This book landed on my desk at work this week and the back cover blurb caught my eye: The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo.
Rebecca never felt safe as a child. In 1969, her father, Robert Nichols, moved to Sellerstown, North Carolina, to serve as a pastor. There he found a small community eager to welcome him—with one exception. Glaring at him from pew number seven was a man obsessed with controlling the church. Determined to get rid of anyone who stood in his way, he unleashed a plan of terror that was more devastating and violent than the Nichols family could have ever imagined. Refusing to be driven away by acts of intimidation, Rebecca’s father stood his ground until one night when an armed man walked into the family’s kitchen . . . And Rebecca’s life was shattered. If anyone had a reason to harbor hatred and seek personal revenge, it would be Rebecca. Yet The Devil in Pew Number Seven tells a different story. It is the amazing true saga of relentless persecution, one family’s faith and courage in the face of it, and a daughter whose parents taught her the power of forgiveness.
This is not the kind of book I normally pick up, but I'm a preacher's kid who lived through the disillusionment and heartbreak of a church member determined to have his way even if that meant turning the church family against the pastor and his family. So when I read the book cover, I instantly sympathized with the author and had to know what happened.
What I found was a story that, while true, is nearly unbelievable. The scope of tragedy perpetrated by one man on an innocent preacher's family was almost more than I could wrap my mind around. My family's own little struggles pale and disappear in the glaring horror that happened to the Nichols. And yet, the whole purpose of the book is not to show the power of evil, but to show the power of forgiveness--to show how absolutely crucial and necessary forgiveness is. Even when the unthinkable is done to you and your family.
If you struggle with forgiving those that have hurt you or your family, like I do, you need to read this book. Reading about someone else's troubles tend to put my own little trials in perspective. And when they're put into perspective, forgiveness doesn't seem quite so hard.