Imagine your worst fears come to life. Living in a waking nightmare for years on end. Never knowing when terror would strike. Then imagine forgiving the person responsible for that terror...when they've never asked for forgiveness.
That's the story Rebecca Nichols Alonzo tells in her exquisitely written memoir, "The Devil In Pew Number Seven". This is so much more than a real-life horror story. This is about true forgiveness, the kind Jesus taught about so often.
Thanks to detailed news reports, accurate journals kept by her parents, Pastor Robert Nichols and his wife, Ramona, family members and willing witnesses, Rebecca was able to recount the living nightmare her family endured in Sellerstown, North Carolina.
She begins her story with a chapter that will take you places you will not want to go, but one that captivates you and keeps you riveted until the story finally closes. And Rebecca is careful to remind you up front--this is all true. As unimaginable as it may seem...it's true.
Taking us back to when her parents first met (courtesy of her mother's journal and family memories), Rebecca Nichols Alonzo proves herself to be a master at creating setting and providing detail in a way that is both engaging and a pleasure to read.
Robert met Ramona when she was at her worst, and yet their love began so quickly and ran so deep...it was beautiful to have the chance to witness their relationship via these opening chapters.
These two were genuine in their love for one another, but even more genuine and passionate about the Lord, His Word, and reaching people with the message of the Gospel. Kind of like Billy and Ruth Graham on a smaller, lesser known scale.
Which makes the events of Sellerstown that much more horrifying and unimaginable. One man, filled with hate...evil seeming to coat his very soul...making it his mission to see the pastor and his family leave "crawling or walking...dead or alive".
What could make a man hate that deeply? And how could Pastor Nichols, his wife...and later on his children...forgive so completely? Robert and Ramona lived out their faith so fully that Rebecca and her brother Daniel are able to also live that genuine walk we are all called to have.
Pastor Nichols stood his ground, claiming Sellerstown for Christ...until one night the Nichols' lives were shattered by the absolute unthinkable. And yet personal vengeance or revenge never entered the picture (with one brief exception that you'll read).
Powerful, engrossing, heart-wrenching and convicting...Rebecca's story and the story of her family is a must read. I've never read anything like this book, and I doubt I will ever again. Rebecca says, near the end, that once we've read her story, we'll put the book on the shelf and go on with our lives, while she continues to live the story she's put on paper.
We may put the book on the shelf, but her story will remain with you long after you've finished. You'll have to ask yourself, how can I NOT forgive after seeing all the Nichols family endured and they we willing and eager to forgive?
Believe me, I struggle with letting go of pains, hurts and grudges. And while I've tasted the kind of animosity the Nichols family encountered, enough to know it's real and it exists, I've never been wounded as deeply as she has been wounded.
And she forgave long before it was asked for.
"The Devil In Pew Number Seven" receives the Golden Bookmark for Exquisite Writing and Powerful Story and is also "Best Non-fiction of the Decade" for me. I doubt you'll ever read a book more powerful than this one...other than the Bible.
I could be wrong. Read it for yourself and see. Then take Rebecca's wisdom, shared at the very end of the book and put it into practice in your own life. My thanks to my friends at Tyndale for my copy, and "The Devil In Pew Number Seven" is available now in bookstores everywhere.
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Saturday, July 31, 2010
Authored by Deena Peterson at 12:09 PM