It was June 2010. The denomination to which I belonged, held their International Convention in Atlanta that year. I was glad to connect there with a fellow pastor…my best friend. He and I were from the same hometown in Ohio. Yet we met on the other side of the country at seminary. We were ordained the same day and stayed in touch every week for over thirty years as we pastored churches and raised families and navigated the changing culture.

I was also a military chaplain and I had developed a ministry to the local cops and other first responders. When he was almost 50 years old Larry began a ministry to the local police department where he lived. We both were highly involved with the Veteran community— each in our own particular way.

He also had a great love for history and was active in doing Civil War re-enactments. He was an extra in the cast of the movie Gods and Generals.  I knew he would be excited to be in a city like Atlanta with its rich history.

Chaplain Larry R. Johnson

During the convention, we played hooky and skipped the morning sessions and decided to do some sightseeing downtown. We were walking along Peach Tree Street…We heard a scuffle up ahead and some come police officers running towards the next corner…Next thing I know… Pastor Larry was running too… He got up to the scene just as they cuffed one of the combatants… Then one of the Atlanta cops looked at Larry and said.

“Oh Hi Chaplain…”
You know these guys I asked?
“Oh yeah” he casually replied
”I did a ride along with them last night.”

Unbeknownst to everyone, back in Ohio Larry had pre-arranged to do a ride along during the convention. He brought patches to exchange with the officers and asked the watch commander if he could ride with them. He was always doing stuff like that.

He would tell me how he rode entire shifts with his home police department… He would comfort little babies when the cops rolled on domestic violence calls. He was there when gunfire was exchanged in street violence. On more than one occasion he prayed with people who had just been arrested. He was there when the cops would get discouraged. In short—he pastored them

Watching the police being humiliated and devalued and threatened right now made me glad that Larry isn’t here to see the chaos as the wheels come off…and rioters are ruling the night. All I can do is give testimony to the fact that far and away, every policeman I’ve ever met or prayed with or wept with…decries cops who give the rest of them a bad name.

I pray tonight that those who serve and protect would themselves be protected. I also pray for the school kids…our kids…and grandkids…will be protected as pandering politicians vote to pull the resource officers out of the schools. And I pray for America. Before this is all over, we will all pray to God that there will be cops to respond when the call goes out.