The National Football League’s Super Bowl LII took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Feb. 4, 2018. Because of the large number of people who attended this and related events in the city, security was tightened and officers were brought in from Homeland Security, FBI, CIA, the military and more. Below Pastor Sean Lee relates his experience as a volunteer police chaplain during this event. 

Jer. 29:7 says “…and work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare” (NLT). The word peace or welfare comes from the Hebrew word Shalom, which directly translates as “peace, welfare and completeness.” Jeremiah writes that we should not only pray for peace and welfare, but also work for the completeness of the community where we live.

We pray for the peace and completeness of our communities and cities, but what about the work part? Do our communities and cities look to us—the Adventist Church—when they need peace, welfare and completeness?

When I signed up to be a volunteer police chaplain for the Minneapolis Police Department, I did not know what it might bring to me and my church. It was—and still is—a difficult time for citizens throughout the nation due to unfortunate incidents related to the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers.

During the time I signed up, protests were taking place, and my heart was heavy for my community. I signed up for volunteer chaplaincy at MPD, hoping I could do something for my community.

To my surprise, many fellow chaplains had never met any Adventists or Adventist ministers. I thought to myself, There are more than 400,000 people in Minneapolis, and the Minnesota Conference just marked 10,000 members in the entire state of Minnesota, so to some degree it makes sense they don’t know who we are. I am representing a small portion of the population.

Taking on the challenge

A few months before Super Bowl LII, MPD chaplain coordinator Officer Jason Andersen told us the city would provide only one box meal for each officer on duty per day during the event. He was upset, but suggested the MPD chaplains partner with Breakthrough Ministry, which feeds homeless individuals in Minneapolis, to serve hot meals to the first responders group for the 10 days of the event.

We prayed about it and agreed to do it. As we began planning, though, we realized we would need a lot of food donations, financial donations and, of course, volunteers.

MPD officers listed the religious organizations they wanted to partner with. I did not find a single Adventist church on the list, which saddened me. I told the chaplains and the coordinator I would get my church, Southview Adventist Church, involved. I told them about Southview Church without the church board approval, which worried me, but I said we would do it anyway.

Southview Church did decide to support the effort, and donated eight 110-quart coolers. MPD designated four relief stations in the downtown area from Jan. 25 to Feb. 4 for the first responders, and these coolers were used to provide water and other cool beverages. I was proud to see that Southview members also signed up for volunteer work.

The Minneapolis Miracle

Working at the relief stations as an MPD chaplain, I saw officers flood into the four relief stations. These were officers from not just all over Minnesota, but from all over the nation. There were federal agents from the FBI, Homeland Security, U.S. Border Control, ICE and undercover agents who did not say what agency they belonged to. We had a military presence from the Minnesota National Guard and U.S. Coast Guard as well. We served hot meals to private K-9 units, EMS and the Minneapolis Fire Department.

The officers were thankful, and many told me they had expected to be miserable in the cold weather, but the relief efforts were a blessing. It is estimated approximately 16,000 meals were served. Everything was paid for by donations, and the MPD chaplains called it the “Minneapolis Miracle.”

When people saw volunteers from Southview Church, volunteers from other churches asked about the Adventist faith. At least 10 people asked me about my Adventist faith, our dietary guidelines and the Adventist church location. I even had a conversation with a National Guard soldier who questioned me about the purpose of life. It was amazing to see people open up and talk about their faith journey.

Connection, visibility and identity

As we work to reach our communities, we should think about three words: connection, visibility and identity. Do you have connection to your community? I am not suggesting that supporting first responders is the only way. What connection does your church have with your local community?

Is your church visible to the community? I am not just talking about the physical building. Do you participate in community events? Do they know your location? I hope you do not wait for people to come into your church, but rather actively seek people outside your church. People in your community should know there is an Adventist church where they can go when they are seeking God’s presence.

Are you ready to share your identity? When the Southview volunteers were at the relief stations, they stood out because they were not shy about sharing what they believe. People asked about Adventist worship, and we told them about the seventh day Sabbath.

I pray people in your community know about your congregation. I hope you are visible in your community. I also pray that people see Jesus through your presence and confidence in your identity as Seventh-day Adventists.

Sean Lee, pastor of the Southview Seventh-day Adventist Church.