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New chaplain believes in the power of presence

Bob Giffin became the chaplain at Topeka Presbyterian Manor in May, but he was already familiar with the mission of PMMA (Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America).

When he served as pastor of First Church of the Nazarene in Lawrence, Bob often visited congregants who lived at Lawrence Presbyterian Manor. He got to know the former chaplain there and occasionally spoke during chapel services.

“I got to have my heart and my eyes open to life at Presbyterian Manor,” Bob said. “Calling on the residents was something that gave me a real sense of fulfillment.”

Bob, who is 67, has pastored four churches in Missouri and Kansas, and he still serves as an associate pastor at Grace Pointe Church in Topeka, which is “very much a part-time role,” he said. “I was looking for a little bit more to do.”

He brings an emphasis on “the ministry of presence” to his work at Presbyterian Manor.

“I’ve preached hundreds and hundreds of sermons over the years,” Bob said. “People can’t tell you two days later what you preached about, generally speaking, but they remember the pastor was there.

“As St. Francis of Assisi said, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

Bob received his call to pastoral ministry later in life, while serving as an officer in the Kansas Highway Patrol. He retired after a 25-year career in law enforcement. The youngest of his five children had graduated from high school, so Bob and his wife, Diana, sold their house and moved to Colorado.

There, Bob attended divinity school at Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs. Bob was 46 years old, but because the campus focused on serving second-career ministers-in-training, he was one of the younger students.

After his graduation, Bob began his ministerial career in Warrensburg, Mo. He has now served in the ministry almost as long as he was a state trooper.

Bob was born at St. Francis Hospital in Topeka but raised in Pittsburg, Kan. After his high school graduation, he served four years in the Navy.

He and Diana celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary in March. Their children, four sons and one daughter, range in age from 39 to 43. The youngest two are twins, so the couple had five children under five years old at one time.

“It was a busy and chaotic household for a while,” Bob said.

None of his children followed him into the law enforcement field, but three are pastors. One is a construction supervisor, and the other is a counselor at Wichita North High School. The Giffins have 13 grandchildren.

Bob says he’s settling into his new role at Presbyterian Manor.

“I’m the typical new employee with a deer-in-the-headlights look,” he said. “But I’m getting the hang of things.”

A few weeks in, he had already led Bible studies and chapel services.

“My favorite part has been going to see the residents, learning their names and a little bit about them, their lives and their careers,” he said. “I signed on to have the opportunity to be a guy who can hopefully put a smile on a face or a little hope in the heart from Jesus.”

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