Seeing a need for unity in the community and in light of current events, Sedalia Police Department Sgt. John Comfort started a Bible study and fellowship for first responders, their families, and active duty and retired military personnel.
The Christian Fellowship of First Responders will meet for the third time tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Comfort said Wednesday that he decided to form the group after the police related shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma and in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In Tulsa, a police officer, who shot a black male, will stand trial for manslaughter, while news sources reported Wednesday that in Charlotte, the prosecutor determined a police officer was not guilty of killing black resident Keith Lamont Scott.
“What it really was, was God talking to me,” Comfort noted. “There was a lot of stuff going on, you had the Tulsa shooting and Charlotte happened around the same time. (In) Charlotte, they started rioting …”
Comfort noted he was supposed to have firing range training that week, but kept feeling he should postpone. He kept telling himself he would manage and would work everything out, but he couldn’t get over the feeling that he should wait.
“I talked to the Chief (John DeGonia) the next day and he said ‘I was feeling the same thing, we need to postpone it,’” Comfort added. “So then I happened to be in my office, I would have been out at the range, when I saw the breaking (news) about the Tulsa shooting, and saw the video.
“Then I started seeing comments coming from first responders, and law enforcement from across the country, automatically trying to see something that wasn’t there,” he said. “Trying to justify it. I said ‘we have two things that have come out of this.’”
Comfort knew that No. 1, he needed to work on more firearms training to ensure an unwarranted shooting incident doesn’t happen in Sedalia, and No. 2 he knew there needed to be a spiritual aspect introduced to first responders.
“We also, especially as police, we have a hard time falling back on our spiritual side,” he said. “We never really show it. If you have a problem in a police department and you go to another police officer, generally you come up with a police answer. When that’s not always what you need. Sometimes you need a strong shoulder and whose shoulder is stronger than God’s. But, everybody had that invisible wall there.”
Comfort attends Bethlehem Baptist Church with his wife Shawna and daughter Andrea. He said he gave testimony in church the next Sunday and told the congregation he was going begin the Christian Fellowship of First Responders.
“I never expected what it became,” he added.
Sixty first responders showed up for the first Bible study at Bethlehem Baptist. The second meeting at Camp Branch Baptist Church brought 56 people.
“We’ve got members of the Sedalia Police Department, Pettis County Sheriff’s, Sedalia Fire, Pettis County Fire, Pettis County Ambulance,” Comfort said. “We’ve got Highway Patrol.”
Members are also attending from Saline and Benton counties as well as families of first responders.
“It’s not just sworn members, it’s families, their kids,” Comfort said. “The members of the congregation are always invited, and just anybody who supports first responders.”
He noted that usually first responders don’t “mingle” together often unless it’s on the scene of an incident.
“There we all wade through the same bad things,” he added. “This just gives you a way to know there’s other guys in your organization that you can go talk to on a spiritual level.”
Comfort said he has passed out blue bracelets with “God’s Army” and Matthew 5:9 inscribed on them.
“I wanted something to indicate, that if you are wearing this, you know you can talk to someone wearing it on a spiritual level,” he said. “Matthew 5:9 is ‘Blessed is the peacemakers they shall be called the children of God.’ God has put His hand in this so much.”
Comfort was able to acquire the bracelets and first responder Bibles for members of the group through Gallagher’s Army, of New York. Gallagher’s Army donated 50 Bibles and hundreds of bracelets.
Through the Bible studies and fellowship Comfort said he hopes to see first responders becoming spiritually strong.
“Our faith can build us, and make us a much stronger community, and a stronger organization,” he added. “As first responders we would die for strangers, the people we serve. … We all put ourself in different situations, the difference between us and Jesus Christ, we will fight back because we don’t want to die to save somebody, whereas He willingly gave himself to save us.”
Tonight at Christian Fellowship of First Responders, Comfort will speak about “Bringing back the Cross.” The group will meet at 6:30 p.m. at Bethlehem Baptist Church, located on Anderson School Road. LifeLine Band will also play several songs and there will be a potluck dinner and fellowship afterward.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or on Twitter @flbemiss.