Dr. Bob Fulkerson will take his last ride with Goldsboro Police Department Thursday, as he retires as chaplain for the police department and as pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church.

His journey began when he was just 10, growing up in Clarkesville, Tennessee.

"We had a minister of education, a Sunday school guy that was in charge at a pretty good size church in Tennessee where I grew up," Fulkerson said. "I really thought a lot of him. And I began to sense God's call even at 10."

At 21, Fulkerson and his wife, Karen, were both called to a church plant in South Bend, Indiana. He said a plant is where there's no church, no building and no congregation.

Then they moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where both graduated from Indiana University. There, Fulkerson was the Baptist Student Union director for 30,000 students.

"From there, we really felt God's call to go to seminary," Fulkerson said. "I applied to go to seminary in Fort Worth, Texas."

The Fulkersons worked at Buckner Baptist Children's Home first as houseparents to 24 boys ages 6 through 12 for two years, then he as director of recreation for six years.

The next move was to Kinston as minister of education at First Baptist Church. There, Fulkerson helped increase Sunday school attendance from 350 to 500 and began a ministry to underprivileged children in a community housing project.

By this time, Fulkerson began to feel called to preach, so he went back to Fort Worth and finished his master of divinity degree, which he calls a preaching degree.

One church where Fulkerson really saw God working was a little church in Goatneck, Texas, which was founded in 1862.

"They still had the minutes from when it was originally founded," he said. "According to the minutes, they kicked a lady out because she stole a hog, withdrew fellowship from her.

"They also kicked two guys out because they didn't support the cause. That was during the Civil War, when Texas had withdrawn from the Union.

"They kicked another guy out because they found him dancing. He said he was sorry. They restored fellowship. Six months after that, they caught him dancing again. When confronted, the minutes said he said, 'I love the Lord with all my heart, but oh, how I love to dance.'"

Fulkerson said his first Sunday there, only 12 people attended. His last Sunday there, 120 attended.

"The really cool thing about that church was that they decided they were not going to die," he said. "They really worked to reach community so the church wouldn't die."

Fulkerson had heard a lot about the church's old time camp meetings.

The church was in a valley, and a man who remembered the old camp meetings said the music from the church would fill the valley. But he also said that was when the church was the heart of the community.

"So we tried to make the church the heart of community again," Fulkerson said. "We held the old time camp meetings for four years. We really saw God do some fantastic things there."

It was at Rochester First Baptist Church in Rochester, Illinois, that Fulkerson first served as a police chaplain.

"I got a letter from the chief of police asking me to be a chaplain," he said. "But I wasn't interested. I left it on my desk. About a month after that, I was cleaning my desk off and saw the letter. I called to see if they had gotten someone.

"They said I was the first person to respond at all, and they had sent letters to more than 400 churches."

So Fulkerson became the chaplain of the Springfield Police Department for eight years.

He came to Madison Avenue Baptist Church in Goldsboro in 2008 as pastor.

"Not long after I got here, I went to see Chief Tim Bell at Goldsboro Police Department about being a chaplain," Fulkerson said. "They didn't have one at the time."

His standing day to ride along with a police officer was every Thursday.

He's had many adventures as a police chaplain, including going on many domestic violence calls and even a potential suicide one time.

"There was a guy who was going to commit suicide," Fulkerson said. "The officer and I went and talked to him. We had prayer and then he wanted to hug us. You can't do that with an officer, so he hugged me."

Then there was the time when officers had a woman stopped in her car and she started to drive away, brushing the officer.

"We heard it on the radio," Fulkerson said. "There was a witness, and the officer I was with told him to come with us when we got there. The witness started to get in the back seat, and I told him to get in the front because I didn't know what the lady looked like. We drove around and stopped, and they got out and forgot I was in the back seat. I sat in the back seat about 30 minutes."

But his main job as a police chaplain is to be there for the officers.

And his church helps, too. Every October, the church serves meals to the police officers and gives them certificates of appreciation.

Some put the certificate in their Bible, some frame it and hang it up.

"One police officer put his in the visor of his police car," Fulkerson said. "He said when things get really tough, he pulls it out and reads it and knows that somebody appreciates what he does. That's a real blessing."

Fulkerson's last ride along with the police department will be Thursday, as he also retires as pastor of the church.

"You don't miss going to the hospital, the funerals, the sermon preparation," he said. "You miss the people. In Christ, it's all about relationships."