Jermaine Gayle was stopped by East Lansing police officer Steve Whelan. At first it wasn't pleasant, but the outcome was sweet.
Jermaine Gayle was in a hurry.
It was Friday, the end of a long week, and he had overslept. Jermaine, who serves as program director for the Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students (C.A.M.P.U.S), was scheduled for an 8 a.m. Bible study with his friend, Jason. By the time he hopped in his car, he was already running 20 minutes late to his office near Michigan State University. As he raced to his destination, Jermaine failed to notice a stop sign. Thankful there was no accident, he hoped no one else had seen him run the stop sign – but someone did. Without skipping a beat, a police car a few meters away turned on its flashing lights.
I’m only four minutes away. This is not good! Jermaine thought miserably. He sat in his car and waited for the officer’s interrogation.
"Do you know why I pulled you over?”
“Yes,” Jermaine responded resignedly.
"Are you in a hurry?" the officer inquired. Jermaine explained his tumultuous morning, and with a smile the officer responded, "Don't worry, this will not take too long."
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, the officer came back with more questions. Jermaine explained that he served as one of the pastors of the University Seventh-day Adventist Church, that he was involved in student ministry, and that he was on his way to do Bible study with a friend. The officer seemed genuinely interested and to Jermaine’s surprise, he handed back his driver’s license and insurance papers, saying, "Here is my business card. I am the coordinator for the chaplaincy department in the city of East Lansing. If you are ever interested in doing a ride along with the police department let me know."
Jermaine was amazed, and a little confused. A ride along? This opportunity to ride with officers and understand the communities needs through their lens was a God-send. Me, a sinner? This was one of the most awkward answers to prayer Jermaine ever experienced.
It was only months ago that Jermaine had made it a point to pray for the city he served and worshipped in. He always thought that serving people who are involved in shaping and leading his local city was important and had been praying that God would provide some opportunity to meet these individuals, so as to foster a good relationship. That morning, God seemed to provide an opportunity in the midst of humiliation—a stark reminder that He is ultimately in charge of everything.
Later that day, Jermaine sent an email to the police officer, Steve Whelan. For several weeks there was no response. Until one day, while helping a church member unload some things from her car, he saw a police car pull into the church’s driveway. It was Officer Whelan. The two talked for a while and as Jermaine showed him around, the officer again indicated that he wanted to connect for the ride along. An appointment was set.
When Jermaine walked into the police department ready to ride side by side with Officer Whelan, he was a little surprised that Whelan took extra time to give a station tour and introduce him to the leaders. Over and over, Officer Whelan would jokingly tell the story of how Jermaine was pulled over after running a stop sign. “Each time the story was told, I felt more humbled but realized that God was doing something special that I could not possibly take credit for,” said Jermaine.
It wasn’t long after this that Jermaine would come to realize the remarkable opportunity God was orchestrating. The East Lansing Police Department would later extend an offer for Jermaine to join the department as chaplain!
It has been a few months now, and each time Jermaine sits in a police car he says he’s thankful for the opportunity to serve. “Having done a few ride-alongs I am learning a new culture; my eyes are being open to new needs in my community. My prayers are being answered by a God who cares for and extends grace to me as a pastor and to those in uniform who strive to keep us safe.
“My prayer is that God would continue to allow us to see beyond our current situations and to allow Him to work His perfect will in our lives each day. I am often reminded of this experience and each time I ask the Lord to take me and use me in whatever ways He sees fit.”
For information on the work of CAMPUS, visit: https://campushope.com
Andrews University journalism graduate Shannon Kelly serves as a freelance writer.