermeyer

When Greg Griffitts got into the patrol car for the first time in Hermiston, Ore., he didn’t know he’d be sitting in many more police vehicles in the future. After all, it’s not the most common hangout for an Adventist pastor.

Almost five years ago, Griffitts was approached by another pastor friend who had been serving as a police chaplain. “Greg, I think you would really enjoy chaplaincy,” his friend said.

“At the time, I didn’t think I could squeeze in one more thing into my busy schedule,” Griffitts admits. However, he agreed to meet with his friend and find out more about serving his community in this unique role. 

Over lunch, Griffitts' friend not only shared what it’s like to be a chaplain, he also handed Griffitts the paperwork to fill out to apply to serve in his local community. Griffitts subsequently decided to donate a year of his time to volunteer with the Hermiston police force. That year has turned into almost five in two different police departments. 

“Police chaplaincy has provided opportunities for training and service in dealing with emotional trauma caused by tragedies that pastors don’t generally receive,” says Griffitts.  

Recently an incident took place in his district in northern Washington through which this training opened the door to serve in a big way. An accident occurred in a local business that resulted in the death of an employee. A number of employees witnessed the incident, several of whom tried desperately, but unsuccessfully, to rescue their co-worker. Naturally, this tragedy caused emotional trauma to all the employees, but the trauma was especially severe to those who were on the scene.

Griffitts' local police department called him in to help the needs of the first responders following the accident. Griffitts says, “I went to help the police, but the person whom I found in greatest need was the store manager. During our brief visit, I learned that the company wanted to do a debrief for the employees, but had no idea of what to do.”

Griffitts offered his services, and a few days later he and a critical incident team listened to 15 of the employees share their stories and helped them deal with their loss. The next Monday they conducted a formal debrief that was attended by about 50 employees.

“Through this debrief process,” Griffitts says, “our team members, who are all Christians, were able to minister to spiritual as well as emotional needs of those hurting people.”

Serving as the local police chaplain and being there to serve in that hour of deep crisis has opened the door to relationships with the community that is still bearing fruit. Griffitts was recently called by the store manager for advice on another matter, and that would never have happened if it hadn’t been for the critical incident stress management training that made it possible for Griffitts to be involved in this incident.

Griffitts says, “Many of the employees know I’m the pastor of the local Seventh-day Adventist church, and the positive connection that they have with me also extends to my church.”