Cory Kostyra has served as a police officer and as a pastor for over two decades. For the past 12 years, he has filled different roles at Bradford Community Church in Bradford, Ontario.
Cory’s police work and church ministry have intersected in different ways. For 18 years, he was responsible for investigating major collisions. The unpredictability of the job—jumping into action when his work phone rang and often getting to the site of an accident before other emergency services—eventually took its toll. In 2017, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The road to healing has not been easy and it is far from over. Often, Cory has found himself longing for something really quite simple—caring people to ask “What do you need? How can I help you?”
Cory’s experience with PTSD has shaped his ministry. At times, he is painfully aware of his limitations but he also has renewed empathy. He tries to ask the same questions he has needed to hear: “What do you need? How can I help you?”
Over the past year, these questions have propelled Bradford Community Church to serve the surrounding community in practical ways. After an apartment building fire in the spring, the church teamed up with WOW Living to provide shelter for people in need. The church also received government funding to hire students for its summer day camp; however, when it was difficult to find a program leader, they decided to redirect the focus.
“We got thinking about it and we wondered: What if we went back to the government with a new idea and we’d call it the Summer of Service? We presented this plan: instead of a summer day camp, we want to have these summer students and let them loose on the community,” Cory recalls.
The plan worked. The group of teens essentially asked the community: What do you need? How can I help you?
Over the summer, the students came alongside many different ministries. They also visited seniors’ homes, did gardening work for the elderly, organized a kids’ fun day, picked up garbage, hosted free car washes, and helped local restaurants reopening after COVID. They even stood alongside the Starbucks’ drive-thru line, collecting garbage from people’s cars, giving out handwritten cards and playing music.
Word got around town; the group appeared in newspaper articles and soon the mayor was calling the church to ask for help with specific needs. People would ask the students why they were doing what they were doing, and they were able to share that they were simply motivated to be like Jesus. Long after the summer ended and the work hours were complete, the teens kept serving.
For Cory, the journey of ministry and the journey of PTSD treatment continues. Just like Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” Cory’s struggle has given him an opportunity to be empowered by God rather than rely on his own strength.
“I thought I knew what Bradford needed. I didn’t have a clue. The moment I called them and said, ‘How can I help you?’ the floodgates opened,” Cory says. “We have to be Jesus. Get out into the community, seek and save the lost, and serve others. It’s amazing when you get out and ask ‘How can we help you? Where are the needs?’”
This article is based on Kevin Rogers’ interview with Cory Kostyra on Sidewalk Skyline Podcast: “Pastor, Police, PTSD.”
Cory is pictured with his service dog, Lily. Photo courtesy of Cory Kostyra.____________________________________________________________
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