CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Rev. Frank Ruffatto comes to his new job as pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church with an unusual resume.
He is a former police officer and homicide detective. But understanding human nature plays a role in police work as well as ministry, said Ruffatto, who has shared his faith in both capacities.
"There is nothing like sharing the gospel and seeing lives changed," he said.
Ruffatto, 47, grew up in Maryland on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., where his father was a police officer.
"After seeing what my father went through, I didn't want any part of it," he said.
He was the youngest of three children born to John and Donna Ruffatto, who now live in North Carolina. His brother, Steven, is a retired police officer and now a professor of criminal justice in Pennsylvania. His sister, Toni Montgomery, is a former police officer and now a married mother of three living in North Carolina.
After a stint in the U.S. Air Force, Frank Ruffatto returned home to the D.C. area where he hung out with police officers, "caught the bug and went to the academy."
He worked for Prince George's County Maryland Police Department as a detective in various units, including homicide, behavioral sciences, and child and vulnerable adult abuse. He often shared his faith to encourage others, including fellow officers.
In instances when he believed justice was not served, he took comfort in knowing God was the ultimate judge.
He recalls hugging a mother whose son had been murdered and the killer set free.
"My call was to bring justice as humanly possible," said Ruffatto, who says he understands God's role in justice and mercy.
He continued to serve as a police officer while working on an undergraduate degree in liberal arts.
"I was working in the child abuse unit, and my family was very active in the church," he said. "I dealt with social workers on lots of sex abuse cases. Some social workers said religion was not their thing. I wore my faith on my sleeve. For a while, I considered Christian counseling for kids."
He studied behavioral science and theology at Concordia College in Bronxville, N.Y., and eventually told his wife, Terri Lynn, that he was considering a call to the ministry.