Whenever asked to give the eulogy at a funeral, Crowe asks to see the Bible belonging to the deceased. Pages with scribbles, highlights and dog-eared pages often tell him about that individual's relationship with Christ. It's a strong sign that person understood and lived to carry out God's grace.
So it was that Crowe carried the burgundy Thompson Chain Reference Bible belonging to slain senior police officer Buddy Christian to a podium in Athens, Ga., as nearly 2,500 looked on March 27.
Christian, a deacon, Sunday School teacher and AWANA leader at Hull Baptist Church, was shot twice the previous Tuesday in responding as backup to a call. The suspect, 33-year-old Jamie Hood, eluded a manhunt for several days before giving himself up to authorities on live television that Friday night. Another officer shot by Hood is expected to recover.
"I could see in Buddy's Bible where he had underlined verses and marked pages," said Crowe, who has led Hull Baptist Church 18 years. "There were study clippings and notes where he prepared his Sunday School lessons.
"If a person didn't know Buddy Christian, they could open his Bible and know he was dedicated. It was important to him."
Written on the inside cover is a message from Christian's wife Melissa.
To my husband
I love you so much.
Merry Christmas, 1997
Buddy Christian began attending Hull Baptist Church as a teen and grew into a youth leader. A card from 1990 committing to pray for his youth group remained in his Bible. "He was very active," Crowe said, "and the kind of young man with leadership you could see, even at that age. Others looked up to him."
Crowe said Christian had been with the Athens Police Department for about eight years and had kept Bibles in his police cruiser and locker at work. In an occupation rife with danger, a favorite passage was Ephesians 6:10-20, where believers are told to put on the full armor of God.
"He wasn't afraid to share his faith," Crowe said. "He would speak to anyone about it. He didn't ever want to give up on people. In his view the people he arrested just needed someone to care ."
In addition to other duties at Hull Baptist Church, Christian operated the sound system and church sign. The Wednesday before he died, he came by on an off day to install a wireless modem to the front sign.
"He did that sort of thing a lot," church secretary Lorra McGough said. "He was a farrier and would shoe horses for people. His wife has a passion for horses and so he'd do that for her and friends. He was a very well-rounded person."
A note in Christian's Bible contains a definition of courage: Standing up for what we know is right.
"His role was to help people. It's why he became an officer," Crowe, pastor to six officers at Hull Baptist, said. "Buddy felt God put him in a position to help where others couldn't."
A brief break from police work to another county government department only solidified Christian's calling. Back on the force, he took a part-time job in security at Georgia Square Mall to better provide for Melissa and their children, Callie, 5, and Wyatt, 2. While on duty he'd gravitate to a children's store and read to the kids, explaining what officers did and that the children didn't need to be afraid.
"He'd teach the same thing to the kids at church," Crowe said.
Flipping through Christian's Bible, the pastor noted one passage, Colossians 1:5: "For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel."
It was the only passage Crowe noticed underlined in red. One word is scribbled in the margin: Grace.
Scott Barkley is production editor of The Christian Index (www.christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
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