This article was written by Bob Fielding, Consultant for Chaplaincy & National/International Missions, at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Tina Frost, a member of Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Cabot, just celebrated nine years of service as a volunteer chaplain with the Cabot Police Department. Prior to starting this ministry, she struggled for years with her “calling.”
For some time, she thought that the Lord was calling her to follow her husband in a call to music ministry but kept coming back to the fact that the Lord was speaking to her about her own ministry. Her pastor, Dr. David Mitchell, took her before the church asking for prayer, specifically for Frost to hear God’s call clearly. She received several suggestions from fellow members that included all sorts of ministries in the church. Frost shared, “Everyone else seemed to know what I was supposed to do, but me!”
Growing up, Frost wanted to be a police officer. Later, in adulthood, she became a police dispatcher. In her mind that was a stepping stone to becoming a police officer, but that never happened. Just over nine years ago, the Lord spoke to her. “I was at a meeting and shared my journey with Caroline Association missionary Jerry Miller. He asked if I had thought about being a chaplain for the police department since I had law enforcement on my heart.”
Frost had a flashback to months before, when she had seen a Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering video that featured Tamra Gore, a law enforcement chaplain for the Benton Police Department and the Saline County Sheriff’s Office. Frost recalled, “I didn’t realize when I saw the video that Tamra was a chaplain. Jerry Miller told me to call the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) and talk to Bob Fielding. I didn’t think I could be a chaplain since I am a woman. Bob Fielding set me up with Tamra Gore, the lady I saw on the video!” It turned out that Tamra Gore was hosting a chaplain training in Little Rock that year. God provided the funds and Frost attended the training. The theme for that year was “Praise You in the Storm,” which for Frost was another confirmation that she was on the right track.
“I was nervous about going through the training and was especially concerned about the academics. The training also included riding with an officer. I rode with a Little Rock Police Department female officer and the conversation was fantastic! We went to a domestic disturbance, and I was so impressed with how the officers handled themselves. The officers asked me to come in and I ended up talking to the victim. Her mother asked me if I was a detective since I was in plain clothes, and I told her I was a chaplain. She looked at me with a puzzled look. I was so new I didn’t know how to explain it. The victim’s father evidently knew what a chaplain was, because as we were leaving the call, he stopped me and asked me to pray, saying, “Our family needs prayer!” I knew then that this is what the Lord prepared me for all my life.”
That night, Frost told her husband, “God is calling me to be a police chaplain.”
Frost continued, “I visited the police chief in my town (Cabot) over several months, sharing my call, and he approved me to become a department chaplain. I started riding with officers and talking to dispatchers. Then, God told me to quit my full-time job and be a full-time volunteer chaplain, but I argued with the Lord for two weeks about that. It didn’t make sense financially. He finally said, ‘How can you tell people on their worst day that I will provide for them, when you are not trusting Me.’ So, I quit my job!”
One of the first things the police department asked Frost to start was a program where children in need go shopping with a police officer at Christmastime. They needed donations to fund it, which required starting a non-profit organization. “I had no idea what to do! The Lord gave me an attorney from my church to help, then it came time to name the non-profit. I lived in a Baptist children’s home in Franklin, Tennessee, from ages 15-18, and my favorite verse became Jeremiah 29:11.” From that, she named the non-profit “His Plans.” The mission expanded to receiving funds for all sorts of ministries. “We provide a breakfast for the officers during National Police Week. We provide a meal and goody bags to dispatchers during Dispatcher’s Week. We even have funds to put homeless folks in a hotel. Previously, officers were doing that out of their own pocket.”
A typical week, before COVID, would see Frost going in every day to ride with an officer, check in with the other folks on duty, and visit the office. “I get called out for death notifications, unexpected deaths, suicides, homeless people, folks stranded as they’re passing through, and more, but my main role is to be there for the officers, dispatchers, and their families. Quite often an officer or employee needs to “download” and it all stays right here with me.”
Asked how she deals with the stress of what she sees at crime scenes, and all the “downloads,” she says, “The first person I go to is the Lord. I had no idea how I would be affected by the traumatic scenes, but on the way to each one I have learned to pray. God shows up and helps me help the victims, He helps me with the officers, and He helps me. I also download to Tamra Gore. I’ve been through formal debriefs at training events and have learned how to deal with the stress that comes from being a chaplain. It is a day-by-day thing. I am closer to God now than ever in my life.”
At scenes, Frost serves as a liaison between the victims and the officers. “My husband says it best: I am first responder to the first responders. Sometimes I am asked, and I make it clear – I am not a pastor! There is a huge difference between being a pastor and a chaplain! I am there to be a ministry of presence and help where I am needed.”
Frost suggests that anyone thinking about becoming a police, fire or EMS chaplain should pray and confirm that it is God calling. Getting exposed in a ride-along was a good step. Also, seek help from the ABSC chaplaincy coordinator, who can resource you. Then, get training.