“Thirty-five … foot pursuit!” Moody called out on the radio as he ran.
“What’s your 10-20 thirty-five?” asked the dispatcher.
“Westbound on Hudson … 3500 block.” Moody continued to run, knowing that if he kept his eye on the perpetrator, he could outlast him, even though the guy had a head start.
Moody saw his partner, Landry, flying down Highland Ave. in the patrol car. “I have him in the alley!” Landry yelled over the radio, as Moody ran up behind him.
The Lieutenant rolled up at the same time Moody did, to find the suspect prone out in the alley.
“Why did you run?” asked the Lieutenant.
“I thought you were chasing me thinking I was one of the dudes robbing people in the Mitsubishi,” the suspect blurted out.
Josh Moody—recent Baylor graduate, lifelong Baptist and police officer in Baltimore, Md.—was hot on the tracks of a suspected robber. Once caught, booked and investigated, it turns out he and his partner had the wrong guy.
Moody grew up in Nashville, Tenn., attending Woodmont Baptist Church until high school, when his family started going to First Baptist Church downtown.
“I was often met with the ugliness of poverty in the city as I would enter and leave the church for gatherings,” Moody told EthicsDaily.com in a recent interview. “These encounters, combined with several mission trips during high school to inner-city areas, caused me to ask myself the question: ‘Why have I been given so much materially, filially, socially and spiritually?'”
Moody said he is still discovering the answer, but his best shot at the answer right now is that “I’ve been given all that I have in order to give it away, so that those without might know the glorious riches of Christ.”
One of Moody’s most influential classes at Baylor was Poverty in Waco, which was taught by the director of Mission Waco, an urban ministry.
“This class opened my eyes further to the reality that our cities are suffering greatly under the weight of cyclical poverty—not only poverty of money, but of family, of godly values, even of life,” Moody said.
However, his greater realization, Moody said, was that the church in America possessed every necessary resource to combat the problems of poverty, homelessness and drug addiction.
“I began to understand my calling to be, in some role, involved in ministering in and to the inner city,” Moody said. “A key to doing this effectively is living in the area one wants to reach. It is very difficult to live outside one’s ministry field, being a stranger to its realities, and to reach it effectively.”
After graduating from Baylor in 2000, Moody planned on either attending Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond or returning to Waco for an internship with Mission Waco in the fall. But he spent that summer working for Crosspoint Christian Sports Camp in Baltimore and is still in Baltimore today.
“We spent our weeks conducting sports camps in urban communities,” Moody said. The first church the group partnered with really caught his attention.
“Northside Baptist Church reflected the make-up of the neighborhood,” he said,” with a membership that is 48 percent African-American, 48 percent Anglo, four percent other and 100 percent serious about being the people of God.”
At a July Fourth barbeque, Moody met a police officer from the neighborhood.
“I was fascinated by the stories he told of his work,” Moody said. “As I went back to our house that night, I couldn’t shake the image of Josh Moody in a police uniform. I thought it was ridiculous, impractical and whimsical, for I was supposed to go to seminary. Right?”
For two months, Moody prayed fervently about becoming a cop and staying in Baltimore.
He remembered telling himself: “I would be able to learn first-hand about the reality of the needs in the city, while at the same time I would be meeting people every day who are at the end of their rope, desperate for any semblance of hope. Does this sound like a niche for ministry?”
He decided to make the move that September and finished the police academy in April 2001. His assignment: patrolling the southeastern district.
Moody said his primary responsibility as a patrol officer is to respond to 911 calls, which can consist of anything from neighbors disputing over trees crossing property lines to a drug-related shooting.
His secondary responsibility is to be proactive in preventing crime—stopping suspicious vehicles, enforcing traffic laws, curbing drug distribution, robberies, etc.
Moody said that about 90 percent of the crime he sees “is in some way related to narcotics: from … those who distribute the drug to the mid-level sellers who use stolen cars to transport, to the corner distributors who are often involved in gun violence, to the users who supply their habits by prostitution, burglary, larceny and armed robbery.”
So how is this fulfilling his call to ministry?
Remember the foot chase Moody described earlier? It has an interesting follow-up.
“About a month [after the arrest], I ran into the guy who had run from me and ended up on the ground in the alley,” Moody said. The man, he said, was very large and extremely fast.
Moody asked him why he wasn’t playing college football somewhere.
“He had been, and on a full scholarship at that,” Moody said, “until he got messed up with booze and marijuana and allowed his grades to drop below minimum standards. Now he was pitching dime-bags on the corner and running from police.”
Moody said he felt a connection during the conversation. Although the man may not have been ready to hear about the eternal opportunities available to him, Moody said the time will come.
“So, this is how my job is a ministry,” Moody said. “I see many of the same broken, hurting people repeatedly, and while I am often the bad guy for enforcing the rules, I seek to do so in a Christ-like manner. Eventually, the opportunity to discuss life and ultimately, the Life-giver, comes about.”
Moody said he won’t always be a cop. He still would like to attend seminary.
In the meantime, Moody said he wants to be a man who “sees the reality of the city and the possibility for God’s people to right the wrongs.”
Jodi Mathews is communications director for EthicsDaily.com.