Archive: On Being a Christian Cop

Meet Don Osgood, a United Methodist layman who shares his faith on and off the beat.

by G. Wayne Rogers

“Every morning when I go to work I ask God to let me be the policeman He wants me to be and to guide me and protect me. I know that any day could be my last.”

“Christian policing” is the business that United Methodist layman Don Osgood of the Montgomery, Alabama, police department is in. And it isn’t an easy business. Especially when a bank robber is firing at him with a rifle, or when he’s storming a house where an armed man holds hostages.

But it seems to be his calling in life and he enjoys it. “I thank God that He allows me to live a Christian life policing,” says the affable 6’4″ officer. “I know that as long as I follow God and hold the hand of Christ, everything will turn out all right regardless of what happens. Being a Christian cop I’m not fighting a losing battle because I know that I have Christ to help me.”

A family man with a wife and two teen-age sons, Don has been a policeman for over 20 years.

Although a Christian policeman may seem hard to come by in larger American cities these days, Chief Osgood insists that he is only one of many. A number of men on the Montgomery force hand out tracts and are not ashamed to witness for the Savior, and five of his friends have left the force to go into fulltime Christian service.

Don does a lot of witnessing himself, both to those he meets in the streets everyday, and to other policemen. One night when he was cruising the city alone, a rookie called on his car radio about midnight asking Osgood to meet him.

Pulling up alongside, he snapped off his engine and radio and turned to the young man. “Cap,” he began, “what do I have to do to be saved?”

Slipping his fingers into his shirt pocket, Osgood took out a New Testament and showed him the plan of salvation. The boy accepted Christ.

The hardy police officer busies himself with the Lord’s work when he’s off duty, too. Since his conversion in 1955, Don has been involved in countless revivals and lay witness missions, giving his testimony in both word and song in churches, prisons, and many other places.

Last October he was leading the singing during a revival at Asbury United Methodist Church in Montgomery, when he got involved in a new kind of ministry-missions. The Rev. Maurice Stevens, a United Methodist evangelist who founded Missionary World Service and Evangelism, was preaching.

One evening Maurice told Don, “Your ministry lacks one thing-a trip to the mission field.”

The very next evening a couple informed him that God had spoken to them about paying his expenses to Colombia on a work crusade with MWS&E.

That’s where Don Osgood went the following January, with 16 other United Methodist laypeople from the United States.

Three weeks before time to leave, his plane fare was unexpectedly paid from Montgomery to Florida where the crusade group was to meet.

Osgood was shaken at the sight of little children sleeping in the streets of Bogota, huddling in doorways, covered only with old newspapers and cardboard boxes. He had seen poor children in ghetto areas of American cities, but this was unlike anything he’d known.

Working on a missions construction project for most of the Colombia crusade, Don had lots of time for spiritual reflection while he mixed and poured concrete.

Commenting on the Spirit-filled life as he worked, the 44-year-old Alabama man observed to a fellow-laborer, “It’s a tremendous thing that the Holy Spirit can dwell within a human being and give him joy that he never had before, a joy that’s unspeakable. It’s like the beauty of the mountains here in Bogota and La Mesa.

“And there’s no way in the world for me to be able to explain to anyone what it really means to know Christ and have the Holy Spirit dwell within me and guide me. I just can’t explain it.”

As he spread concrete under the broiling Colombian sun, Assistant Chief Osgood thought back to 1955 and his conversion to Christ in a little church in a jungle on Guam. He was in the Air Force, and that Sunday morning the chaplain had preached on Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Walking back to the barracks that humid evening, God started dealing with him. Quickly doing an about-face, he headed into the base chapel to pray, and there accepted the Lord as Savior.

Twenty-one years had passed, and now Don looked back praising the Lord as he worked building the chapel in Bogota. “It’s a great life!” he exclaimed aloud with a glitter in his eye, as wet concrete splattered his shoes. “I tell people that I’ve lived on both sides of the river, so to speak, and I don’t intend to go back to the other side.”

Like many other United Methodists, Don and his family had helped support missionaries—to Haiti, Mexico City, Africa, and other places. But he discovered a new awareness of missions when he went to Colombia, a new consciousness of boys and girls, and men and women who have never heard about Jesus Christ.

Though he thinks often of the richness of his Colombian experiences, Don Osgood knows that God’s work for him at present is on the police force of Montgomery. For that city also, as for Bogota, Jesus died.


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