By Paige Nash
James Hester has been named the new Bienville Parish Sheriff’s Office (BPSO) department chaplain. Hester has previously worked for the Red River Parish Sheriff’s Office and Red River Fire Department for a combined 15 years. He has also served as the active Pastor of Social Springs Baptist Church in Ringgold for the last ten years and is a member of the BPSO Communications Department.
Hester participated in a week-long training program called the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) Rapid Response Team Law Enforcement Chaplain Training in Charleston, South Carolina. Pastors, chaplains, active and retired law enforcement officers traveled from New York City, Chicago, parts of Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana and the Carolinas to take part in this program that is geared toward biblical based training. Completion of this program equips the participants with better knowledge on what to say or -what not to say- to those who have been affected by man-made or natural disasters.
“The chaplain training in Charleston last week turned into a revival meeting of sorts,” said Hester. “We immediately formed a special bond and all in attendance remarked throughout the week that it was a series of divine appointments.”
This curriculum covered a broad range of topics relating to the multitude of challenges and obstacles that present-day law enforcement agents face. Subjects that were discussed included Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Critical Incident Stress Management and Introduction to Crisis Ministry.
“We also learned some very sobering statistics regarding law enforcement officers, such as 80 percent will experience traumatic incidents during their careers,” said Hester. “10-15 percent will be diagnosed with PTSD, the number of officers who die from suicide is more than double the number killed in the line of duty, with a lifetime suicide idealization at 23 percent among female officers and 25 percent among male officers. The struggles, as they say, are real and many are unique to the job of the law enforcement officer.”
That is where the department chaplain steps in. They serve as a confidant, counselor and a friend to the men and woman who serve, as well as their families. Some of those duties include crisis response, spiritual guidance, prayer ministry within the sheriff’s department and community, among many other things.
Hester is excited to expand his role at the BPSO.
“Public service has always been near and dear to my heart. The Bienville Parish Sheriff’s Office is more than a workplace; it is a family,” said Hester. “The servant’s heart that defines our leadership runs throughout the ranks. The men and women I serve with see their role as more than a career; it is a calling. They are honored to truly serve the citizens of Bienville Parish. I see them go above and beyond on every shift and I consider myself blessed to be part of such a great team.”
Hester believes there is an undercurrent of revival among the nations “Thin Blue Line,” and he is encouraged by it. With the support of God, his wife, Sheriff John Ballance and the Bienville Parish community, he is ready to serve to the best of his abilities.
“If you see a BPSO unit out and about, look for the words, ‘In God We Trust’ emblazoned across the back glass. We may be referred to as the authorities, but that is the ultimate Divine Authority upon Whom we depend,” said Hester.
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