Training Police in Colombia
AG World Missionary Chaplain Paul Robinson is well equipped for his role.For Paul R. Robinson, a Northern Missouri District missions trip to Colombia in 2001 ignited the calling.
After four years of active duty as a U.S. Marine, Robinson graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies from Central Bible College and a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. Yet in 1987 he had difficulty finding a youth pastorate position as entrée to ministry.
As a stopgap measure, Robinson went into police work. That temporary job resulted in 17 years in the field, including a decade as an adjunct police academy instructor at the Blue River Police Academy in Independence, Missouri.
But that missions trip convinced Robinson and his wife, Kristi, who worked as a corporate secretary at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City, that they should be part of something more consequential. So they began to make plans to leave their professions in order to transition to full-time ministry.
By 2004, the Robinsons had been approved as AG world missionaries. In the interim, M. Ray Brewer, then pastor of Tiffany Fellowship Church in Kansas City, mentored Robinson in ministry opportunities. Brewer is now superintendent of the Northern Missouri District.
In ramping up to become a missionary, Robinson over time voluntarily taught Sunday School, led men’s ministry, directed missions, and served on the Tiffany Fellowship board of directors. In 2006, the Robinsons went to Costa Rica for the AG’s language school to learn Spanish. Since 2007, they have lived in Bogotá, Colombia.
“Titles are important in Latin culture,” says Robinson, who received his chaplaincy endorsement in 2015. “Having the AG covering and chaplaincy endorsement opens doors to get into venues such as prison, hospitals, and military bases.”
With his police background, the National Police of Colombia agreed to allow Robinson, a fully appointed AG world missionary, to teach conversational English at its language school in Bogotá. He has instructed hundreds of Colombian officers in the past 11 years in classes that average 20 attendees. For lessons taught two or three times a week over three months, Robinson uses a bilingual Bible. At the end of each course, the vast majority of students accepted Jesus as their Savior.
“I never had to make apologies for sharing the gospel,” says Robinson, 58.
Massive changes have occurred in Colombia in the past couple of years. While the bombings and abductions carried out for decades by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) no longer are a threat, other paramilitary groups have stepped up criminal activity.
The Robinsons rely on the Holy Spirit as a guide to avoid dangerous situations.
Colombia police face a plethora of problems, including attempted bribery from corrupt elements, murderous threats from drug dealers, a low level of respect from the public at large, deficient wages, and a lack of empowerment to carry out their duties. Robinson says society at large views officers with the same contempt that the overall populace had for tax collectors in Jesus’ day.
David V. Woodworth, AG World Missions Andean area director, says not that long ago if a police officer came to a local church, the pastor assumed it would be to intimidate.
“For years, Colombia National Police have had to struggle with Marxist groups, paramilitaries, drug cartels, and a negative image with the general population,” Woodworth says. “However, now pastors and churches are seeing an open door to minister to these police officers and their families, thanks to the patient and persevering work of AGWM missionaries Paul and Kristi Robinson.”
In 2009, the Robinsons founded Heroes of Justice in an effort to better address the spiritual needs of law enforcement personnel. The Robinsons teach together, training officers in ethics, leadership, survival mentality, and a biblical perspective on the role of police officer as protector. The Robinsons also host teams that cover everything from basic first aid to advanced tactical training.
“We always talk about Christ and spiritual principles when training,” says Kristi, who graduated from CBC with a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education and is a credentialed AG minister.
“Because of Paul being a police officer in the U.S. and an ordained minister, his gift mix is crafted by God so that he and Kristi understand the pressures and dangers of their job, but also have the tools necessary to present a grace-filled gospel of Jesus Christ,” Woodworth says. “Paul and Kristi have not only provided quality training, but have also been able to pray and minister to officers and their families.”
The Robinsons serve as spiritual advisers to church leaders at an Assemblies of God church in Bogotá, El Poder de Su Amor (the Power of His Love).
In addition to being fluent in Spanish, Robinson has credibility with police officers because he is physically fit — and Latino himself. Although adopted by a white couple in Chicago as a 1-year-old boy, his biological parents — whom he knows nothing about — likely came from Puerto Rico.
Robinson’s next goal is to assist the Colombia Assemblies of God in starting a national chaplaincy office. AG pastors in Colombia who achieve chaplaincy recognition will gain more influence in their communities. “Only Catholic priests have the right to go unhindered into certain situations such as hospital visitation,” Robinson says. “The AG endorsement will give clout.” The U.S. Missions Chaplaincy Department has provided training for pastors wanting to be chaplains.
“AG world missionaries may receive chaplaincy endorsement to open doors that they could not go through otherwise,” says Manuel A. Cordero, senior director of Chaplaincy Ministries. “Paul’s police chaplaincy endorsement helps him accomplish his mission.”