"The Devil in Pew Number Seven: A True Story" by Rebecca N. Alonzo with Bob DeMoss
In 1969, Rebecca's family moved to Sellerstown, North Carolina. Rebecca was just a pre-schooler when her father felt the call of God to pastor a small church in this small farming community. They were welcomed openly and as the small congregation grew all who attended respected and loved Pastor Robert, his wife Ramona and Rebecca. All except one man who attended the church but was not actually a member. Being wealthy and having a strong control over the people of the town, he was not pleased when decisions in the church started to not go his way. Over the next five years, this "upstanding" member of the town unleashed an attack that is almost indescribable against Rebecca's family in order to drive them from the town. The Nichol's family lived under constant harassment, threats, shootings and even dynamite bombings for 5 years planned methodically to scare them away. Rebecca never knew a time in her childhood when she wasn't afraid. Then an event occured that changed Rebecca's life forever.
But the family also lived with a deep faith in God, His calling, and His love and forgiveness. Pastor Nichols believed no one was beyond redemption and believed in walking out the forgiveness of God in a spirit of humility and love. He took it very seriously where in the bible where Jesus said:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
He and Ramona instilled deep into Rebecca's heart that forgiveness, for the Christian, was a way of life and not an option.
This story touched me deeply. We are studying offense and forgiveness in my ladies study group (see book in my sidebar) so the timing of this book coming into my hands could only be from God. It lined up perfectly. In our discussions on forgiveness us ladies at the group go through a whole lot of "ya but's". This story is the testimony of someone who actually walked out that forgiveness that we are with such difficulty trying to wrap our heads around.
While most of my reviews, unless a book tour review, are being done on my book blog, I felt I had to review this one here so more people would know of it. I will not lie, this book was in places grievous to read. It broke my heart what this family went through. What a person out of rage and jealousy can perpetrate upon others is unbelievable. There were several times when I just cried for them and my heart literally felt heavy. But it is also a story of redemption, of faith, of hope and of the power of God's grace to forgive the actions of even your worst enemy. Rebecca's last chapter teaching on forgiveness is biblically solid and her story shows it is possible, that God doesn't ask us to do something He will not give us the grace and strength to carry out. I would say this book has had a profound effect on me and has faced me square on with the "ya-but's" excuses in my life. Unforgiveness is rampant in society and causes a myriad of problems in people's lives. It can be passed down in families and amongst friends. It puts us into chains and takes us captive and puts us into a chokehold that God never meant for us to live with. This story shows that forgiveness can profoundly effect us, whether we are the forgiver or the one being forgiven. I borrowed it from the library, but I will be buying my own copy so my kids (17, 20 & 22) can read it and so that I can lend it out to those struggling with forgiving others. I highly, highly recommend this read.