As a policeman - particularly working in Northern Ireland, which has seen more than its fair share of atrocities and injustices - you are constantly exposed to the darkest shades of human nature, witnessing some of the most cruellest ways in which man can display his inhumanity to man.
It’s little wonder many of us would therefore question how a member of the security forces could continue to have faith in God, when there appears to be so much vileness in the world.
Yet that is exactly why the need for the Christian Police Association, a worldwide organisation which seeks to support and offer fellowship to Christian police officers, is greater than ever.
And people like Superintendent Sam Donaldson, who is president of the Northern Ireland branch, remain unwavering in their own personal trust in God - in fact, in spite of all that they see, it runs deeper.
“I would say my faith is never questioned, but it reminds me that God is the answer to all these problems, and that is why I keep doing what I do,” says the softly spoken policeman, who himself gave his life to Christ when he was a nine-year-old boy.
Today, his is a role he values, within an organisation that most of those involved in feel is a lifeline for them, busy, shift-working Christian police officers, many of whom are also family men and fathers, with responsibilities, to God, to their family, to their career.
The CPA provides fellowship for them; indeed, this is just one of the organisation’s five ‘principles’, the others being ethical values, proclamation, organisation and finance.
These principles are manifested in a wide variety of ways. For example, the Northern Ireland branch organises annual Holiday Bible Weeks, fellowship weekends, Christmas meals, carol services, publish a newsletter every three months, and has a pastoral worker.
Members and supporters meet in a number of different areas in a variety of forums, to provide opportunities for fellowship, support and social interaction.
And as Sam reveals, praying for one another - as well as unsaved police officers - is something which is also of great importance.
“We regularly pray for our country, we pray for our colleagues, and for safety,” he says, before going on to reveal that the CPA is an organisation that is as old as the Boy’s Brigade.
“It was actually founded back in 1883 by a lady called Catherine Gurney OBE in England, who also helped set up Police Convalescent Homes around the UK.
“Why? Well, it was about fellowship and a recognition from the outset that policing was a difficult, emotional and mentally challenging role.
“It was about people who shared the same faith and role being able to associate and have fellowship. I do often say to folks that there are two things that we have to do.
“Number one is to make sure that our colleagues have opportunities to have that fellowship. It is our responsibility to make that happen through the various events that we arrange.”
Sam says that hand in hand with this objective is praying for colleagues who are not Christians.
“We are a Christian organisation, and we want to see our colleagues brought to Christ. We are not the kind of organisation that runs missions or runs around telling people, ‘you need to be saved.’
‘‘But we live our lives in a way that we hope makes others say - ‘there is something different about that guy’ and think that we are honest, ethical and upright.
“We live and conduct our lives in a way that we hope will bring glory to our organisation, and also glory to our Saviour.
“We would hold prayer meetings and things like that, and we would certainly pray for the salvation of our colleagues, and take steps to try and get the gospel into people’s hands.
“But we’re not an ‘in your face’ organisation.
“At the end of the day there are people who fundamentally disagree with the CPA and we absolutely respect that, and it’s important that we continue to do so.”
The Northern Ireland branch works alongside a number of branches within the majority of police forces throughout the UK - the headquarters is based in Bedford - and they in turn have links with similar Christian Police fellowships around the world.
Sam says that the Northern Ireland branch is “easily the strongest one in the UK.”
He continues: “We have about 150 very active, supportive members here in the Northern Ireland branch. We have about 600 associated members i.e. people who are interested in the Association, who get our magazine, and who would attend the odd event, and then there are a world of people beyond that who still are connected to CPA - wives, husbands, retired members.”
As Sam explains, the CPA reflects church life as a whole in that it comprises “members from all different denominations who believe in different types of worship, and are happy to use different versions of the Bible.”
However he adds: “But the foundations of CPA do not change - the basis of faith remains the same, and I suppose like any modern church, there are different views. I suppose the challenge for CPA is to find a way through that, and to make sure that fellowship meets the needs of as many people as possible.”
This can sometimes be difficult on a practical level for pressured police officers.
As Sam explains: “One of the issues for police officers is that we work very odd hours, so there are occasions when you are working all day on a Sunday and you might not get near your own church. Therefore you may feel it appropriate to go along to a CPA event.
‘‘For example, a CPA Lite is one of the events that we run, which is on a Friday night once every other month. A guest speaker will come along, and there’s a bit of pizza and prayer time as well.
“So there is an opportunity to augment what you’re doing in your own church.
‘‘But one thing we feel very strongly about is that we would never advocate getting involved in CPA to the detriment of your own church, and more importantly, to the detriment of your own family. Because your God is your priority, your family is your next priority. and then you have this whole mix of work, CPA, and your own church.
“We would never advocate that you do anything that creates a negativity or a barrier to any of those things, and that’s an important point.”