KAHOKA — Rob Quillin presents a stocky, no-nonsense image as he meets people here at First Baptist Church.
A former hardball Kansas City police officer from the inner city, he is now a pastor of a Southern Baptist church in northeast Missouri. His journey is one of God’s protection and grace.
Growing up in the city, he admired cops. Once when some gang members jumped him on the way home from school, he was getting a beating until he saw the blue lights of a Kansas City police car.
“The officers jumped out and thumped those boys and they ran,” he said. “They picked me up, brushed me off and said, ‘I don’t think those guys will be bothering you anymore.’
“Cops were my heroes, but I had felt God calling me to ministry since the age 14. At Norfleet Baptist Church I was active in the youth group. I had even preached the sermon on youth Sunday.”
But Quillin pushed God’s call aside with a dream of being a cop.
“God called me, but I wanted to bargain with Him. I said, ‘God use me — but as a cop.’”
So he pursued that dream with criminal justice studies at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg where he met a girl named Shannon. They were
married and he joined the Kansas City Police Department in 1992.
Quillin said after he finished the police academy he told superiors that he wanted the toughest beat in the city. He was then assigned the night shift on the eastside. Muggings, shootings, and rapes were common.
“Dogwatch was what we called it,” he said, remembering that the veterans said that at that time of night the only people who should be out are dogs and cops.
Car chases were common. Quillin came to work looking for action, but the more his police career advanced, the less he pursued God. At some point he and Shannon just stopped going to church. He advanced from patrol officer to tactical unit (known as S.W.A.T). There, he saw lots of violent action.
“I wanted to be the best cop,” he said. “I loved finding stolen cars. We were a tight unit. Cops were my brothers and sisters.”
A few years later he was promoted to sergeant and was overseeing beat officers in the patrol division again. One rookie was trying to share Christ with Quillin, but he wasn’t listening – until a fight broke out and they found their lives threatened.
A deranged man with a knife was out of control in an apartment. Quillin and his patrol officers entered and confronted the man, who was growling like a dog. The attacker charged them and the fight was on. Non-lethal Taser guns and bean bags were fired at the man with
no effect. The man tried to stab the rookie cop.
Quillin charged him and the man thrust the knife above his head and then in a downward arc toward the officer’s chest. Quillen fired his revolver and killed the attacker.
Shock and relief mingled in Quillin’s mind after the shooting as he was glad his fellow officer was unharmed. After administrative leave and mandatory counseling, he returned to the force, but he could not shake the thoughts that someday he wouldn’t come home and a Kansas City Police Department officer
would come to his wife’s door to inform her of his death. He spiraled downward with grief and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In 2005, he drove to a remote area in his squad car prepared to commit suicide.
He had his gun in his lap. Instead, in a moment of God’s grace and protection, he picked up his cell phone and called the police department psychiatrist.
Placed on leave, suffering from crippling depression, Quillin said, “I couldn’t get out of bed. Most officers go through their career and don’t have to fire their gun.”
He was offered medical retirement Quillin and went back to college to complete his
bachelor’s degree. The couple moved to Memphis, in northeast Missouri, his wife’s hometown. There they found healing and solitude as the family became involved with First Baptist Church. Quillin started a youth group in the community. God was still calling him to preach.
He signed on with a contractor to the U.S. State Department to train Afghan police officers. There, embedded with the U.S. Army, he was able to connect with God’s longtime calling on his life.
“I would sit outside in the mornings to pray and watch the sunrise over the Afghan mountains,” he said. “There God spoke to me.”
Returning to Memphis he connected with Mike Wilson, Pleasant Grove Baptist Association director of missions. Before long he was preaching in two rural churches near Wyaconda and in April of 2012 he became full-time pastor of First Baptist, Kahoka.
“God is wise enough to put together the chain of events to help me realize I am nothing—not that smart, good looking or athletic—but because of Christ, I am everything He is,” said
Quillin, 42. “He loves us so much and we don’t deserve it.”
The former hardball cop feels God has led him through the rough and tumble journey so that he may help others who are running from God, facing difficult days and needing Christ.