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The Devil in Pew Number Seven Paperback – August 1, 2010
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From the Back Cover
Rebecca never felt safe as a child.
In 1969, her father, Robert Nichols, moved with his family to Sellerstown, North Carolina, to serve as a pastor. There he found a small community eager to welcome him . . . with one exception. Glaring at him from pew number seven was a man obsessed with controlling the church and determined to get rid of anyone who stood in his way.
The first time the Nichols family received a harassing phone call, they dismissed it. The same went for the anonymous letter that threatened they’d leave “crawling or walking . . . dead or alive.” But what they couldn’t ignore was the strategy of terror their tormentor unleashed, more devastating and violent than they could have ever imagined. Refusing to be driven away, Rebecca’s father stood his ground until one night when an armed man walked into the family’s kitchen . . . and Rebecca’s life was shattered.
If anyone had reason to harbor hatred and seek personal revenge, it would be Rebecca. Yet The Devil in Pew Number Seven tells a different story. It is the amazing, true saga of relentless persecution, one family’s faith and courage in the face of it, and a daughter whose parents taught her the power of forgiveness.
About the Author
Bob DeMoss served as a youth culture specialist for Focus on the Family for seven years and is one of America's leading authorities on pop culture. He is an internationally acclaimed speaker and has authored ten books, including four novels co-authored with New York Times best-selling author Tim LaHaye. Bob and his family live in Franklin, Tennessee. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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,
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.