Ministry rushes devotional books to Thousand Oaks
NASHVILLE, Tenn.––The Strength for Service ministry rushed three cases (156 copies) of Strength for Service books to first responders in Thousand Oaks, Calif., following the killing of 12 people at the Borderline Bar and Grill.
One case of 52 books was sent to the Rev. Brian Clement, chaplain of the Simi Valley Police Department, whose officers responded to the shootings at nearby Thousand Oaks..
Two cases (104 books) were delivered to the Rev. John Parra, chaplain of Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
Sergeant Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, was among the fatalities.
Ron was looking to retire "in the next year or so," Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said.
Helus, 54, was the first officer to respond to the shooting.
“We’re making entry,” Helus told a dispatcher. A few second later, re radioed, “We have multiple people down. We need a lot of ambulances.”
A burst of gunfire then hit Helus multiple times. He later died in a hospital.
“He was totally committed, he gave his all, and tonight, as I told his wife, he died a hero,” Dean said. “He went in to save other people.”
Prayers for all
Noel Sparks, 21, a member of our Westlake Village UMC and a student at Moorpark College, was also killed by the gunman.
Los Angeles Area Bishop Grant J. Hagiya offered prayers for Noel’s family and all the victims. “This senseless violence has no theological answer and we are left once again with the numbness and suffering that has happened recently in Pittsburgh and Florida,” said Hagiya. “I cry out to God, ‘When will it end?’ I then realize that God cannot stop this violence we are inflicting upon ourselves on a regular basis.”
Community also coping with fire
A vigil for victims of the shooting had to be cancelled because of the Woolsey Fire and subsequent evacuation.
The fire torched hillsides and coastline across 85,500 acres of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, and destroyed more than 170 buildings in the beaches, canyons, and Valley.
The books will also be distributed to exhausted fire fighters.
“It is especially important to get these books to first responders,” said Larry Coppock, executive director of the Strength for Service ministry. “A recent study found that more firefighters and police officers died by suicide in 2017 than all line-of-duty deaths combined.”
USA Today reports that 103 firefighters and 140 police officers died by suicide in 2017, compared to 93 firefighter and 129 officer line-of-duty deaths.
The study also found that little has been done to address PTSD and depression in responders, even though they are five times more likely than civilians to suffer from symptoms.
“Police departments can provide bullet proof vests and fire departments can issue oxygen masks, but these do not protect these community servants from emotional or spiritual distress that can result in suicides,” said Coppock.
"Strength for Service books provide daily reminders of first responders who faced challenging situations and how they reacted,” said Coppock. “Those experience provide hope for men and women facing similar situations.”