Never lose hope. Miracles do happen.
In the spring of 1993, I was married with two children, the youngest not even a year old, and living in West Palm Beach, FL. My husband at the time, was not a Christian and vehemently opposed to the faith. I had been naïve when I married him and didn’t realize there were cultures who hated everything that followers of Jesus believe. Nonetheless, he provided well for the family and for the most part, our daily coexistence was peaceable.
One of my sisters had come down from up north to visit. I hadn’t seen her for some time, so both the girls and I traveled to Lakeland, where my father and another sister (I have three) were living. We had an enjoyable few days together. She went home and so did we.
A few days later, I received a strange phone call from my sister in Lakeland; she didn’t generally call me just to talk.
“I felt impressed to call you.” She declared.
“Oh?” I replied. “What’s going on?”
“I just needed to tell you that if you ever want to leave and need a place to go, you can bring the girls and come here.”
Completely blind-sided, I didn’t know what to make of it, so I just said. “Okay.”
“I mean it.” She reiterated. “You can come here.”
It had never entered my mind. I stood for my husband’s conversion and hadn’t considered leaving. I thanked her and we hung up.
To my amazement, just a short time later, I was giving my oldest daughter her lunch at our dining room table and as we always did, we prayed over her food before she began to eat.
My husband, who was due to leave for work, came out from the bedroom. He stared at us but didn’t say anything and left.
It was just a day or two later that he brought it up. “You need to stop teaching her about Jesus.”
“I can’t do that. The girls need to know Him.”
“Let them grow up and make their own decision.”
“No.” I disagreed. I knew what the bible said about training up your children.
“Then what are you going to do?” He asked pointedly.
We had decided when my second daughter was born that it was more cost effective for me to remain at home. My sister offered to pay me to care for my nephew, along with my girls so I had an income, but it wouldn’t pay enough for me and the girls to live on. I played dumb. “What do you mean?”
“You either need to quit teaching them about Jesus or raise them by yourself.”
The phone call from my sister now made perfect sense. Silently, I was grateful that He had seen this coming, even if I hadn’t. I didn’t know exactly how it was going to work out, but I waited until he was out of the house to call her.
She had been the caretaker of an elderly man who had passed on and still lived in the half of a small house where she’d stayed while caring for him. The other half, where he had lived, was empty, and she convinced her landlady to rent that half to me. It was two bedrooms with onsite laundry and a fenced in backyard; perfect for me and the girls.
God worked things out beautifully. My husband drove the truck full of our furniture and provided me with some cash before he left. In just a couple of days, I had a job working part time from 2 am to about 4 am every night. My sister was there for the girls, as there was a door connecting our two apartments, and the money was enough for us to live on. I was there during the day, which was important to me.
For the next few months, we settled into a new routine. There was grace to split my sleep, my oldest daughter even accepted Jesus at the church we attended and began preaching to her younger sister, still in a crib.
Then came the night or rather, the morning of March 20, 1994. I had finished my route and was on my way home. Stopped at the traffic light at 540A and Reynolds road, I was tired and ready to sleep, but I had a thought. What if, instead of turning left as I usually did, I went straight? I’d never been that way before, but it was possible that there was a turn and I could get home faster, which I was eager to do.
What’s the worst that could happen? I wondered. If there wasn’t a turn, it would take me past my church and I knew how to get home from there, but that would be way out of my way and take a lot longer than I wanted to spend. No, I reasoned. I was too tired to explore the option tonight, I wanted to get home to sleep. Maybe another night.
Driving along, still anxious to get home, I happened to notice a car behind me. That was rare because of the hour but had happened on occasion. Confident of my safety in the security of my own car, and not far from home, I didn’t think much about it but kept an eye on it anyway.
When it turned onto my street and then pulled into the driveway behind me, I thought it odd but still didn’t suspect anything off. I don’t know why I was soothed by the fact that the car was a Mercedes, which I noticed as I got out, but I was.
He got out as well, started toward me and asked. “Can you give me directions to the Citrus Bowl?”
I noticed he was a tall, muscular guy with a very short haircut but didn’t think much about it. Since the place he’d asked about was just up the street, the request seemed reasonable. Pointing in the general direction, I answered. “Go back out the way you came and turn right. It’s just a little way up on your left.”
“Write it down.” He said.
“I don’t need to write it down,” I replied. “It’s just…”
“Write it down.” He insisted.
I leaned into the open door of my car, pulled out a scrap of paper and a pen. As I recall, I got about four words written…
The next thing I remember, I awoke face down in the backseat of a moving car. The dim orange light overhead was on. Noticing the man driving, in the confusion, I asked. “What’s going on?”
“Shut up.” He demanded.
“But wait…” I began, trying to sit up.
“I said shut up!” He hissed as a burly fist punched me in the side of the head and I went down.
Immediately, I began praying in the spirit. My only thought was: I have two babies at home. I have to get through this.
I have no idea where we were or how long we drove, but it didn’t seem like very long before we stopped. Describing the sexual assault that took place wouldn’t serve any good purpose, so I’ll keep the details out but by the time it was over, it was fully light outside.
I had been praying in the spirit the entire time. Then I heard my spiritual father’s voice, “They couldn’t take Jesus’ life, He laid it down. They can’t take yours either if you won’t give it up.”
It seemed as if he had gone. Making sure it was safe, I got out of the backseat of the open car and looked around. I could see him watching from about fifty feet away. Moving away tentatively, it became obvious that I was in a sort of back street driveway. I saw the street sign for Peachtree on the right and downtown in the distance to my left. My only thought: I need a phone so I can call my sister to come and get me.
I walked quickly toward downtown but there wasn’t a phone anywhere.
A patrol car came up beside me and slowed as the officer rolled down the window. She asked, “Where are you going?”
“I’m looking for a phone to call my sister to come and get me.”
“What happened to you?”
I explained and pointed back to where I’d just come from.
She made a call.
From somewhere, it’s a bit sketchy, an ambulance arrived. They put me on a cot and slid me into the back. It was dark and there was no one with me as I rolled around a bit on the way to the hospital; not a comfortable ride.
The nurse asked me questions and they performed some tests. She recommended a maxillo-facial surgeon as she finished with me.
By this time, my sister, who was visiting from West Palm had arrived to get me. As they wheeled me out, a nurse ran after me and strapped an arm brace on my right forearm, which was very swollen.
I had no idea the extent of my injuries at that point, but my sisters decided it would be very disturbing for my girls to see me, so I went in on the other side of the house and crashed on my sister’s bed.
When I woke sometime later, I found my sister had called my husband and he’d made the trip up. I can’t say I was very happy about that. I’m usually pretty stoic and definitely very private. They had also called my mom and sister in New York and they were on their way.
Days passed in a blur. My visiting sister from up north graciously helped clean me up, carefully tending my battered skin and washing the blood out of my hair. The facial surgeon determined my jaw had not been knocked out of line and seventeen stitches closed the wound above my left eye so that it wouldn’t leave much of a scar. To this day, I don’t remember any of the beating but later, when I saw photographs, it nearly made me sick.
Two local pastors, mine and my sister’s, came and prayed with me. I was grown enough as a Christian to know that God hadn’t done this, and it wasn’t His will. Almost immediately, I’d begun asking the LORD where He was to protect me. I’d also forgiven the guy who did it. Unforgiveness is like taking poison and hoping your enemy will die. The only person it hurts is you; the other person goes on their merry way, oblivious. I’m also convinced it had a lot to do with how things worked out and how quickly I recovered.
I met with a sketch artist. Turns out, he’d unsuccessfully attempted something similar the same night with a girl in Brandon, but she’d managed to get away. Our sketches were nearly identical, and I was able to pick him out of a photographic lineup. Detectives interviewed me several times. One, who didn’t know the LORD, asked me what church I attended when I told how I’d already forgiven the guy, and I was able to share with him.
Several churches were praying for his apprehension. It came only a few days later.
As it turns out, his wife was a Christian. When he went home, bragging about the big time he’d had in a Mercedes the night before, she threatened to call the police. He tried to kill her. She didn’t show up for church, her concerned pastor went to check on her and got there in time to save her. She agreed to cooperate with police and to testify against him. Thank God for good pastors.
The police were able to tie him to three other cases like mine. Several painstaking meetings with the DA enabled them to bring charges in two of them, as well as the attempt on his wife’s life. He apologized but explained, “This guy is a sociopath. We’ve been after him for 10 years and want to make sure he never sees the outside of a jail cell again.”
I’d like to say I breezed through it. There were challenges but the LORD was faithful. Physically, I recovered very quickly but I did suffer with some nightmares where he came at me, I pulled out a gun and demanded, “How dare you?!” before shooting him. I also dealt with some fear when I went back to work but that eventually faded. I’m convinced it was the mercy of God that I don’t remember what happened in my driveway; at least I’m not haunted by whatever caused the excessive beating. I can’t imagine I was putting up much of a fight. He was easily twice my size.
At the trial, he was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus twenty years.
About six weeks had passed and things began returning to normal, but I was still pestering God about why it had happened. “I know it was not Your will and that You’re my protector. Where were You?”
Finally, he answered me. “I was there. Don’t you remember? I tried to tell you to go home a different way, but you overrode me because you were tired. If you’d taken the other way, you never would have run across him.”
You know, I took that way home from then on. Turns out, it was shorter than the way I’d been taking.
It wasn’t the only lesson I learned. I also discovered that praying in the spirit doesn’t stop the devil. To stop the devil, you must use your authority and speak.
So, seven years to the day, halfway across the country in Tulsa, a man entered my apartment at 4:20 a.m. Coming into my room, he put a knife to my throat and told me he was going to assault me.
My first thought was: Oh no, we’re not doing this again! Boldly, I commanded, “Get off me, in the Name of Jesus!”
He wrestled with me a bit.
Again, I demanded, more firmly. “Get off me, in Jesus’ Name!”
The knife drew back, and he hesitated.
I repeated myself the third time.
Physically, he withdrew a little, then said. “Put the covers over your head.”
I did and I heard him leave the room. For a minute, I wondered what I needed to do if he went down the hall to where my girls were sleeping.
He didn’t. Instead, I heard the sliding glass door shut as he fled.
Another series of miracles allowed the police to apprehend him within a couple of weeks. Never underestimate the value of good neighbors. We went to trial and he received a 20-year sentence.
Recently, as I was praying in the spirit about some things and whining that I hadn’t seen the results I needed, the LORD reminded me of what I’d learned. “You don’t pray and ask me to do something about things already clear in My WORD. You must speak to them (Mark 11:22-24). Remember how you prayed in the spirit during the assault? It didn’t stop the devil but when you commanded him to desist, he fled.”
In these challenging times and those ahead of us, it’s critical that we know the voice of the LORD and obey him quickly. We must also use the weapons of warfare He’s provided. Our lives and those of our children, our nation and people all over the world may depend on it.