Contributed by Pastor Sandra Berryman, Island United Methodist Church
“Building Bridges” began when the Muscatine Ministerial Association spoke with Mary Mason about writing ongoing articles to address issues in the community. In the beginning, violence was our key issue. Since that time, we felt that this single issue could be replaced with articles of interest to our community, bringing a positive message of hope. “Building Bridges” was a title we felt was hopeful. A bridge is used to get from one spot to another.
Jesus is that bridge over troubled water. He was and He will always be with us. Although God’s son was crucified to save us and give eternal life, He too was given a bridge to take Him out of Hades, bringing him back to earth, and then again a bridge of ascension into the Kingdom to sit on the right side of our God. As in John 14:18: “No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.”

Pastors Tom, Kyle, Don, and I are volunteer police chaplains. We are there to support our local officers. We ride around with the different shifts. Many different things are expected from an officer, and I have seen a variety. Not all are beautiful.

One of my ride-arounds involved a young mother in her early twenties who asked the department to come pick up her baby. She did not want it anymore. She was troubled and expecting another child. They treated her with respect. And, of course, they contacted the Child Care Center. Thankfully, there was someone to take care of the child temporarily. We took the mother to the hospital where she could receive some positive help.

Another ride-around, I met a mentally challenged young man who had been institutionalized in eight different facilities in his seventeen years of life. He felt abandoned and did not want to live with his mother and siblings. He had physically attacked his mother, and the police were called. She wanted him to be removed, and he wanted to be removed, but his age was an issue. Where was the youth to go? He had four months before he turned eighteen.

I engaged the young man in conversation. I asked him if he liked to draw. Head down, he said yes. I told him I liked to draw, too. That I liked to draw trees, because of the twisting branches and the imaginative things I could see in the bark. His head began to rise slightly. Then I asked him if he liked to write. Head a little higher. I told him I liked to write poetry, but I started a short story, kind of sci-fi. His head now up, his eyes engaged with mine, he started to give me ideas for my story. Was it a coincidence that I happened to be along for that ride? Or was it a bridge that God put in place?

The police deal with a variety of situations, some life endangering. They are there to assist people and fulfill the law. They do things like give Christmas gifts to children who may not receive a gift under the tree. They share a cup of coffee to build a relationship with the people of our community.

The flip side is the disrespect and hatred officers encounter as they try to carry out the law. They see it all. They go home with it in their minds. A lot of humor is heard at the briefings and among each other. This is partly their way of coping. Pastors Tom, Kyle, Don, and I as the chaplains are there for them. Hopefully, God is using us as their bridge and as a bridge for victims and abusers.

Our community has our police department building bridges, but we all must be building bridges for our neighbors. Remember, we are not alone. Jesus would say, in the words of Simon and Garfunkel, “Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will lay me down.” You have been given gifts and talents from our Lord. Use them to build bridges of hope for your neighbors.