It had never been done before, but on Sunday local pastors held a prayer service for Surry Couinty Sheriff Jimmy Combs.
The service was held at Temple Baptist Church, between Mount Airy and Dobson on N.C. 601, and kicked off at 3 p.m.
“Why pray for the sheriff, the sheriff’s office and law enforcement?” asked Jonathan Barker, who went on to answer his own question. “In case you haven’t watched the news, they are under attack.”
Barker, who heads the Sheriff’s Office Ministry, noted if he was a law enforcement officer, he would want somebody to pray for him. Barker, with the help of some other local pastors, put together the prayer service for Combs, who he considers both his sheriff and his friend.
Citing 1 Timothy 2, Barker told the hundreds of people who assembled on Sunday that God commanded them to pray for those in positions of authority, as their authority is derived from God. Additionally, God commands that we take the needs of others before Him.
He said it’s a two-way street at the sheriff’s office, however. Comb’s has become somebody on whom Barker can count when he needs a prayer. The new sheriff has been known to pull the car over and pray when somebody is in need of a prayer. He has also shown up at the hospital in Barker’s family’s time of need.
In closing, Barker compared Combs, who was appointed to the sheriff’s post on Friday, to the stone David used to kill Goliath.
He said the stone had three phases of being. It lay in a brook, where its corners were smoothed by the water, much like how the teachings of Jesus smooth people. It was then placed in a bag, where it was concealed and kept ready for when it would be needed.
The stone is then revealed again when David pulls it from the bag on the field of battle.
“God reached down in the bag,” said Barker of Combs’ appointment.
He said for more than three decades Combs had been in the bag, quietly working at the sheriff’s office.
Nearly 15 years of that time was spent as chief deputy, a position in which Combs played second fiddle to Sheriff Graham Atkinson and Sheriff Connie Watson prior to that.
Before that, God also smoothed Combs.
After taking the podium, Combs explained that about seven years ago he was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live.
However, God’s plan was not to end Combs’ life on earth at the age of 48.
“I sat in my patrol car and cried,” said Combs of his first day back to work after beating the disease.
Shortly thereafter, he was asked to do a testimonial at a local church, but Combs said he wasn’t sure that was something he wanted to do or even could do.
“(Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant) Danny Griffith said, ‘Maybe that’s why the good Lord left you here,’” recounted Combs.
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” Combs read from the book of Matthew.
He noted those two commandments would be the foundation of his administration.
“That’s easy preaching from the bullpen,” said Combs. “It’s harder to practice.”
He called his appointment as the sheriff “wonderful because of all the good that can be done from that position.”
Sunday’s program ended when Combs knelt down to pray. With every minister in the sanctuary surrounding Combs, those in attendance offered the new sheriff their support by way of prayer.
During the program, two programs at the sheriff’s office were highlighted.
Butch Spurlin told the crowd which had gathered about the Jail Ministry in Surry County. Spurlin, who was an inmate at one time, is thankful the sheriff’s office has left the door opened to the ministry’s 25 volunteers.
Spurlin said those volunteers minister in the jail. Throughout the course of any week, every inmate is given the opportunity to sit down for a one-on-one conversation with a pastor.
“We get real nervous at election time,” said Spurlin. “We don’t know if the door will stay open.”
He said the door will remain open under Combs, and that’s a good thing. The Jail Ministry changes lives.
“I couldn’t tell them how it would happen,” said Spurlin as he recounted the story of two inmates who had turned life around with a little help from above. “I could only tell them the only starting place I know.”
The husband and wife were addicted to drugs and had lost their children. They had no home and no automobile. After giving their lives to Jesus, they turned it all around. Spurlin said they hold jobs and have custody of their children in their home, and they attend church at every given opportunity.
Barker also highlighted the Sheriff’s Office Ministry, telling those who gathered there is a devotion ceremony held at the office on every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.