Monday, October 11, 2010

A Gun And God's Grace

Memorial Box Mondays was created by Linny over at A Place Called Simplicity. Every Monday you can link up at her blog and share memories of how God blessed your life with His love, faithfulness and miracles. It is great to read all the times God intervenes in our lives. Several of us have a special Memorial Box we keep special things of significance in as reminders of God's grace in their lives.

Today, after praying about what to post, I am sharing about when God protected Joel and our family from harm, watching over us and providing the help needed to get through a very stressful time.

When my husband was serving a congregation in Zimmerman MN he would often hug all the people when they left church. One day he hugged an elderly lady and this changed our lives forever. Her husband, who we found out later was a violent alcoholic, became enraged by this and decided Joel and his 70 yr old wife were having an affair. He made plans to kill my husband. Unbeknown to us he would have his wife call our home and instruct her to tell Joel she needed him to come over and he planned to " shoot and gut the pastor" when he arrived. Several times we received phone calls, but he would have her hang up before she spoke.

One night the phone rang at 10:30pm and the police were on the line telling us that this man had just shot up his brother-in-law's house where his wife was staying and then left there on his way to come kill "the pastor". They told us they were on their way and to sit tight. Needless to say we were worried, as the split-level parsonage where we lived had big windows at basement level where some of the kids slept and also throughout the house. We woke all of our kids and had them lay on our bedroom floor upstairs. Having grown up hunting and also spending 8 yrs in the Air Force, Joel was an expert markman, and he loaded his rifle and stood by the front door watching out the window there, while I stood at the upstairs window peeking out to watch the road several hundred yards away. We prayed and stood watch while periodically I checked in on the kids, trying to reassure them that they would be okay. Protecting our family was utmost on our mind.

Soon, 4 police cars arrived at our home. The police decided we needed to leave town so we contacted my sister and her husband and let them know we were coming and to pray for our safety. Then an officer took our oldest daughter, age 14, around the house collecting clothing for the kids while we got them ready to leave. We were taken under armed guard out into the garage and the kids were told to lay down in the car, and then two of the police vehicles escorted us out of town and drove with us for over a half hour towards our destination.

The man did not get to our home, the police went searching for this man and arrested him. We had no clue all the plans he had made to "kill the pastor", but learned of them later. He continued to have a personal vendetta with Joel and even called our home from jail to threaten us again. Eventually this man was let out of jail because his wife would not testify against him and as a pastor, Joel could not share what the wife had told both of us the day after her husband was arrested because it was said "in confidence". They also could not prosecute BECAUSE HE DID NOT SUCCEED IN HARMING US!

Our ordeal did not end with his arrest...He had a restraining order to be a certain amount of space away from Joel so he would drive up and sit on the road and watch our home. After a while he called and threatened me and our children and then assaulted a police officer so he was arrested again, but eventually let out. Our older children did not want to move and after a lot of prayer asking for God's plan, we made a difficult but obedient decision to stay in this congregation for 4 more years, learning to do what we needed to protect ourselves while trusting God to care for our family. W e never left our children alone without an adult in our home for over a year, and the schools and congregation were aware of this situation. Even after we left there and moved three hours away we would get hang up calls that we believed were from this man. God continued to protect us until the time of his death.

After this occurred we contacted our synod which was at that time part of the Mpls/St. Paul ELCA synod. We asked for help, but were not really given any. The synod president at that time actually said to us, " Gosh, be careful, this guy is dangerous.." or something to that affect. By God's guidance we were led to the president of the seminary Joel had graduated from 4 years earlier, and he took us under his wing ~ counseling with us and getting us a lawyer free of charge to consult with. The president of the sem became a good friend and walked with us through this journey. Another blessing from God.

So how is this a good memory? Much of it is NOT, but the way God protected us is! IF the wife of this man would have told Joel he needed her help he would have immediately gone there to help. I believe God stopped her and her husband every single time. We were protected from harm the night the police came. We were protected the following 4 yrs. and learned to trust God and stay where he wanted us to stay and leave when He told us to leave.

Honestly, this effected our whole family for years. It changed how we had to live, and took away our children's sense of security in their own home for a long time. It took years for all of us to completely heal......but God was with us. He went ahead of us....He walked beside us....He walked behind us. And he still does.....

I think I will add a picture of a gun to our Memory Box along with a cross. We were protected and God in His amazing love and faithfulness brought us through to the other side of this journey. In fact, when we heard years later that this man had died....and his funeral was at the same church he had been banned from by police while we lived there.......we were thankful that he had gone back to church. Maybe, he had changed his ways....Maybe he allowed God's grace and love to enter into his life too.

14 comments:

At Home on the Rock... said...

Oh my goodness, Renee...how terribly frightening for you and your family. But...you are right...God was with you all the way.

Wow....still have chills running down my spine...

Mildred said...

Thank you Renee for sharing this with us. So sad for you two and your children to have your lives changed forever by the suspicions of this man. I am thankful that the Lord kept you safe and am hopeful that this man did return to church and repent.

Mevely317 said...

Me, too! (Goosebumps, that is!)

For some reason, that line from the 23rd Psalm is bouching 'round my head: "Tho' I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death ...".

God is sooooo good!

Heather said...

So scary! Praising God for protecting your family!

pastordwight said...

What a great post! As a Pastor I can only imagine the effect on your family. Praise the Lord for his faithfulness!

Lisa Buffaloe said...

Wow, Renee. What a long, hard ordeal. I know God stood with you and kept you safe, but the walk through that time had to have been incredibly tough. I'm so sorry what you all went through, but do join you in praise for our Heavenly Father who doesn't remove us from the world but protects us in the world.

MTJ said...

Hi Renee,

This is a powerful testimony of God's grace protecting your family from harm. It reminds me of Pharaoh's hate-filled attitude toward Israel. Like Pharaoh, this man wanted to eliminate your husband, but God intervened in each instance.

I thank God for preserving the lives of your family.

Blessings and peace.

MTJ

Renee said...

Hi Linda
It was a frightening time, but God protected us and was faithful in that for years.

Renee said...

Yes Mildred we too hope he let the Lord fill His life and heal him before he died...

Renee said...

Mevely
Sometimes when we talk about it I still get goosebumps myself...Yes God walked with us.

Renee said...

Hi Heather! YES! Praise GOD!

Renee said...

Hi Pastorwight....Thank you for stopping by here and for you words..

Renee said...

yes Lisa
God does protect us from the world...He still had work for Joel to do I believe...and He used this to strengthen our family.

Renee said...

Hi MTJ....Yes, God did protect us each and every time...we learned to depend on Him that's for sure.