A Rest Stop is a safe place for first responders to go to when they are on duty. It is a non-contact office, meaning they are not in the public’s eye and can stop for a moment to catch up on paperwork, eat lunch, or get a drink.
First responders are usually assigned to geographic districts where they patrol and work to be proactive in responding to calls in an area. However, for first responders, especially cops, to go to a non-contact office, they almost always have to drive a distance to an office, fire station, or precinct to take a break or do paperwork. This can be both time-consuming and strategically inefficient, especially during major incidents.
Many church buildings and other community businesses have at least one room that is available for use throughout the week, especially at night when the needs are greatest.
We have first responders using church Rest Stops multiple times during almost every overnight shift and many days during their work week. Many express thanks for the Rest Stops and ask for help in establishing more in other areas of town.
As the Church and a community, we may say we are thankful for the work that public servants do for us. But when we essentially hand them a key, give them access to our building, care for them and give them rest, many finally believe what we have been saying is really true.
A Rest Stop is an avenue for meaningful connection between the desire to show care and support to the community, and being more effective in doing so. This is accomplished through the first responders that go to almost every major event of suffering and pain that takes place. The first responders are out rushing to people in their greatest moment of need, every hour of every day. People call 911 and state their need. First responders come as soon as they can, to every call, no matter what the conditions are or what their own needs are…and they do this over and over again, every shift, every day, and in many cases, every hour.
Most studies show that almost all first responders suffer PTSD at some point in their career. Most go through divorce, they suffer through broken relationships; and many just keep doing their job despite the destruction they feel all around them.
What difference does it make if we provide a safe, caring place for them to catch their breath and be re-equipped emotionally and spiritually? We have seen this make a huge difference – in the churches hosting Rest Stops and in the first responders.
One local pastor stated it this way: “After many years of working to care for the local first responders there was a very tangible difference between the response to our ministry before we had a Rest Stop and the response afterwards.” Initially, when this pastor would go on ride-alongs, they would introduce him and the church he was from and the officers would be polite and greet him; a few would stop and talk to him as they would all go out on their shift. After this church opened a Rest Stop, he was announced as a pastor from a church who had just opened a Rest Stop, and the room erupted into applause and officers stood at the door to shake his hand and thank him. It was as if his church had discovered how to speak the local first responder’s language, and now many opportunities were opened through this new cultural trust that had been established.
The Rest Stop is more than a room and snacks. It is a window through which to give care and love to those who are always going to the ones who need that care and love. This simple act can bring transformation to your community.