On that winter evening in the ghetto, they intended to kill me…but God, in His Sovereignty, overrode the evil desire of their heart and intervened on my behalf to stay the hand of death.
During that period of time in 1985, I was a youth leader for kids 5-12 years old at a Baptist church in the inner city of Brooklyn. One of the boys…Josúe, a nine year old… lived in the ghetto about a twenty minute subway ride from the church. Every Sunday morning I would go to his apartment to pick him up and bring him to the church for the day. After the evening service, I would bring him back home to his apartment. Like clock-work. That was the problem. I grew up in the suburbs of Long Island, and was really naive about the ways of the inner city. It never occurred to me that a white man just doesn’t walk in and out of a ghetto on a routine, easily trackable basis…especially wearing a white ski jacket!
On this one February winter evening, Josúe and I got off at his subway station stop and proceeded to walk…as we had been routinely doing for a number of months…the one long block straight ahead, and then turn right at his street to the four story apartment building at the end of the block, on the corner, where he lived. When we were about halfway along his side street, I was strongly impressed out of the clear blue by the Holy Spirit to “just stop and turn around.” When I did, I saw two black youths walking about ten feet behind us. I watched them as they walked by…kind of “whistling”, hands in pocket…and watched as they turned the corner where Josúe’s apartment building was, and out of sight. At the time, I thought everything was just fine; later, I realized that my abrupt turn-around had caught them by surprise, which was the reason why they just walked on by. As was the routine, Josúe called up to his mother, and she opened the window of her 4th floor apartment and threw down the key to the entrance door. We opened the door and entered a small foyer, and began walking up a staircase of about fifteen steps toward the first landing. About two thirds the way up, it occurred to me, “Hmmm, I didn’t hear the door close”…which normally it would do, and then lock behind us. I was about 8 steps the way up the stairs to the 1st landing when I stopped and turned to see whether the door had closed…the two black youths were in the foyer! They had gotten to the door before it closed, and were going to wait for me behind the stairwell to come back down after dropping off the boy! When I abruptly turned around, the one youth immediately pointed a handgun up toward my head and yelled, “Freeze!”
Everything that happened after that can only be measured in split seconds. No one can really know in advance of a sudden life-threatening situation like that how they will respond. Afterwards, the police officer told me that if I did freeze in obedience to his command, I would be dead…they would have robbed and killed me as they intended. The thought the Holy Spirit at that moment put in my mind to say silently was an indignant, “You have some nerve!” It was that thought given by the Lord which would save my life. I spun around and in one sweeping motion took hold of Josúe to begin a mad dash up the stairs! The one with the handgun who had yelled “Freeze” fired off two shots! I had no fear; my only thought as I began frantically pushing along, half carrying, an hysterically crying child was to get him up those flights of stairs at all-out breakneck speed to his mother’s 4th floor apartment! She had opened the door for us as I literally dove head-first into the apartment with Josúe tucked under my arm…his mother slamming the door shut and locking it behind us!
The police recovered the two bullet slugs as evidence from the landing wall in back of where they had shot at me, and the detective told me I was very lucky! He said they could have gotten me outside when they had first walked on by me; they could have waited outside for me to leave the building after dropping off the boy; they could have gotten inside the building without my having noticed it as I did, and waited for me to come back down the stairs; if I did freeze in fear at their command, it was sure death…a white man in their ghetto! Being shot at…and missed…was the only way out of that situation! Lucky? To an unbeliever, yes. For me, no; I knew full well that the Lord was my shield and protector, watching over me and keeping me safe. Where it not for Him, my body would be in the grave right now. But He knows the plans He has for me…plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future. [Jeremiah 29:11] And no one can thwart His plans, hinder His purposes, or override His will! The Lord is Sovereign All-Ruler over all Creation.
During that same period of time when I was shot at in the ghetto of Brooklyn…the mid 1980s…for the 2nd and 3rd time in my life I experienced an overwhelming sense of the presence of evil…the presence of the demonic swept sharply and abruptly over my awareness! The first time I had that experience was in the late fall 1981, not long after I had entered into a personal relationship with Christ the Messiah on October 17th of that year. Now that I belonged to Christ, I had always wondered, out of curiosity, what it was like to visit a fortune teller. And so I decided to do it. Just like I had pictured in my mind, we sat at a small table opposite one another with…yes…a crystal ball in the center of the table. As she began her routine, appealing to the demonic spirits, an overwhelming sense of the presence of evil swept over my conscious awareness! All I could think of was “I can’t wait to get out of here!” I didn’t hear anything she was saying…I was just grateful when she finally finished so that I could leave! I thought to myself, “I’ll never do that again!”
The second time was in the apartment of the boy I picked up regularly in the ghetto to bring to church and back. His mother was always there…a pleasant lady. Then one morning when picking up Josúe, his father was there…my first time meeting him. He was pleasant enough…but for no apparent reason, an overwhelming sense of the presence of evil swept over my conscious awareness! Several months later, when I found out he was a drug dealer, I realized that was the Lord’s way of warning me to be very careful!
The 3rd time was when that sense of the presence of evil would save my life! I had picked up Josúe once before at an apartment in downtown Brooklyn, near the church. The two men and a woman who were there were pleasant enough, and had invited me in to chat a bit before leaving with the boy. Pleasant enough…but I noticed that when I entered the apartment, they locked the door on the inside with a key, and when I left with Josúe, they unlocked the door with the key. It kind of impressed me at that moment that someone on the inside of that apartment would not be able to leave unless they unlocked the door from the inside with that key!
Well…on this particular morning, I was told to pick up Josúe at the downtown Brooklyn apartment. I knocked on the door, and one of the men I had met the prior time answered and, pleasantly smiling, invited me to come in…”He will be here shortly.” Suddenly, out of the clear blue, an overwhelming sense of the presence of evil swept over my conscious awareness! I immediately knew I was not to go in there! I quickly made some excuse about needing to go to a local store to pick up an item, and then would be right back!
I would never see Josúe again. When I told the pastor of the church what had just happened, he was quite alarmed and said I was in great danger; don’t go back there! A week later, the police raided that apartment; they were a drug dealing ring! The people there had come to the conclusion that I was an undercover agent, and were going to kill me! If I had gone into that apartment, the door would have been locked behind me and I never would have gotten out alive! Once again, the Lord was my Shield and Protector; He Personally intervened in my life to stay the hand of death!
I don’t know whether in the depths of your heart you really believe there is a God in Heaven or not, but this I do know…I was as good as dead in those two situations…until the Lord intervened on my behalf and would not permit it; He stayed the hand of death! I proclaim to you Christ Jesus…the One Who existed from the beginning, from Eternity Past, Whom I have heard with the ears of my own inner being, and have seen with my own spiritual eyes. I have gazed upon Him and have spiritually touched Him with my own hands. He is the Word of Life. His Life is continually being revealed to me; I have seen it and testify to it, and I proclaim to you that He is the One Who is Eternal Life. He always existed with the Father, and is now continually being manifested afresh and anew to me. I proclaim to you what I have personally seen and heard in the depths of my soul, so that you also may enjoy this same fellowship together with us. The fellowship I continually enjoy is with the Father and with His Son, Christ Jesus. I am writing these things so that you also may fully share together with me in this fullness of joy. [1 John 1:1-4]. It is the birth-right as a child of the Most High God!