Major Carole Newell, a division commander at the Broken Arrow Police Department just outside of Tulsa, Okla., is inspired by the prophet Zecharaiah’s vision of public safety in Zechariah 8.
The prophet Zechariah describes the New Jerusalem as a place where men and women of ripe old age will sit safely in streets filled with boys and girls playing (8:4-5). Zechariah’s vison suggests peace and security, two things that were decidedly absent from the Jerusalem of his day, which was defined instead by slavery, starvation, and sin. God used his prophet to paint a picture of what God desires for his people—a world of peace, safety, and joy, free of discord and violence.
Major Carole Newell, a division commander at the Broken Arrow Police Department just outside of Tulsa, Okla., is inspired by a similar vision. She’s been a police officer for 26 years now, but before entering law enforcement, Newell, a new believer at the time, struggled to understand God’s direction for her life.
“Like so many Christians who get born-again,” Newell says, “I immediately thought, ‘Well, I’ve got to go to the mission field. That’s where God has called everyone, right?’ But my whole life I had a desire to be in law enforcement.”
In spite of her initial doubts—as well as a pastor who told Newell that her desire to be a cop was “fleshly” and counseled her to renounce it—she eventually came to understand why her yearning to be a police officer was proving so difficult to shake.
“I finally realized that God had put in me that desire from the time I was probably in my mother’s womb.” At 5’1” and 104 pounds, Newell may not look as if she was designed to deter crime, but she says God assured her that He was using what looks foolish to humans to express His divine wisdom in the world. Newell employs her skills as a policewoman, combined with her gift for teaching, to advance God’s Kingdom value of peace by protecting the innocent and preventing crime. And in recent years Newell has found a way to work for the Kingdom beyond the boundaries of her daily job, making her an example of Pathway Three of vocational stewardship: donating your skills.
Several years ago, when a serial rapist was at large in Tulsa, Newell offered to teach a Bible-based self-defense course at a church in the area. Requests began pouring in from other churches, and Newell found herself with a new ministry. In her classes, Newell focuses more on what the Bible promises about personal safety and the importance of pursuing wisdom than on defensive moves, although some tactics are taught. “My goal is to make Psalm 91 a reality in people’s lives,” she says.
Then a prominent pastor in the Tulsa area was assaulted during a prayer service. The assailant had already committed a similar crime at another church. These assaults prompted church security staff from several large churches in the area to form the Tulsa Ministerial Security Association (TMSA). The TMSA coordinator approached Newell to see what expertise she could contribute. Having worked as a crisis negotiator for 14 years, particularly with people living with mental illness, Newell did indeed have expertise to share. She taught some 80 church leaders in the area how to identify people living with mental illness, how to reach out to and communicate with them, and how to diffuse situations and protect congregants, all without abandoning Christ’s call to hospitality.
“I always start out my teaching with the story of the Gerasene madman,” says Newell. “Jesus crossed a lake, set him free, then got back in the boat and went home. That’s how much God loves the mentally ill, I tell these Tulsa Christians, who live at the buckle of the Bible belt. ‘Stop acting like the world does. We have the answer; we have the power. We are the hands and feet of the Lord Jesus. If He would cross a lake and battle a storm to free a madman, should not the saints of God be willing to do what we can to set the captives free?’”
By Kelly Givens, 2011