Preparing for this weekend’s sermon about finding certainty in the midst of chaos– that’s what faith can help us with– I suddenly remembered the incident from a few years ago where a young woman (a single mother) was held hostage in her own home. Brian Nichols had escaped from the courthouse in Atlanta, killing several people in his wake, and sought shelter by holding Ashley Smith at gunpoint in her own apartment. What struck me at the time was the woman’s calm and resolve in the face of danger. In a book she wrote later, she revealed that she was struggling with addiction to drugs at the time of the incident, and even offered methamphetamine to the killer in her home. But she was clearly a person seeking to grow in faith–she had read to him from the Bible and pastor Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life. She reacted and responded to her horrifying situation with a great deal of grace.
Doing an internet search, I found video that she recorded with local news immediately after her return to safety. Looking at the transcripts of the video, I notice that some of it was left out, including this pivotal interaction between the kidnapper and the woman of faith. She had chatted with him about her young daughter whom she was planning to see the next morning at 10 a.m. She had lost custody of her daughter because of the drug issues, and worried about her little girl who’s father had been killed a few years before:
So we went back to my house and got in the house. And he was hungry, so I cooked him breakfast. He was overwhelmed with–”Wow,” he said, “real butter, pancakes?”
And I just talked with him a little more, just about–about–we pretty much talked about God . . . what his reason was, why he made it out of there.
I said, “Do you believe in miracles? Because if you don’t believe in miracles–you are here for a reason. You’re here in my apartment for some reason. You got out of that courthouse with police everywhere, and you don’t think that’s a miracle? You don’t think you’re supposed to be sitting here right in front of me listening to me tell you, you know, your reason here?”
I said, “You know, your miracle could be that you need to–you need to be caught for this. You need to go to prison and you need to share the word of God with them, with all the prisoners there.”
Then 9 came. He said, “What time do you have to leave?”
I’m going to condense the story for the sermon, but here is her amazing tale: