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Five minutes with: Jon Fiester

Jon Fiester, right, receives a Community Service Award from Rapid City Police Chief Don Hendrix. Photo: Jon Fiester

The cops brought the donuts and the church brought the coffee. Just like every Tuesday morning, neighbors, police and people from Renewal MB Church sat around for coffee, donuts and conversation in the back yard at Knollwood Townhouses, an apartment complex near the church in Rapid City, S.D. But this time, the police chief showed up with a special surprise for Pastor Jon – a Community Service Award. The plaque read: “For directly impacting public safety and the quality of life for the citizens of Rapid City.”

Why does your church host coffee and donuts for the neighbors and police?

We planted this church in a neighborhood with high rates of poverty which comes with lots of crime. When people get out of their houses and meet their neighbors they start getting a feel for who the good neighbors are. We want as many people as possible to get to know each other, as well as the police in our neighborhood. This is one way to build trust and partnerships which will make the neighborhood safer.

What is it like for your church to partner with local police?

Our goals are different—the police care about crime prevention and I care about sharing the gospel of Jesus, but we can still do a lot of things together. The crime is a byproduct, a symptom that is fixed by the gospel. The police know that we care about what’s going on in our city, and we want to see the gospel have an effect on everywhere sin has had its impact.

What does that partnership look like on the ground?

We make our building available to the community—like bringing an indoor hockey rink where 300 people came and watched a professional hockey team play the neighborhood kids. We also live outside our building as much as we can. Last summer I and several others from church took turns walking the neighborhood at night when drug dealers are out in their black hoodies trafficking packages of drugs from place to place. Police are limited in what they can do, and the apartment said it was too dangerous to hire security guards, but there’s nothing stopping us from walking around to pray. I haven’t had a gun pulled on me yet.

How do you measure the success of your work?

When we started, our neighborhood had the city’s highest rate of calls to the police. Now we’ve dropped to #2. Our metrics aren’t buildings or budgets or butts in the seat. We’re looking for whether the gospel is having an impact everywhere sin has had its impact: Are family relationships being healed? Is the need for drugs going down? Is poverty being addressed? Sinful people do sinful things, disciple people do disciple things.

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