On a cool Saturday afternoon in January, about 4 p.m., I was working on a light switch in the entry hall of our newly purchased derelict historic house when I heard a disturbance out front followed by honking and squealing tires. My wife had been watching out the window and told me I needed to drop my project and go to our neighbor’s aid. I stepped outside, and saw the woman across the street sitting in the threshold of her entry, calling for someone to help her, with her husband lying in her arms, a trail of blood following him from the street. As I approached, the man next door, who arrived the same time as I, handed me a police radio and told me what to do as he quickly opened his first aid kit; he was a police chief in a small town about 10 miles away.
As the police and emergency medical unit arrived I heard the man say he had been shot three times; those may have been his last words. He was unconscious as they took him away; the woman’s clothing and the porch were covered with blood. In a few minutes it was all over and a shocked congregation of neighbors was left in front of the house to reflect on what happened. I didn’t even know the man who was shot; in fact I didn’t know any of these people except the couple next door. I had only moved to this city a few weeks earlier and every day was spent trying to turn an old house that had narrowly escaped condemnation into a functional home. A short time later we learned that our neighbor had been pronounced dead at the hospital. A couple hours later his son came and washed the blood off the porch and sidewalk with a garden hose.
The next morning we read the Salisbury Post and discovered the carjacker abandoned the car half a mile away and escaped capture; we also read that my wife was the only eye witness to the murder. It’s times like this that expands one’s prayer life and draws one to review the reason for moving here. It was almost two years earlier that the Lord told us to sell our house and real estate business because He had other plans for us. I owned a realty and an appraisal company and was associate pastor at a growing church I helped plant. God’s call didn’t seem very convenient, practical or economically feasible, but we knew it would be rewarding (because it was His plan), so we proceeded. A year and a half later everything was sold or in storage, so we began knocking on doors looking for the one the Lord would open. Six months later we found ourselves in North Carolina, where God sent me to manage the Atlantic Region’s properties. But this day God was introducing me to a new call—a call to minister to this city. In less than an hour, God had given me a heart for this city and these people.
Six years have gone by since we came to Salisbury and I can only marvel at the doors the Lord has opened. Within a few months of the murder, I made it a point to meet the police chaplain. We began meeting at the police department weekly to pray for the city and the police. After a couple years of prayer the Lord opened another door by bringing in a new police chief that embraced the idea of a chaplaincy. The department purchased uniforms for us and supplied us with bullet proof vests; for a small city of 30,000 we have 26 gangs and more and a fair share of shootings. Then another door was opened for us—an officer asked if we would lead weekly devotionals. It was difficult to contain composure when we said yes; we had been praying for an opening like this for three years. Today we have three chaplains and over 10 percent of the police force, including the chief and deputy chief, attend our devotionals. I look back in amazement at all the Lord has done in the past six years; moved me from my native Seattle clear across the nation to a foreign land of grits and livermush, given me a heart for a city out of Gone with the Wind, placed me as associate pastor in the local Foursquare Church and gave me the opportunity to minister to all the pastors east of the Mississippi as I help them through the process of leasing, buying, selling, building and all the other things the Lord trained me to do over the past 40 years.
What an amazing God we serve!