Clergyman recalls encounter at gunpoint
By Jerry Coldren
Den had just come in from his night job. After he changed, Den picked up my suitcase and started out the back door, which leads into his garage. I was following.
As he went out the double garage door, Den dropped my suitcase and disappeared. I thought: What is he doing?
I found out when I stepped out the garage door.
A man was standing behind him, with a pistol pointed at Den’s head. Then he saw me and pointed his pistol at me.
"This is a hold-up. I am going to rob you, and if you don’t do what I tell you to do, I am going to shoot you!"
He was wearing a mask over his nose, but it kept sliding down as he yelled.
Den walked to my side, turned, and faced the man. Den asked the man what he wanted.
"We are going into the house; I am robbing you! If you don’t do what I tell you, I am going to shoot you!"
My brother began to debate the robber. I did, too.
Den: "You don’t want to do this. You are going to ruin your life. I am not going to go back into the house. This is my house and no one comes in unless I invite them. Why are you doing this?"
Man: "My life is worth nothing. I’ve got too many problems, and I need money. I have no other choice. If you don’t go, I am going to shoot you right now."
Den: "Then you might as well shoot me now."
Man, pointing gun at me: "You are going to take me into the house or I will shoot you!"
Me: "My brother said that you are not welcome to go into his home. You might as well shoot me, too!"
Man: "Don’t you understand? I’m desperate."
Me: "Sir, if you are that desperate, why don’t you let us try to help you? We can get you help."
Man: "There is no hope for me. This is the only way for me to get out of my situation."
When the robber said he had no hope, I knew what to say. The Holy Spirit got in charge of me; I must emphasize that.
Me: "Sir, there is always hope. I pastor a church. I know some people who would be willing to help. I would like to pray for you right now that God would help you. There is One who can really help you with your feeling of having no hope. That is God—the God that sent his only Son into this world to die for you, me, my brother, and the entire world so all would have hope. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is the only hope anyone can depend on."
Cursing, the robber rejected my offer of prayer and then my business card.
Den: "I have a few dollars in my wallet. I will give them to you and turn around, and then you can leave. I won’t know the direction you take. We can forget what happened. OK?"
The man uncocked and slightly lowered the gun.
Quickly I extended the same offer.
The robber ordered us to slowly get out our money. Den had $30; I had $40.
The man grabbed the money and took off. Den and I did not turn around; we heard no car.
After a few moments, Den said, "Let’s go into the house." He closed the garage door and locked the regular door as we went back inside. He called the sheriff’s department, and law officers began arriving. K-9 units and a helicopter were ordered into action. The public was alerted through news media.
My brother told a newsman: "I was thinking of how I could hit the man, and my brother was asking if he could pray for him."
Learning that I was a pastor, a reporter asked my feelings about the robbery and the man.
I’m sad that the man would not accept our help. A lot of people think there is no hope for them.
Society in general has not gotten the word out that there is help available. The Church has not done a good job either, in letting the world know there is hope in God through Jesus Christ.
I forgave the man the moment he put the pistol in my face. If he did shoot me, I did not want to go to my God and Savior with unforgiveness in my life.
I still pray for that man, that God will put someone in his path who will fertilize the seed planted when I told him about Jesus Christ.
My hope and my prayer are that this story will cause the reader to consider what he or she would do in such a situation. Are you willing to help and offer hope to a person holding a gun in your face? Are you willing to forgive at that moment? Where have you placed your hope?
May God surround you with protecting angels, as He did for my brother and me. May God use you to bring hope into someone’s life.
(Officially retired, Coldren now pastors Shidler/Grainola/Foraker, Bartlesville District. He and his wife, Vela, live at Shidler. The robber was arrested about a month after the encounter, the pastor reported.)