Reaching the Broken People"You will never know how much your ministry has and is influencing others."
My name is Jerry Francis. For 25 years, I was an officer in the NYPD. My assignment was the fifth precinct, which was located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The Bowery fell within the confines of our command, and for 101 years held the location of a Salvation Army outreach. This outreach was a beacon to the broken men who frequented or lived in one of many run-down hotels, or “flophouses,” that dotted that part of the city.
Although I was saddened to hear about the move to Brooklyn, I totally understood the why of it. Things do change. One thing that has not changed is the spirit of The Salvation Army. The below account is not based in nostalgia, but rather it represents the truth that is always marching on no matter what is happening around us, no matter what the age is that we are living in.
Numerous times I was assigned to patrol the upper end of the Bowery. The precinct’s boundary ended at Houston St. and the Bowery. Just below that border was where the “Sally” was located. That was the abbreviated name we used for The Salvation Army.
At that time, I was not a believer. The reason for this letter is that I wanted to let you know that your shining testimony was in some way a part of my conversion to Christ. Sometimes I would go into the Sally and briefly listen to what was being said by the preacher. I was unaware at the time that one day I would be asked to share my testimony in front of a “packed house” that came to get a free meal and listen to a message.
The Bowery strip was a dangerous place. The Army’s supervisors, as well those under their command, along with the cops from the fifth precinct and the ambulance crews who frequently were dispatched to that area, never knew when one of these men might “snap.” A lot of them drank cheap wine that addled their minds and kept their spirits in a horrible “prison.” They were broken men indeed. Many of them had tuberculosis or other contagious diseases. We were getting paid to get involved in their lives when it was needed. The Salvation Army’s volunteers were not.
Two years before I came to the fifth precinct, Sgt. Ed Johnson was stabbed to death in the Bowery Mission, which was next to the Sally. A crazed man killed him even though he was shot a dozen times. One of the officers I worked with was stabbed in the face just inside the entrance to The Salvation Army building. Another cop from the fifth was working on the upper end of the Bowery and got stabbed in the arm by a derelict. A friend of mine was off duty and walking up the Bowery when he encountered a man in a drunken state. As a result, he received two stab wounds to his chest. He survived. I was put out of work for four months by another crazed Bowery resident. They often injured each other in disputes or were hurt when they were robbed of the few pennies they had. These were the men that The Salvation Army ministered to on a daily basis.
All of the guys in the fifth really appreciated the ministry of The Salvation Army. Yet the fact is that it extended past the physical borders of our precinct. You have no idea how many people you reached or touched in one way or the other. What is interesting about that statement is that the people who are not from the Bowery might not know how in part, or directly, your steadfast work has ministered to them. You do exactly what all Christians are called to do, namely, get out of the church pew and “show and tell” what the “Good news” is all about. Although your ministry has earned the accolades you get, still you do not seek the praises of man. Your visible presence is there, and yet you also have a “silent testimony” that shouts louder than the noises of the surrounding world.
After years on the streets as a police officer, you learn how to handle the necessary paperwork that goes with the job. I handled hundreds of sick and injured cases involving the men on the Bowery’s skid row. However, it was all done in a mechanical or routine fashion. There was no heart involved. There was no compassion. Even though I had my own “baggage,” I still had no empathy for my fellow man and that certainly included the Bowery’s derelicts. That came after I was born from above. Only then did I appreciate the ministry the Lord ordained for you so many years ago. I absolutely believe that you will never let that “calling” slip through your fingers.
It was in my thirteenth year on the force that I became a Christian. He led me to be a co-founder of a NYPD ministry then called Cops for Christ. Many of the officers including myself had come from a background where too much drinking had been involved prior to our conversion to Christ. A number of men from our ministry had previously been divorced. Most of us also experienced some degree of bitterness regarding our job. That is because cops do not realize that they too are “called” and that it’s not just a job.
I have often been challenged by people like you folks at The Salvation Army: to be more steadfast, consistent, persistent and dedicated. Perhaps that is what I was trying to say when I mentioned that you will never know how much your ministry has and is influencing others.
I cannot end this discourse without saying something that I believe is important. You are loved and appreciated by many including the author of this writing.
When I became a Christian, my sense of compassion and also my desire to serve was greatly heightened. The Lord lead me and other officers to form an interdenominational group of Christian officers called Cops for Christ. That organization still exists today and is currently named Police Officers for Christ. The men and women from my era, as well as those that are currently involved in that ministry, are among the most dedicated officers in the country.
I’m a retired NYPD officer of 25 years, and I was also a co-founder of the ministry Cops for Christ, which enabled me to speak in many wonderful locations including at The Salvation Army. I have since retired with my wife of 61 years to Central Florida.
POLICE OFFICERS FOR CHRIST
In 1977, NYC Police Officer Gerald Francis surrendered himself to God by asking to forgive him of all his sins and asking Jesus Christ to come into his heart, making Jesus Christ Lord and Savior of his life. Francis followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit and began to bring other Christian officers together for a non-denominational fellowship. These fellowships led to the forming of Police Officers for Christ.
The organization was incorporated in 1981. In 1982, it received official recognition as an “evangelical fraternal organization” by the New York City Housing Police Department and the New York City Transit Police Department. In 1987, the organization changed from “Cops for Christ” to “Police Officers for Christ.” In 1988, the organization was formally accepted into the committee of police societies with the NYPD.
Police Officers for Christ passionately believes that there is one God, in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Through the Bible which is God’s word to humanity, we learn that all of humanity has sinned and therefore maintains a disconnected relationship with God. We believe that Jesus Christ was born on earth; fully God and fully man and lived a sinless life and died an innocent death as an atonement for all of humanities sins. We further believe that through God’s grace, people can be reconciled with God with the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross. We conclude that as Christians, we are now called children of God and are called to tell others of this amazing grace. To learn move visit pofcnypd.org.