Over fifty people attended the first meeting of Up-Armored LEOs, a fellowship of Christian law enforcement officers on Thursday, December 3rd, 2015.  Chaplain Mike Brummitt, Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Lake Worth hosted the meeting.  Major Tony Araujo and his wife, Pam Araujo, Lieutenant Tristran Moore, and Deputies Adrian Maldonado and Chad Shane all shared their vision for the organization.

“We’re going to lift our needs up. We all have them. I understand that every person is at a different point in their walk with the Lord. I will accept you the way you are, but encourage you to move on in the Lord.”  Tony Araujo

After enjoying lunch, donated by Chick-fil-A, the officers gathered into the sanctuary to listen to the faith journey and vision of the founders as well as the testimony of a retired police officer.  The officer shared his intimately personal story of tragedy and sad choices that led to his demise as a deputy; a journey he feels could have been avoided had an organization like Up-Armored LEOs been available to him.

Major Tony Araujo Shares His Faith and Vision

Major Tony Araujo

Araujo began by confessing, “I’m like most of the people in this room; broken, a sinner.” Declaring the territory a “No-Judgement Zone” he explained, “Hospitals are not made for healthy people.”

Major Araujo spoke of his Catholic upbringing and his relationship with Jesus Christ. He admits, “It’s about trying to get better because I sin every day. I get upset. I say things.” But each new day he strives once again to imitate Christ.  Quoting Ephesians 6:10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might,” he claims victory, “Because I’m weak and broken, not because I’m strong.”

Araujo said that the organization is still a work in progress, without a script, and wants the input from other officers as to what they would like Up-Armored LEOs to become.

In addition to reiterating the No-Judgement Zone, Major Araujo outlined some of the core standards, based on what he is willing to commit to.

  • What I say here and see hear, stays here.
  • I will say nothing that might be injurious or embarrassing to the group or to anyone.
  • I will be as open with my life as I can.
  • I will show myself to you, letting you know who I am as a person.
  • I will respect, love, and affirm you no matter what you have said or done in the past.
  • I will love you as you are.
  • I will asked to be held accountable.
  • Pray for me. I’ll pray for you. We’ll pray for one another.

Regarding prayer, Major Araujo said, “We’re going to lift our needs up. We all have them. I understand that every person is at a different point in their walk with the Lord. Every one of us. I will accept you the way you are, but encourage you to move on in the Lord.”

Araujo shared his own recent experience with prayer, “I was praying last night that at least twelve of you would show up.”  Looking into the crowd, he continued, “It was a prayer answered that all of you are here.”

He concluded his talk with the advice, “Let your faith, family and friends define who you are, not what you do for a living.”

Deputy Adrian Maldonado Shares How it All Started

Deputy Adrian Maldonado
Deputy Sheriff Adrian Maldonado

As Deputy Sheriff Adrian Maldonado took the podium, his deep faith and humble demeanor were evident before he even began telling the story of his faith journey.

Following his personal testimony, he expressed his concern for the country, “We don’t have a race problem. It’s not a moral problem. We have a God problem.  Since we’ve taken God out of everything, this is what happens.”

Deputy Maldonado continued telling of his passion for America, and his gratitude that he and his wife are able to homeschool their daughter. “I love it because we learn together how this country was founded on Christian beliefs; Biblical beliefs.  And throughout the years, we’ve taken God out of our education, schools, work, everywhere that’s public.  Everyone’s offended by us saying that we believe in Jesus Christ.”

 “We don’t have a race problem. It’s not a moral problem. We have a God problem.  Since we’ve taken God out of everything, this is what happens.”

Then he shared how the vision of Up-Armored LEOs began with his visit to Colorado to see his brother, who is a robbery/homicide detective near Colorado Springs. His brother invited him to a meeting at his church and Deputy Maldonado was amazed to discover that it was a gathering of local law enforcement officers, from the sheriff to detectives, to members of the FBI.  He immediately thought that this was something that was needed in South Florida.

Maldonado felt inadequate to accomplish the task of founding an organization like Up-Armored LEOs.  “So this is back in February and I’m going to tell you the truth, for a while I was battling, ‘I’m like…nobody.  How am I going to start something like this?’ That’s the way I felt.”

Image that went viral, of Deputy Maldonado praying for someone in need
Image that went viral, of Deputy Maldonado praying for someone in need

When a picture of Deputy Maldonado praying with a homeless man in a parking lot went viral on Facebook, fellow officers began contacting him, thanking him and encouraging him for his faith.  “That kind of got the ball rolling.”

He went to Chaplain Mike Brummitt who immediately said that this was an answer to prayer.  He had been wanting to do something like this for years.

He met with Deputy Sheriff Chad Shane, who shared a similar vision and the two together requested a meeting with Major Araujo. “We knew he was a believer. We just needed support.”

As to the implementation of Up-Armored LEO, DS Maldonado said, “God ordained it. I was obedient, but it was nothing that I did.”

Deputy Chad Shane Encourages Fellow Officers to Be Influencers

Deputy Sheriff Chad Shane

Deputy Chad Shane had a vision parallel to Deputy Maldonado’s, of providing a platform for officers to support one another in faith and fellowship.  Shane has been applying his background as an entrepreneur to set up the organization and provide marketing through social media.  Deputy Shane spoke of the temptations police officers face and the need for a support system.  He hopes that as “iron sharpens iron” the men and women in law enforcement will come together to serve one another.

Deputy Shane hopes that law enforcement officials will go away encouraged to use their influence to make a difference in someone else’s life.  He cautioned the officers to be mindful of who they allow to influence them, “You’re going to be influenced by something. What is it that you are going to allow yourself to be influenced by?”

Lieutenant Tristan Moore Vows to Get Involved

Lieutenant Tristan Moore
Lieutenant Tristan Moore

A few months ago, Lt. Moore was shocked to discover that a friend and fellow officer had taken his own life. He expressed concern over the pervasive problems and suicide rates that officers are forced to deal with each day.  “If America is having so many problems, we need to realize that it exists in the department as well.” Moore felt that he should have known something was wrong before his friend committed suicide and vowed to do things differently the next time, even if he has to “be nosey” and ask questions.

Moore said that officers are constantly helping other people, but they also need to help each other. “We need to embrace each other as brother and sister.”

Lt. Moore grew up in a Christian household and attended Christian high school, but didn’t fully embrace his faith until sports anxiety prompted him to reach out to a pastor at the University of Miami.

Lt. Moore and his wife are concerned for the future of their four children in light of everything that is going on in the world today. Moore wants to do something to effect a positive change.

The mission of Up-Armored LEOs is to raise up the Body of Christ within law enforcement and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Deputy Maldonado said, “There’s a bigger battle out there than just going about your route.  Satan is at the top of his game right now. He is seeking to kill and destroy. He’s trying to wreak havoc within the law enforcement community.”  But through the fellowship and support of Christians within the department, these men, with God’s help, are determined to change that.