The shouts came from the field University Park Baptist Church allows local junior high footballers to practice on. “I hate the police! I hate them!” It was September 2014, just days after a young high school student had been tased by Portland Police.
Senior Pastor Chad Nieuwendorp heard the exclamations from his church, which hosts one of Responder Life’s Rest Stops as a ministry to police and other first responders serving the St. Johns community. Neighbors were deeply divided over the tasing incident. Many saw the response by police as another example of unwarranted force by police against African-American youth, as had been reported in other US cities last summer. Peers of the tased youngster expressed their fear of police, while older residents expressed support for the police.
Pastor Chad attended a city-led meeting about the incident, and frustrated students asked him why he was there. “I love the students, the community, AND the police,” Pastor Chad replied. He has other strategies in mind for creating peace in the church’s community through interaction between the police, residents, and especially the young people on the football team. He says the commitment to support Responder Life’s Rest Stop has been an important catalyst to his church’s positive involvement in its community. The Rest Stop is one means of achieving the church’s core values and ministry objectives, which include: Rooted in the Gospel; Planted in Community; Transformed By Grace; and Reaching In Love