A Profile of Faith & Courage: Elder Joshua C. Shelton, Sr
By Stephanie A. Gadlin
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Officer Joshua Shelton, 33, remembers the time he first saw a homicide victim; a young, black man who had been shot and killed. The victim was left dying on his feet while his family, including a small child, was upstairs.
“[Seeing that man] was something I couldn’t get out of my head for a long time,” Shelton said softly, as a glimmer of pain flashed in his eyes. “This man had died standing up, and his family was upstairs. We escorted them out of the building using a ladder through a window. We couldn’t let them see him like that. For a long time, I couldn’t get this victim out of my mind. Praying about it constantly, God reminded me that we need to hold on to the promise of everlasting life, and, that what the wicked is gaining is stored up for the righteous.”
Shelton, who is seeking a Masters Degree in Urban Leadership at Northern Seminary’s South Side Center, works full-time as the faith-based liaison with the Chicago Police Department’s 7th District in the Englewood neighborhood.
It is in Englewood, with a declining population of about 35,000 residents, that he has come face-to-face with not only death, violence, and crime, but also the effects of poverty, under-resourced public schools, a lack of mental health services, economic opportunity and gainful employment for both youth and adults.
“My work in law enforcement is informed by me being an evangelist. I’m able to see people for who they are and not what I think they ought to be. I have compassion and understanding, so much so, that people in the community have dubbed me the “Praying Police” [sic].”
The soft-spoken officer said it was his work in the 7th District that led him to the next phase of his pedagogical journey when he was invited to enroll in Northern Seminary South Side campus. Students enrolled in the program engage complex social and cultural issues facing urban communities, including systemic racism, poverty, violence, and incarceration.
Officer Shelton believes church leaders should be equipped and prepared. “Education is key to the advancement of God’s Kingdom,” Shelton said. “This program has helped me deal with the conflicts between God’s law and man’s law. It has opened my eyes to looking at the community in a different light. You look at people as who they are, because that’s how God sees us.”
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