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Equipped Seniors

Volunteer police department chaplains receive encouragement at conference.
BRANSON, Missouri — When speakers at the 2022 Senior Adult Ministries conference took the microphone in Branson, Missouri, they encouraged seniors to continue ministry activities, even during retirement. They may not have known how much the meetings helped two women who volunteer as chaplains for the Chicago Police Department, teaching the Bible to officers in one of the nation’s toughest law enforcement environments.

Donna M. Marquez and Jeanette Flynn-Frost, who attended their second consecutive Senior Adult conference together, followed different paths to their calling.

Marquez, 66, attended Latin American Bible Institute of the Assemblies of God in San Antonio. She served in ministry when a series of traumatic life events struck, including surgery, depression, and marital strife due to drug and alcohol addiction. Unable to save her marriage, Marquez didn’t know whether God could still use her in ministry. She found help through New Life Community Church in the greater Chicago area where her brother-in-law Mark Jobe serves as lead pastor (as well as president of Moody Bible Institute).

Marquez began serving part time in women’s ministry, but another tragedy shook her family in 2002 with the fatal shooting of her brother Donald J. Marquez, a Chicago police officer. As she worked through her grief, Donna began sensing a call to police chaplaincy. After training, she began working in 2006 with Gold Star law enforcement families and became a volunteer chaplain through the International Conference of Police Chaplains.

Meanwhile, God also prepared Jeanette Flynn-Frost, 64, for ministry. She joined the Chicago Police Department in 1985, when few women were on the force, and served 36 years as a patrol officer, sergeant, and lieutenant in both the patrol and detective divisions before retiring in 2021. During her final 3½ years of duty, she worked at the training academy as an instructor.

In 2016, Flynn-Frost joined a Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers (FCPO) Bible study, and the following year she started a Bible study for women officers along with Sgt. Carrie Cooney. In 2018, with permission from academy supervisors, Flynn-Frost began a weekly Christian prayer service. She knew she needed more Bible training.

Marquez and Flynn-Frost met through the FCPO Bible study, and as they became friends, Marquez began helping with the study. Daily devotions are also held as officers prepare to head out for shifts, using the book Cops on the Street by Grant Wolf. Readings are based on real stories of faith and courage in tough situations; Marquez’s story of her brother is one of them.

“There is a lot of focus in the department on officer wellness, and spiritual wellness is a component of that,” says Capt. Michael Patrick Murphy, one of the regular attendees of services. “You can tell from their conversations that it’s making a difference with the officers.”

Marquez also has taken steps to transfer her ministry credentials to the AG, rebuild connections with the Midwest Latin District, and enroll in classes at Trinity University. After hearing AG General Superintendent Doug Clay speak at a district event, Marquez suggested Frost-Flynn join her at the annual Senior Adult Ministries conference in 2021. They found it so encouraging, they decided to attend again last fall.

“Jean has been unashamedly vocal about her faith, allowing Christ to work through her,” Murphy says. “From her example, I’ve become bolder about praying with more people. Nobody has turned down an offer of prayer.”

Law enforcement ministry is not for the faint of heart. Flynn-Frost understands the emotions officers face as they head out for duty. Marquez shared a recent heartrending story of a young female victim of a drugged drink and a stalker. The woman didn’t want the notoriety of filing charges because of her high profile in the community.

“A chaplain is in a position to gently talk someone into the need for a police report,” Marquez says. “But stories like this, or seeing gang-related violence for years, or helping families in their worst tragedies, can take a toll. Sometimes, a chaplain needs a chaplain.”

That’s why support like the conference is important. Marquez gained the resources and strength she needed last year to return home to conduct the funeral of a friend’s husband who had died in a motorcycle crash.

“The message of passing the baton, but not getting out of the race, in order to teach and encourage new leaders, was eye-opening,” Flynn-Frost says of the 2022 conference; she is putting that concept to work with younger officers.

With encouragement and connections from the conference, Marquez plans to obtain AG Chaplaincy Ministries endorsement and is also writing a tract for first responders. Flynn-Frost also is considering further study. Both women have the next Senior Adult Ministries Conference on their calendars.

G. Bob Cook, appointed as national Senior Adult Ministries director last September, enjoyed meeting Marquez and Flynn-Frost.

“I was impressed by their zest for life and ministry, but I also loved what they do,” says Cook, who served as a chaplain for the Grand Junction Police Department for five years while pastoring in Colorado. “We had a connection right away.”

Cynthia J Thomas

Cynthia J. Thomas worked for Assemblies of God U.S. Missions for six years before becoming primary caregiver for her father, a World War II veteran. She has served as a counselor for victims of domestic violence and women facing crisis pregnancies. Cindy and her husband, Phil, a schoolteacher, volunteer in youth outreach and have three adult children and one granddaughter.