Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2011

By Shelley Smith
SALISBURY — The faith of Deputy Lunda Eller of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office has been tested several times in her life — one time in particular 12 years ago.
Eller’s husband, Robert Clement, was responding to a call in Spencer when he was shot several times. He died a year later.
Eller and her four children were taken care of, though, through her family at church and the sheriff’s office, and through the Shield a Badge With Prayer program, started by Rev. Michael Taylor.
“Rev. Taylor and the Shield a Badge program have always included the children with any activities the Shield a Badge does — they’re part of the police family,” she said. “He will always make sure that he sends each one of my children (a card) in honor of their dad. He still calls all the children by their first name.
“And I make sure that any activity that Shield a Badge has that I do bring the kids because they’re appreciative of Shield a Badge taking care of me, and also helping to remember their dad.”
Shield a Badge with Prayer is celebrating its 16th year in Rowan County this month, and the program has grown significantly.
The program is simple — just pray for an officer every day, and send them a card to let them know they’re appreciated on their birthday and holidays.
The program has grown to 400 “prayer partners,” Taylor said, and with the growing economic hardships and increasing dangers for officers, more people are needed to pray.
“We just need more people willing to pray for them because of the dangers out there,” he said. “They don’t know what they’re going to face. Whether it’s pulling over a car or going to a house for a domestic, it’s so dangerous.
“We want to do what we can to protect them through the prayers of God’s people. It’s always good to know that you’re appreciated in what you do.”
Taylor gives every deputy, detective, detention center officer and communications employee a hardback copy of the Bible, a promise book filled with Bible verses and an index for quick access, and a copy of the New Testament. Each year, the officer receives a new promise book and other goodies. This past Christmas, he gave everyone a small toolkit that fits in their pocket and folds away like a knife.
“I think one of the greatest tools we can use to let officers know we care is prayer for their protection, and their guidance, and then they’ve got the Bible,” he said. “I try to help officers and their families, also, because they also need prayer and support.”
Taylor said the divorce rate for law enforcement officers continues to grow, as does the alcohol and drug abuse among officers.
“Officers are just as human as the rest of us are,” he said.
Taylor says he’d love to give every officer in Rowan County the same things as the sheriff’s office, and some officers are special requests, and he’s able to include them. But he can’t include everyone due to funding.
Shield a Badge with Prayer receives about $4,000 each year from the prayer partners and through donations, but to expand, he needs more. He sells a knife with the logo and the tool kit in the Landis office of the sheriff’s office, and also sells stickers for cars and other things promoting the program to raise funds.
He said that when an officer sees the sticker on someone’s car, it means a lot.
“It means it’s working,” he said of the program. “It’s in the public’s view.”
Taylor is the president of the N.C. Chaplain’s Association, which also helps to spread his Shield a Badge with Prayer program, along with the logo that he has copyrighted, and designed himself.
“I’m trying across the state to get a chaplain in every county, and also nationwide,” he said.
In 16 years, he’s given out more than 10,000 hard back Bibles and at least that many New Testaments, he said. He’s probably given out more than 5,000 promise books.
“I just enjoy giving,” he said. “But this program would not exist if the prayer partners were not there. It’s about them. It’s their participation, it’s their giving that makes this program work.
“Everybody can pray. My heart is saddened that we don’t’ have more people participating in this because of how big our county is. I’m sad more churches don’t adopt an officer.
“It’s a matter of life and death; prayer could help save an officer.”
Maria Brown is a prayer partner, and has been praying for an officer for about three years. Her women’s group at church has adopted an officer.
“It has helped me grow spiritually as an individual, and as a group, too, because you create a bond. A bond that can’t be broken because it’s God’s work you’re doing. It makes you stronger.”
May is Shield a Badge With Prayer Month, and today Taylor will celebrate the program’s 16th year in Rowan County.
Taylor says he loves what he’s doing, and hopes to see more people wanting to participate in the program.
“I want to continue to do this as long as the Lord permits me to do this,” he said. “This is one of the best things that I’ve ever done as far as a chaplain to let them know that we appreciate them and what they do.”
• • •
If you would like to start praying for an officer, or to donate to the program, contact Rev. Michael Taylor at 704-782-7201, or write to him at 2675 Phaniels Church Road, Rockwell, N.C., 28138. To purchase the fundraising materials contact Taylor or visit the Landis office of the sheriff’s office.