FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Christian Examiner)—A veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) went into a North Carolina church on New Year's Eve with a gun—and left later that night having made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
I came down and prayed with him, and we embraced. It was like a father embracing a son.
Pastor Larry Wright, a retired Army drill sergeant and city councilor in Fayetteville, N.C., told the Charlotte Observer that he asked the gun-wielding man a simple question when he entered his church on New Year's Eve.
"Can I help you?" Wright asked. He noted that he saw "hopelessness, hurt, pain and despair" in the man's eyes during the exchange.
Wright, who is 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, says he was willing to tackle him if the man was belligerent. Instead though, the man simply asked for prayer. Wright then took the man's weapon, frisked him to determine whether he had additional ones and returned to the worship service.
"I finished the message, I did the altar call, and he stood right up, came up to the altar and gave his life to Christ," said Wright, pastor of Heal the Land Outreach Ministries, according to the article in the Observer. "I came down and prayed with him, and we embraced. It was like a father embracing a son."
Recently released from prison, the man told Wright he was a military veteran suffering from PTSD. The man, who has asked not to be identified, told the pastor his wife had just been told she has a debilitating disease. A convicted felon, the man had been given a gun and says he came to the church because he hoped it would be a safe place to get rid of it. According to CNN, he says he never meant any harm.
Police took the man to a local medical center. He faces no charges as a result of the incident.
He returned on Sunday, Jan. 3 to say thank you to the church and ask for forgiveness. CNN also reports that he asked to be a part of their ministry. If he returns again, members of the congregation told WRAL-TV News they plan on baptizing him.
"I pray that he comes back and visits us," church member Lucrecia Hall said. "I'm not scared of him, not now."
Church members interviewed after the incident admitted they first thought about last year's Charleston shooting when they saw the man enter their church with a gun. On June 17 of last year, a 21-year-old North Carolina man entered a Charleston, S.C., church and killed nine people while injuring another.