A pastor’s swift thinking led to a gunman being disarmed during a New Year’s Eve prayer service at a small eastern North Carolina congregation, according to the Fayetteville Observer.
No one was injured during the shocking event that came about as Larry Wright, pastor of the Heal the Land Outreach Ministries in Fayetteville, North Carolina, was praying with about 60 parishioners as they rang in the New Year and spoke about the senseless deaths affecting our country. Suddenly, a man armed with a rifle walked into his church, writes the news outlet.
The gun was in “one hand and an ammo magazine with shiny rounds in the other,” Wright told CNN.
The glint made the retired Army sergeant first class recognize the weapon was real. Still, he was worried the man had one round in the gun.
“I’m the first person to see him and when I saw him, I thought it was a dummy gun, but then I saw the bullet clip in his hand and the bullets were shining,” he said.
Instead of an altercation, the man asked the church to pray for him. Then a deacon and three others hugged the man, the site reports. He then apologized to them, saying “he intended to do something terrible that night. But the Lord spoke to him,” writes the news outlet.
Via the Observer:
Wright stepped down quickly from the pulpit when he saw the man, who appeared to be in his late 20s. The man continued moving toward the front of the church, pointing the rifle into the air. The two met, near the front of the sanctuary. “Can I help you?’’ the pastor asked the man.
Wright, who is a 57-year-old retired soldier, said the man’s answer determined his next action. “If he was belligerent, I was going to tackle him,” said Wright, who is 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds.
But the stranger was calm, and Wright took the weapon from him. He then patted him down, and the pastor summoned four strong deacons to embrace the disarmed man, in an effort to make him feel welcome.
Wright then prayed for the man, who fell to his knees and began crying.
The man was then invited to sit on the front pew, and Wright resumed the Watch Night service. During the altar call at the conclusion, the man came forward and asked for salvation.
Someone had called 911, and before the service had ended, police had arrived. But Wright said he asked the police to remain outside. “I didn’t want to interrupt the service,” said the two-term councilman, whose church members call him Bishop Wright.
Police Department spokesman Lt. David McLaurin said the incident was noted as a “Call for Service.’’ Notes regarding the call, McLaurin said, indicated the man was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center at his request as a voluntary commitment.
This was truly a holiday miracle. Who could forget what happened over the summer at Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina when a stranger asked to join a prayer group?
Wright said he never got the man’s last name before he was escorted away, but he hopes to contact him again. “I want to follow up with him and see that he’s getting the help and resources he needs,” Wright said.