By Crystal Caviness
The Rev. Richard Hartman likens handing a copy of Strength for Service to a police officer to “putting God right there in the midst of things.”
As chaplain to an Indiana police department that numbers more than 400, Hartman’s job entails providing spiritual encouragement to the men and women who work to protect its city’s citizens and property. Often working back-to-back shifts that leave officers unable to attend regular church services, Hartman recognizes the need for boosting police officers’ morale and supporting their faith walk.
Strength for Service, a daily devotional created specifically for law enforcement officers, fire fighters, paramedics/EMTs and other first responders, is a resource that Hartman uses regularly.
The Strength for Service book “really gives first responders an opportunity to see people who are just like them and what they are faced with day in and day out so that they are not alone in that journey,” he said.
In addition to using Strength for Service when he leads chapel services for the department, Hartman has been instrumental in placing the books in the patrol cars.
Many officers ride alone in their squad cars with minimal face-to-face interaction with other officers. Their car, Hartman said, is their office. Having a copy of Strength for Service on the front seat is one way to offer support, he said.
Strength for Service, an outreach of the General Commission on United Methodist Men that in 2016 became its own non-denominational 501(c)(3) organization, currently publishes three versions of Strength for Service: “To God and Country” for veterans, “To God and Community” for first responders, and “To God and Community (Scout edition).”
First published in 1942 to distribute to World War II soldiers, Strength for Service provides the devotionals free of charge, with printing and distribution costs paid through donations.
In the past 15 years, more than 500,000 copies of the devotional have been given to military personnel; more than 40,000 have been delivered to first responders in the past four years.