As most of you know, I am a student of anything church safety related. I review almost all articles that come across my email or the web related to the protection of a house of worship. Some of it is good, and at times I try to figure out what was the motive of the writer. Is the writer trying to expand the Kingdom of God or wanting to push the church into something they are not. Many of the church safety experts have never been a police officer, might have some military experience, but most that I have talked with have never seen action or to the layperson were in combat. Time after time again, I see these church safety experts trying to make church safety/security (safety) teams something they are not, which is only going to get someone killed or seriously injured because of poor or improper training.
Case in point. An article came through my email called “Drawing the Line on Danger”. This was an article from 2009 that resurfaced from an organization called Church Law & Tax. I don’t know much about the organization or the writers. It appeared that the writer of this article gathered his information from several professionals in the security environment. I could not find much information on the professionals that had contributed to this article. One of the contributors was listed as the founder of Church Security Services but searching the internet, I couldn’t find anything about them. Don’t get me wrong; the article is worth a read except for a couple of things that could someday get a church into some serious trouble.
The constant theme in this article is how you, as a safety team member, should handle incidents that could be a possible danger to your church. Never in this article did it say, “Once your Spidey-sense kicks in, you should be on the phone calling your local law enforcement.” In fact, the only time it talked about calling the police was if the situation arose that you had to ask a person to leave. The article states, "Explain exactly what the regulations and the rules are and what they have to do." If they ask why they have to leave, never say, 'because I told you so.' That starts a confrontation. Just tell them they have to leave, or the police will be called." Here is where I have a problem, don’t ever tell anyone “the police will be called.” The statement should always be “the police have been called.”
As soon as you sense any danger, the police should already be on their way. If you have a disruptive person in your congregation, before you even start to talk to them, someone on the team needs to be calling law enforcement. We have the luxury in our church of having a dispatch position. That is a position where the safety team member sits in a room with a hardline telephone that if 911 is called, dispatch knows our address without the team member having to give that information. If you do not have a dispatch, designate a person to be the one that calls law enforcement as soon as something starts to happen. We must remember that most church safety team members are volunteers and are not a police officer. If we do not start thinking this way, I feel in the near future, a church will get sued over the actions of their safety team for not calling law enforcement when things started going sideways.
Your church gets training from some organization that teaches the things in “Drawing the Line on Danger.” They teach you about a person wearing a long coat on a hot day or a person with a large bag with his hand inside the bag needs to be approached. These are easy but let us do our own scenario. A person comes into your church and wants to talk to one of your pastors. He tells the pastor he is angry at the church because nine years ago, the church asked him to leave due to anger issues. He tells the pastor he is better now but is still upset with the church because he was told to leave during a bad time in his life. He wants to come back to the church and hopes that the church will welcome him back in open arms. So what do all pastors do? He tells him, of course, he is welcomed back (we all know how pastors are), but your sixth sense is firing on all cylinders. You talk to the pastor, and he tells you to watch the person but, we are a church that believes in redemption, so let us give the person another chance.
All through the service, you are watching the subject; he can’t sit still, has gone to the bathroom several times, and sweating profusely as the training said. While the service is going on and your team has him under surveillance, you run the person through the internet (we talked about it in the webinar, “Free Online Resources”). You find out he has recently been arrested several times for aggravated battery. You pray that nothing happens, but you know this person can be violent because of his past. Remember, your pastor wants to give him a chance. Toward the end of the service, the subject stands up, pulls a weapon, and shoots at the pastor and any other person near him. Your safety team member, which you put near him, grabs the suspect and gets his gun away from him. Assistance arrives and arrests the suspect. As the dust settles and people are treated, fortunately, no one was killed and only a few minor injuries. In our minds, because of our awareness of the situation, this was a good day.
Then the calls start coming in of people that want to sue the church. You ask why? Some attorneys tell you that the injured people feel that you did not do enough to protect them. If you end up in a trial and the attorney looks at you and asks you about the event and why you didn’t contact local law enforcement when you realized the person might be a possible threat. He continues with, “You have been trained in church security, correct? And what did that training tell you”? This article continues to talk about how you must confront the threat, not contact local law enforcement as soon as you think this person is a threat. You, as the safety team member, who has never responded to a "man with a gun" or a "domestic disturbance” call, is going to walk up to a person and confront them because they appear to be a threat? If you start to feel uneasy, I have no problem with you approaching them but understand that dangerous situations happen fast, and before you know it, someone is hurt (look at the West Freeway, Texas church shooting).
The article went on to say that a suspicious-looking man walked into one of the contributor's church. The person appeared to be intoxicated, was dirty, and wearing a hooded parka. It also seems that church safety knew he was a retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier. They observed him, watched him sit down, and promptly nod off. They go on and ask the question, "What's more disruptive—letting the guy sleep or making a scene? You don't make a scene if the person is not disruptive. So, when the service was over, we approached him and said he had to leave. This is where experience comes into play." Not sure how much experience the quoted resources had, but this is really bad advice.
Let’s talk about this scenario; no intoxicated person should be allowed in your church, period, that is a disruption. As soon as they realized he was drunk, a minister should have gone to him and asked him to step out of the service to talk. Law enforcement should have been called. You can have law enforcement wait in the parking lot in case all things go perfect, but it is better to have them and not need them than to need them, and they are still a phone call away.
In my experience with intoxicated people who wake up disoriented, not knowing where they are or how they got there, they are most likely to become disruptive. Many times, they come out of that “peaceful” sleep, ready to fight. This isn’t Otis of Mayberry. Another thing that bothers me about this story is that the church safety knew he was a retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier. I have known a few soldiers in the Special Forces, and I can tell you almost all of them are stand up guys.
Most I know would not show up at a church dirty, intoxicated, and wearing a hooded parka unless there is a significant issue in their life. Anything from broken family to PTS, this is a cry for help. This person should have been stopped before he got into the worship center, talked to in a supporting way, and should have found him a safe ride home. Think about this, what if he started snoring in the middle of the service? Do you wake him then, with the greater possibility of a larger disturbance because you were being nice and let him come in and sleep one-off? In this story, they woke him up after the service and told him to leave. What if he got into a car and had an accident and killed an innocent person? Some attorney will have a few questions for your church and the actions of the safety team.
Church safety and security volunteers are not law enforcement. Sure, you may have retired or even some active-duty officers on your team, but without the proper equipment, as in a bulletproof vest and radios to the cavalry, you are still at a disadvantage. Calling local law enforcement needs to be in every safety team's training. It should be a bullet point in every scenario you train on and written in your policies and procedures. Too many lives have already been cut short due to not having the experts on location. We must be proactive and not reactive.
If you have a safety company come in and does not first talk about honoring God and expanding His kingdom or doesn’t say you need to have a close relationship with local law enforcement, I would hesitate to let them do your training. Some companies put on a good act like they care about the church but are that false ambassador in sheep clothing.
If your church needs assistance in putting a plan together, considering using our free resources on our webpage as a starting point. These downloads are free. After that, consider having a conversation with me on how to protect your flock within your church with the main focus on the expansion of God’s kingdom and a partnership with your local law enforcement. We used to have a saying on the police department, “we would rather be called and not needed than called after the stuff hit the fan.”
Be safe out there and be blessed.
I think most of us will agree that we are happy to see 2020 go by the wayside. I saw a billboard that said, "I want a refund for 2020". Most people my age can tell you where they were on the day JFK was assassinated. Those that are not as old as me can tell you where they were on September 11th, 2001. But how do you describe a whole year that will go down as one of the most bizarre years in recent American history? There was never a dull moment in 2020.
As the year kicked off, I was in Virginia for my mother's funeral. We had the shooting that happened on December 29th, 2019 that was on every church safety team member's mind. At Trinity Security Allies we started watching events happening in the nation that could affect the churches. The political parties were at each other's throats and caught right in the middle were conservative churches. If you supported pro-life, pro-law enforcement, pro-Israel, marriage between a man and a woman, and pro-Trump, your church became a target. We saw a large mega-church lose a lease on two of its satellite churches because a person complained about the pastor's like on a conservative tweet.
We watched as the COVID-19 pandemic spread through the country, and certain governors said that churches were non-essential and could not have services. We witnessed pastors being arrested because they refused to close down, and congregations were warned of possible prosecution. It was okay to go to Walmart or Sam's Club and practice CDC guidelines but don't meet to talk about Christ. In some states, we saw the courts step in and say you couldn't close churches, but other states refused to see the need for Christ and enforce stricter fines on those that defied their mandates.
Social media started to flag conservative Christian talk as inappropriate, false, or harmful material. After our June 2020 blog "Is now the time for a Christian Revolution," Facebook flagged us, not allowing us to share or boost the post with our followers. I saw church members leave because they felt most of us in the congregation was too conservative for them. Members from other churches came to me and told me of issues of their church pushing the "Critical Race theory" ideology on their congregation.
Then the incident in Minneapolis happened where a black male died after being arrested and in police custody. Black Life Matters and Antifa took the streets, and while the media called it peaceful protesting, we saw cities burn and under siege. Then a BLM leader stated that all depictions of a white Jesus Christ, Mary, and His white associates needed to be taken down because it represented white supremacy. We witnessed a rise in the destruction of statues and paintings of Caucasian Christian figures.
In 2020 at Trinity Security Allies, we went to God when the pandemic started and asked for guidance during this unprecedented time. We wondered if we would have to shut our doors because of the effect COVID-19 had on churches. Yet God provided, and in some areas, we flourished. We started to use social media to get the message out on church safety, and we traveled across this country sharing the Gospel and the reasons we need to be ready for the future of the American Church. Where I had been hesitant about writing a book, the Holy Spirit inspired me to bare all. It was not easy, but it has kept me closer to Him by sharing my story, hoping it will show anyone that no matter how bad you may think you are; Christ has a place for you in His family. Now with what we have already seen in the past, we know that our ministry will grow with the issues churches are going to be facing with the possible next administration.
So, if we thought 2021 would be better and we could relax, we need to think again. The Secular Democrats of America put out a paper called "Restoring Constitutional Secularism and Patriotic Pluralism in the White House." In this document, it states, "We urge you not to underestimate the institutional strength of what we refer to (interchangeably) in this document as the "Christian nationalist movement" or the "religious right." This movement is extraordinarily well-funded and well-organized, and the manifestation of its extreme and sectarian agenda is on constant display under the Trump-Pence administration. Its political ideology is anti-democratic and anti-scientific. It provides constant cover for white supremacy."
Let's break down that their statement. Words like "Christian nationalist movement" or "religious right" cause any person, no matter if you are a conservative or liberal Christian concern. But this group is not finished with their attack on Christians. Look up the word sectarianism. It is described as a "narrow or bigoted person" by Merriam-Webster. The last sentence in that paragraph states that the Christian nationalist movement is a constant cover for white supremacy. If I didn't know that Christ's teaching is so far from this rhetoric, I would wonder if Christianity wasn't an alt-right movement, but I know it isn't.
Paul states in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." When we look at Christ himself, He preached love even toward our enemies, something we do not see in this document. If you go to the Secular Democrats of America's website where they state, "Secular Caucuses, while advancing a positive vision of pluralism and secular democracy, are on the frontlines fighting Christian right's agenda. We won't stand by as they siphon taxpayer dollars into private religious institutions, establish Christianity as the de facto "American" religion, and undermine hard-won civil and human rights in the name of "religious liberty." First, they are violating their own rule of pluralism, more than one opinion. They are also not a group for the love of their fellow man; this is an organization that promotes hate against conservative Christians. And what I define as a conservative Christianity are those that are pro-life, pro-law enforcement, pro-Israel, that God alone created the heavens, earth, and man, and believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. If you fall into this category, understand you are a conservative Christian.
I need every person that is concerned about the future of Christianity to read this document. There is too much to cover in this blog and we will be talking about it in the days to come. This organization, Secular Democrats of America, is coming after your church and you. If you think that the 2013 IRS scandal that bullied conservative groups wasn't bad enough, wait till those groups that want to shut you down get started on your church, your private Christian school, or any group that claims to be a Christian organization.
So, for 2021, turn your eyes on the Creator. Pray for His will and guidance during these concerning times. Watch for the wolves that are at the door. Look for ways you can help the church get out the Word while protecting the Bride. Those that turn to the Lord about their concerns in the church understand He has your back. You that have been chosen to protect the flock, and there is no rest. "I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest," Isaiah 62:6.
So many people are claiming the end time is near. I will not even go there. While He has me on this earth, I will follow Him and do what He has instructed me to accomplish, spreading His love with a little church security on the side. You have heard me say it before, but I look forward to that day where all of us that have worked so hard on protecting the flock go home and meet our Lord and Savior. As 1 Peter 5:2-4 says, "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."
If ever there was a time when churches needed a safety team, the time is now. Let us work together to make 2021 a safe year for our churches. Let us be ambassadors for Christ and spread his love while watching for the wolves looking for someone to devour. Let us remember who we work for and know that His strength, peace, comfort, and wisdom is giving to those that ask. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21. Let Wendy and me know how we can assist you in your walk with Christ and protecting your flock in 2021.
It is hard to believe that we are in December of 2020. This year has been one for the history books and with 31 days till 2021 the finish of 2020 should be interesting to say the least. With Covid-19 still causing churches alarm and the political battle still going on, I fear for our country and our churches. If we could just take a chapter out of history of a story from World War I about the famous Christmas Truce of 1914. British and German soldiers held an unofficial ceasefire starting on Christmas Eve and continuing till Christmas Day. Singing Christmas carols, the soldiers on both sides joined in and in the morning continued the armistice by climbing out of their trenches and greeted each other with “Merry Christmas”. They exchanged gifts of cigarettes and food. There is a story of a friendly soccer game among the warriors. German Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch recalled: “How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of love managed to bring mortal enemies together as friends for a time.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could call a truce during this Christmas season to all the craziness that is happening around this country? Unfortunately, I feel this is not going to happen this year. If anything, it may get worse. This is one of those times that I would love to be wrong but if you have been paying attention to what has been happening around the country, there is a war against the church, and I don’t see the Christmas Truce of 2020 happening.
We started a series on our Thursday night webinars called “Getting Ready for Christmas”. We pointed out the attacks we had seen on churches this year. States like California closed churches because of the pandemic. When churches started to fight back, they found themselves being fined and the pastors threatened of being arrested. A pastor in Hillsborough County was put in jail because he defied county orders of churches not being an essential business and held services. Other churches that had outside services, police departments wrote down license tags of those attending for possible future charges of violating public health guidelines. We saw churches where Black Life Matter (BLM) protesters showed up and blocked the entrances from attendees being able to attend services without being harassed and physically assaulted. We witnessed a church who lost a lease on two of their campuses that were being held in two different school buildings. A non-church goer who was following the lead pastor on Twitter felt because he liked a Trump tweet that he was racist. The school board agreed and canceled the church’s lease at the two schools. And this was just the beginning.
We saw two churches in Florida where each suspect poured flammable liquids in their worship centers and set them on fire. In one of those incidents the suspect drove his van through the front doors of the church before pouring 10 gallons of gasoline on the floor and igniting it while members were in the service. Fortunately, no one was hurt but these are the attacks we are seeing more and more of.
Then a BLM activist tweeted that all art of a white European reference to Jesus, Mary and the Disciples should be taken down because they are a form of white supremacy. After that we saw an uptick of attacks on statues of Jesus and Mary across the United States. In one arrest in Texas the suspect said he vandalized the statue of Mary because she was the wrong color. We talked about this before, race is the only way that Satan can drive this country apart and believe me, Satan is alive and well.
But just when I thought to myself that maybe, just maybe we could have a truce during Christmas and put away all of the negative things that have happened to us during this year and maybe, just maybe we could hold onto that Christmas tradition of “… and on earth peace and good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14), things continued to escalate. No matter what your political views are or even if you don’t believe in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, could we put our differences aside and remember the meaning of the season?
Yet while reading a news article on Thanksgiving Day I realized that there is not going to be truce in fact we are in a spiritual war that appears to have no end. The article from the Fulton Sun talked about a historic church in Holts Summit, MO that was vandalized. The title read “Vandals wreck historic Holts Summit Church”. It also when on to say the church’s congregation was reeling after the attack. This was not just a few holes in windows or some graffiti on the walls, this was massive damage to the church. Windows smashed, gaping holes torn in the walls, pews tipped over, toilets shattered, furniture smashed and even blades on ceiling fans were broken. There were gun shots to doors in the building and even scorch marks where they lit fireworks in the church. Another article “Vandals destroy historic Holts Summit church and its new location on Thanksgiving eve” show over 33 pictures of the damage to this church that was originally built over two centuries ago. This attack is nothing more than hate and we need to be prepared for this type of assault against any house of worship.
There are people out here that would like to take Christ out of Christmas, remember they tried it before. They even came out and said that it was politically incorrect to say “Merry Christmas” because it insulted those who did not believe in Christ. What did we do? We took a stance and we found that there were more people that liked the words “Merry Christmas” than those that felt offended. We did not take this stand to cause a war, we just didn’t like being told we could not enjoy the birthday of Christ.
So, for this Christmas I want to reach out to those that probably will not read this blog and offer an olive branch. Instead of fighting over our differences until the end of time, whether if I believe, Christ coming home or as you believe a comet destroys the earth or aliens from outer space comes down and takes you home, let’s agree for a brief afternoon that we are stuck together on this planet. We have not colonized Mars or the Moon yet so unless we move to different countries we will be here for a while. Why can’t we sit down and have a conversation and respect each other in our differences? Let’s promise not to talk about politics or religion but to ask each other how our families are doing. Let’s promise to not yell at each other but give each other a voice and listen to each other. At the end of having a moment together I will tell you that I am going to pray for you and you can tell me to have a nice day but we will have a moment where we talk about what is going on in our lives and treat each other civil before we go back to our battles over who is right and who is wrong. We both know that we probably will not change each other’s minds or agendas; but I would like to think maybe we could have the Christmas Truce of 2020. Care to join me?
Over the last month there have been two vicious attacks in France where knives were used to kill innocent people. One was against a teacher the other was against three people inside a church. Authorities have said that the killing of the teacher was because he was discussing caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his students. The teacher had received death threats and the police had been contacted by a parent for the teacher’s actions. An interesting statement in the article was made by French President Emmanuel Macron. Marcon said “One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught ... the freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe.”
In the other attack three people were brutally murdered on Thursday while visiting a church to worship and had no ties to any outside organization that promoted hate against the Muslim religion. A French Prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said, “The three were killed “only because they were in the church at that moment.” France’s President promised to immediately increase the number of soldiers deployed to protect schools and religious sites from around 3,000 to 7,000.
But in your mind, you are saying this can never happen over here. This happened in France and they have let things get out of hand where they are having terrorist attacks all the time. We don’t have situations like that over here in the United States. Really? Have you been watching the news lately? We have cities that are burning in our country and as we get closer to this election people are preparing for the worst. Business are boarding up, police departments are starting to plan for mass riots, and we sit here and say what is happening in other countries cannot happen here.
Of course, it really depends on what news source you may be watching. There are a few out there that will tell you all that is happening in the cities are peaceful protests. When you set a building, car or any police station on fire that is not peaceful protesting. When you loot a family run business like the one in this article this is nothing but an attack against a family that has worked hard in their neighborhoods to better their community. The owner, a former school crossing guard and her brother, a former police officer quit their jobs to start their salon. The owner told reporters she “emptied my savings and checking account,” maxed out her credit cards and even sold her house to open the business.” When you watch the video, you see that in less than a minute, looters ransacked and destroyed their boutique, their livelihood only because they were in the area of the riots. So, whatever news source you are watching, do your own investigation. I just did a search on looting in Philadelphia and if this is the “City of Brotherly Love” we are starting to look a lot worse than France.
Once again you scoff at my concern. Let me remind you of two things that were said in the beginning of this document. In the first incident French President Emmanuel Macron said, “One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught ... the freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe.” Isn’t that what our churches are doing; teaching the freedom to believe in Christ or not believe? What happens when those that are causing all the hate and discontent in our streets finally get shut down by law enforcement? Do you think they are going to stop their attacks? No; they will just start looking for softer targets to hit. If your church is not preaching their views, you could be the next target. Once again say it can’t happen here. In our area we have had two attacks on churches that say it can. Back in July of 2020 we had a van drive through the front doors of a church in Ocala and the driver get out and poured 10 gallons of gasoline on the floor only to light it and drive away. Fortunately, those inside the building were not hurt but this could have been a massacre. Then in September 2020 a man went into a Tampa church and poured flammable material in the worship center and set it on fire. First responders got to the fire before it caused too much damage. In our research we are seeing more and more churches vandalized across the country but unless you are out there daily looking for it you don’t see it.
The second thing that caused me concern was that in the mass murder at the church, French Prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said, “The three were killed “only because they were in the church at that moment.” This speaks volumes. “Only because they were in the church at that moment”. Is the prosecutor saying that maybe they shouldn’t have been in church? Is this a pandemic plug; don’t go to church during the pandemic or you could get killed? What does that have to do with the attack? People were killed inside a church; it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is. Churches should be a safe place, period. I really don’t think he meant it that way, I am sure he meant it that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. That doesn’t even sound right. Shouldn’t we feel safe when we are in a house of worship? But during these times, do we feel safe?
Since we have come back together inside the church, we have had two disruptive people inside our church. One wanted to argue over theology and the other wanted to argue over everything. Is this a sign of what we are going to see in the future? I don’t know but we need to be ready for what may be coming our way. I keep saying this over and over, it is only a matter of time, those that hate the current environment in our country are going to start taking out their frustrations on the church and from what I have seen, that concerns me.
But I am going to end on a more positive note. There still is good in this world. Remember the Philadelphia boutique that was destroyed? The owner of the shop, Jameelah Scurry, who co-owns the business with her brother Jamil, put out a Go-Fund-Me page to see if she could raise some money to help her and her brother rebuild their shop. She was hoping to raise around $15,000 yet as of Thursday they had received more than $27,600 from hundreds of strangers who posted outpourings of support on the site.
She went on to say, “It’s what I was telling people, like we, as a community, and people can come together, but we don’t have to just come together when there’s trauma or something bad.” “We should always stick together and help each other, not when just something bad is happening. It’s a blessing.”
In Mark 12:28-31 Jesus is in the temple and a teacher of the law comes to him and asked him “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Here lies the answer to our problems. The question is, can we commit to both? One is hard enough for some of us and the second one seems impossible at this time in our country. But maybe if the Christian men and women would join me in a Christian Revolution, we wouldn’t have to worry about it happening here like it is in France. In fact, with the Christian Revolution I talked about we wouldn’t have to worry about it anywhere.
Back in July Wendy, the girls and I took a trip to Texas. This was a two-fold trip, one was to go to a fundraiser for one of the survivors of the Sutherland Springs Shooting, Kris Workman and the other was to travel back up to Glen Rose. We realized right before the trip that this September 20, 2020 was the 50th anniversary of my dad walking out of a church service and killing Doctor English. We had gotten in touch with two of the daughters of Doctor English, Jean and Jane and we wanted to sit down and talk to them about the incident. We also wanted to take a walk around the town and reminisce.
After our stop in Sutherland Springs we headed up to Glen Rose. On the drive north I started thinking about the 50 years between the shooting and today. In 1970 there was no internet. Three days after the shooting my mom fled Texas taking us four boys and everything we could fit in a U-Haul trailer to Pensacola, Florida. I think the first time I went back to Glen Rose was around 1978 when I had visited my dad after he got out of prison. I walked around downtown hoping I might run into somebody I would recognize, or they would recognize me. A homecoming of some sort but it never happened. I think I visited Glen Rose a couple more times before I gave up hope of seeing someone I knew. I had made up my mind that the day we left Texas to go to Pensacola everyone in Glen Rose said good riddance, the troublemakers are gone and forgot about us. I felt that we were shunned because of the sins of our parents and lived with that guilt for years.
In January of 2005, before Facebook, I received a Yahoo message from Cindy Lewis from Glen Rose that said she knew my brothers and me. She went on to say that she had lived down the road and rode the school bus with us. Cindy also said something that stopped me in my tracks. She wrote “You know, I'll never forget the day you guys left..we really missed you and things were never the same for any of us.” They missed us; it was never the same for any of us. Another high school classmate, Shirley Gray messaged and said the same thing and I realized we were not forgotten so Wendy, Jessica (then 4) and I planned a trip to Glen Rose to seek that homecoming.
Several weeks before our planned trip I got a frantic call from Shirley that Cindy had passed away. Cindy was a horse trainer and one of the horses she was training stepped on her foot and took off her big toe. She immediately went to the doctors but several days later she developed a staph infection and before they could get her to a hospital she passed away. The expected trip to Glen Rose had already taken a turn for the worse. Airline tickets had already been purchased, vacation planned so in August of 2005 we went to Glen Rose, Texas on a fact-finding mission.
When we left Glen Rose the population was 1,554 and in 2005 it was estimated a whopping 2,283. I found out the rise in the population was because Glen Rose had become the suburbs of Fort Worth. Driving through town I felt like I had gone back in time. The courthouse was the same with the gazebo to the right of it still had the town’s claim to fame dinosaur track in it. Downtown looked like it did when we left except for a few businesses that I remembered were closed. The downtown movie theater was gone and a restaurant that I would always have dinner before a football game had shut down but most of it was just the way I remember it.
Shirley took us on a fact-finding mission. We looked for court documents, newspapers about the incident. I took a day and found some old friends from high school. We even ran into one of my aunts that still lived in town. She was married to my dad’s brother. My uncle was killed several years after we had moved from Texas. He had stopped to help a lady that had a flat tire. While changing the tire, the lady’s boyfriend came out from behind a tree and shot and killed him. I remember wondering if maybe God had made a mistake and had taken the wrong Howard.
Shirley told us that she had contacted one of Doctor English’s daughters Jane. She wanted to have lunch with Wendy and me. Jane was two years older than me and had a twin sister that we couldn’t tell apart. I was a little apprehensive about the meeting. Here I was meeting with one of the daughters of the man my father had killed. Remember I was still carrying around the sins of my father. The lunch started off with the uncomfortable greetings, then we opened up to each other. She said that her mother and the family would every once in a while, ask “I wonder how the Howard boys are doing?” They always felt sorry for what had happened and always prayed for the best for us. We both talked about our hard times after the incident and how returning to God had saved us.
Jane worked in real estate and tried to sell us some property. Everyone we came across asked me when I was going to move back to Texas. Before Cindy passed away, she and Shirley asked me if I would be interested to coming back to Glen Rose and run for sheriff. We weren’t forgotten and not one person blamed me for my father’s sin. Even though there was a lot of closure that trip I left with more questions than I got answers. It was the same as it was in 1970, just rumors and no facts. Jane told me to go and talk to her mother, Carla English but I didn’t, maybe I was afraid of what I would find out.
So back to our recent July trip. Town still looked the same. This time I had the opportunity to go to and visit our old church. It is no longer the First Baptist Church of Glen Rose. It was purchased by the Methodist church and is now a multicenter for the town. When I explained to the ladies at the center what I was doing there, one of them remembered the story about the shooting. The inside of the church had changed but there were still a flood of memories. It was where I was baptized, where I sang my first solo and where on Wednesday night after youth group we would run around like crazy playing all sorts of games. I remember where Doctor English was parked the night of the shooting.
This trip Jane told me that her twin sister Jean wanted to see me. As we were going over to Jane’s house Jaycee asked who we were going to visit. Wendy told her two of the daughters of the man that my dad had killed. Jaycee asked if this was a good idea. During the reunion of Jean and Jane English I heard joy, peace and content with their lives. Sure, it had affected them, and they went through bad times, but they found that Christ was the answer. Jean asked me how I got over the pain and I concurred with her, coming back to Jesus Christ gave me the peace, comfort and strength to move past the sins of my father.
On the long drive home I thought about what had happened 50 years ago and was amazed at how all of us had survived. A lot of Jean and Jane’s family had got through really hard times after the incident. Some have never recovered. Recently talking to my brother Joel about the incident, I told him how blessed we all were to have ended up like we did. Three brothers with outstanding careers with the Norfolk Police Department and one brother that is a minister. It was the first time that he and I talked about the incident. For the first time I heard about some of his pains and realized I have never been alone in the journey. We all were wounded but we have all found our way back to the one thing that gives us all hope, peace and joy, Jesus Christ.
David cries out in Psalms 13:1-2 “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” But in verses 5 and 6 David comes back and says it all “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me”. Sometimes we just don’t see God’s unseen plan, we just need to trust in His unfailing love and sing His praises. He will take care of the rest.
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.