on September 8, 2010
When my husband told me we would be receiving this book to review I was very excited and this book did not let me down. It had me from the very first page. In fact, I started it in the evening, read until 1:30 in the morning, got up at 6:30am to read some more and finished it by about 10am. It was that good.
Let me give you a little bit of info about the book and then I will tell you why you should definitely read it, too. This is the true story of Rebecca Nichols Alonzo and her family. She was born into a little community called Sellerstown. The book shares about about her parents' love story and travels as traveling preachers before she was born, but the main story mostly takes place at the Free Welcome Holiness Church in Sellerstown, North Carolina where her father took over as the pastor in 1969. A man that attended the church decided to make it his mission to terrorize the family until they left the church, as he had lost a lot of control over the congregation when Rebecca's dad came to town. He tried to accomplish this through numerous bombings of their house and church, threatening phone calls and mail, sniper fire and even trying to pay someone off to run the pastor down with a car. Throughout the entire story Rebecca's parents stand steadfast and instead of teaching their children to be fearful and hateful, they repeatedly encourage them to trust in the Lord and forgive their enemies.
I knew that I would like this book from the very beginning, but this book turned out to be so much more than I had even hoped it would be. This book truly addresses the issues that hold us back from forgiving, and the true toll that anger, bitterness, and lack of forgiveness can have on our own lives and walk with the Lord. This book made me step back and take a look at the condition of my relationships present and past. I realized that I am not as good at speaking "the language of heaven" as I thought I was. That is something that God is now working on in my heart because of Rebecca's courage to tell her story and share the wonderful lessons of forgiveness that her parents taught her and her brother. I am so thankful for this book. I plan on reading it again and again so that these lessons are never far from my mind. I am grateful that Rebecca had the courage to share her story and I hope that you will pick this book up and be blessed by it as well.
on August 13, 2011
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." The title of this book, and the preceding quote on the front cover, led me to believe that this was going to be a true story similar to "The Amityville Horror" and other "true stories" of demons and possession. I was shocked as I proceeded to read it that it IS a true story. You will have a hard time believing all the things that went on in a small town and how a minister and his family were terrorized in America in the 1970's. That is right - the 1970's...
The author, Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, relates the story of her childhood growing up in the town of Sellerstown, North Carolina. Her father, Robert Nichols, was a minister and he and his wife had moved to the community as he was to be the new pastor of The Free Welcome Holiness Church. Rebecca had not yet arrived on the scene as her mother was pregnant when they moved, and a brother Daniel would also join them later. A young family starting a new life in rural America would not normally provide any reason for a book to be written, however a Mr. H. J. Watts would make sure that their lives were anything but peaceful.
The anonymous phone calls to her parents started when Rebecca was only eighteen months old. The caller would threaten Mr. Nichols and then hang up. This was in 1971 when there was no such thing as caller ID, and even traces on phone calls were unusual and only used in extreme cases. Unfortunately it would get to that point, however much too late to help the Nichols' family. These phone calls continued for years, at all hours of the day and night, making it impossible for the family to relax and enjoy their home and community. There were also unsigned, anonymous letters sent to them, threatening harm if they did not leave the church and get out of town. The stress imposed by these phone calls and letters alone must have been enormous, however it went much, much farther than that.
Mr. H. J. Watts was a wealthy resident who had his hands in most people's business, and was also practically in total control of The Free Welcome Holiness Church. When Mr. Nichols arrived as the new pastor, he started to change how things were done. As the membership in the church grew mainly due to Mr. Nichols' popularity, Mr. Watts lost much of his influence and judging by his reaction he must have seethed inside. He would attend church every Sunday and sit at the back in pew number seven. He would make faces at Mr. Nichols during the sermon, look at his watch and do all he could to disturb the service. Often he would leave before the service was over and loudly slam the door on his way out to be certain others knew of his displeasure. In spite of his antics, the vast majority of the community was pleased with how the church was prospering, although they did literally nothing to stop Mr. Watts from his brutal harassment.
Rather than chronicle all of the unthinkable things that were done by Mr. Watts and his accomplices, I will relate one instance that will astound you. On the night of July 1, 1975 DYNAMITE was ignited outside the Nichols' home, causing the windows to shatter (that is how close it was) and very nearly killed Daniel who was just an infant. Shattered glass littered his crib where he slept and the room he was in, however he was not even scratched and slept through the incident. This was not the first time dynamite had been used at their home or at the church but it was the first time it came very close to injuring or killing someone. The public harassment at church, threatening phone calls and letters, home invasions, gunshots fired at the home while they slept and yet another bombing should have caused the Nichols to pack up and leave, but they chose to stay based on their firm belief in God. This decision would later cost Rebecca and Daniel their parents when they were still young children.
At the beginning of this review I quoted "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." This was what Mr. Nichols preached to his daughter, and this was the reason that he did not leave. He also could have taken matters into his own hands and delivered his own justice. Robert Nichols was 6'3" tall, muscular and an ex-Navy fighter and could easily have beaten the elderly Mr. Watts physically if he chose to. Instead, he stayed and prayed that the Lord would take care of them and that eventually Mr. Watts would see the error of his ways. As this decision would cost him his life, it would be up to Rebecca to forgive Mr. Watts when he did finally repent and ask for forgiveness.
The events related in this book are unbelievable, and it amazes me that this could have happened anywhere, let alone in a small town in America in the 1970's. Mr. Watts was eventually prosecuted and sent to prison, however the damage that he inflicted on a young family could never be repaired by a jail sentence. Rebecca and Daniel have to be two of the strongest, most resilient, forgiving people I have ever heard or read about. Their story will bring you joy at times and make you cry at other times. It will also give you hope that anything can be overcome through faith and forgiveness. That is the message that Rebecca has passed on from her father - faith in God and forgiveness of others (and yourself) will allow you to lead a blessed, spiritual life. Had Rebecca carried the bitterness toward Mr. Watts that she must have felt, or even blamed her father for not leaving when they had every reason and plenty of opportunity to move on, her life could have been vastly different.
I would definitely recommend this book. Whenever you are upset with someone for some perceived slight they have caused you, try to remember Rebecca and her family. Life is not always smooth sailing and others will never do exactly what we wish and hope that they would do. Also remember what Jesus said when he was being crucified "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do."
Laughter and love,
on October 30, 2011
I RARELY REVIEW THINGS THAT I BUY BUT THIS BOOK IS GREAT. I'M A FORMER MARINE THAT MOSTLY READS SUPERNATURAL BOOKS BY KOONTZ. THIS BOOK IS NOTHING LIKE THAT.THE AUTHOR TELLS US OF HER HORRIFIC EARLY LIFE BUT REMAINS POSITIVE AND FORGIVING THROUGHOUT. THERE ARE BAD PEOPLE THAT DO BAD THINGS IN THE WORLD. THERE ARE ALSO BAD PEOPLE WHO WITNESS BAD THINGS BEING DONE TO OTHERS AND DO NOT ACT. UNFORTUNATELY THAT IS THE WORLD WE LIVE IN. THIS FAMILY'S ORDEAL SHOWS US THAT THERE ARE GOOD PEOPLE OUT THERE. IT ALSO GAVE ME HOPE THAT MAYBE GOOD CAN OVERCOME BAD. I LOVED THIS BOOK.
on July 12, 2010
Of the 50 or 60 books I collected at a recent book convention, this was my favorite. Don't miss it.
The dramatic and beautifully told story would have been enough, but this memoir is also GOOD FOR THE SOUL. It is for anyone who's ever needed to forgive someone. (And if you don't find yourself in that lot, you're just not paying attention.)
Pick up The Devil in Pew Number 7. You won't want to put it down.
on August 29, 2010
Although this book started off slow to me:jumping from one part to another of her childhood events, once it finally settled down to narrative it was hard to put down. I should have known that when I saw my husband pick it up out of curiousity and then proceed to read it in one sitting.(Something he never does)
Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, and the author, Bob DeMoss do an excellent job of opening a window into the life of pastors and their families that few people ever see. From hate mail to bombs and guns, the violence is on a scale that most would find hard to believe in our America of religious tolerance. But this is not fiction: it chronicles real-life people with real-life anguish and real Heaven-ordained forgiveness.
Once you get into it, like my husband and I, you will not be able to put it down as you find the God of the Bible working His plan of grace and mercy in the lives of those involved. And even though it may not feel right, it may not not seem fair; it works together ultimately for the good of all those involved, and to bring glory to the God of Heaven.
The lessons on forgiveness and why it was so important to her to forgive at the end of the book are priceless by themselves. I recommend it.
on October 22, 2011
It took me a while to figure out what to say about this book. For me, reading it was a similar experience to watching Saving Private Ryan: I recognized that it was powerful and well done, but it was still hard to watch. Rebecca's story of terror in a small town and how she forgave her family's persecutor is a powerful story, yet it was a hard book to read.
I was somewhat familiar with the story before reading the book thanks to a couple articles and a CNN series on Rebecca. In 1969 her father took the pastor of a small country church in North Carolina. He soon crossed paths with Mr. Horry Watts. While not even being a member of the church, Watts was determined to control the church decisions and pocketbook. Rev. Nichols was determined not to let him. In response, Watts embarked on a campaign of terror against the pastor and his family, including repeated bombings of the parsonage, drive-by shootings of the rooms where the family slept, and repeated death threats.
On one hand, it is amazing that Rebecca was able to forgive this man who tormented her family. What she has to say about forgiveness should challenge any reader. If she could forgive this, what is holding you back from forgiving. On the other hand, as I was reading I kept thinking "I can't believe they stayed." I'm a pastor's wife. I understand knowing God's leadership and fighting spiritual battles. Yet I can't imagine being in this situation and not getting my children to safety, even if my husband continued to pastor the church. That makes my feelings about the book somewhat ambivalent. Part of me is amazed at this unbelievable story--including Watts' repentance and Rebecca's forgiveness. The other part keeps wondering why on earth her parents let their children endure this. It's a powerful, well-told story, but an emotionally difficult read.
on September 8, 2012
I have mixed emotions about this book. The author wrote it making "forgiveness" the story. But as I read through her story, I could not get past how her parents "allowed" these horrible events to endanger their children.
In no way do I discount what the author and her brother went through...it was HORRIBLE. This story needed to be told, as difficult as it was to read. The author and her brother lived in a very dysfunctional environment during their early formative years, at a time where their basic foundations of security should be established within the bounds of their family and community. Although they had loving, Christian parents, they lived in a nightmare where they were continuously attacked by a man and his cronies through sporadic bombings and gunfire during the night. To think that bombings would occur close to where the children slept (powerful enough to damage their house and shatter window glass over a sleeping baby)and bullets fired through her window that missed her by inches is hard to imagine. Here was a little girl who had to sleep in her own room at night, afraid to turn her back to the window because she never knew when there would be another attack or if she would wake up in the morning. She was only 4yrs old at the time. Where is the "right" in that? But I am even more disturbed by a father who chose to keep his family in that nightmarish situation, which eventually led to even more disaster. I'm sorry, but I question the wisdom of her father. Where does "pride" over step common sense? Why would someone keep their family in that environment? I know it is not for me to judge another's actions, but it is hard for me to reconcile what those poor children had to live through.
On the more positive side, the children were able to forgive their persecutors...and that is a tremendous blessing because it released them from a prison of fear, anger, and negativity. In their forgiveness, redemption was brought forth. From a human perspective, they went through enough to be angry for the rest of their lives at their persecutors and the parents who should have protected them. By the Grace of God, they were able to forgive.
Aside from the events that were narrated, I feel that the writing of the book could use some improvement. It was choppy at times and expounded on details that did not lend much to the story.
on September 25, 2012
I bought this book because I heard great things about it, so I'm probably in the minority of people who did not enjoy it. At all. I didn't think it was very well-written and I also found it really preachy. I couldn't get through it. I know a lot of people liked this, it just wasn't for me.
on October 10, 2011
I devoured this story. It blows my mind that the author could forgive this monster, but she has. I found myself getting very worked up over the relentless torture he put the family through. I know I would not have been able to stay in that town, and would have moved far, far away. But, that's what people of faith do. They stick it out, and ultimately pay the price. I would recommend this story to anyone who's having a hard time forgiving someone. If Rebecca could forgive this devil, anyone can forgive. It's a reminder that some of our anger and resentment toward people who have wronged us, is just hurting us, not them. Across the Street
on September 11, 2014
Gripping title and plunges right into this family's horror at the hands of the bad guy, until the other story is finally revealed, that the death of her parents was actually due to an isolated tragedy that had zero ties to the intermittent terrorism they were experiencing.
Taken as two separate recountings, the terrorism was dramatic, but it ceased in time and the terrorist repented, which is not meaty enough in and of itself to fill a book. The death tragedy is also dramatic and told with great sympathy to all parties, but, it is too short to be stretched into a book, which is why I'd guess the more spectacular story of terrorism is included and given the bulk of the focus.
Both stories are shared well, but, the author's attempt to tie two shocking but unrelated events together to be one unified story about forgiveness makes the entire experience feel disjointed and rambling.
I am entirely in sympathy to the fact that these were true events, told truthfully, and this was an awful childhood that she was very blessed to survive, and she writes well, but, this book is not really about what it's billed to be about. The title should have reflected that Forgiveness is the attempted focus. It irritates me when a title is so obviously chosen for shock/marketing value and not for what's between the covers.