As Pastor Larry Wright led a sermon against senseless violence and deaths in the community to his congregation on New Year’s Eve, a man walked into the eastern North Carolina church with a rifle in one hand and an ammo magazine with visible rounds in the other.
According to CNN and the Fayetteville Observer, Wright recognized the gun and ammunition was real and acted in order to calm the stranger and protect the members of the Heal the Land Outreach Ministries. Wright simply asked the man if he could help him and the man asked the pastor to pray for him.
After the weapon was retrieved by Wright and handed to one of the deacons, Wright and three other deacons hugged the man to make him feel loved.
Pastor Wright told CNN’s Anderson Cooper after he pat the man down and knew that he and the congregation were once again safe, he spoke out to tell all those within the church that everything was okay and the man just wanted prayer. Wright began to minister to the man and said from the moment he looked into the man’s eyes he could tell there was a lot of hurt within the man.
The gunman, who has still remained unidentified, told the churchgoers his intention were set on doing something terrible but the Lord spoke to him. He also told them that he has recently gotten out of prison, began a new job and had a new bride; however, the man also shared that he was a veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), his wife was diagnosed with a critical illness and he was struggling financially.
Wright asked the man to stick around because he wanted to help him but the pastor also wanted to finish out his sermon for the NYE celebration that was scheduled to take place in the church that night. When Wright did an altar call, he said the man came up to give his life to Jesus and while embracing Wright whispered to the man that the police were waiting for him because he has scared a lot of the attendees that night.
CNN spoke to Allison Woods, a church member, who told them watching the events of that night unfold was like watching the passages the pastor was reading come to life.
“It didn’t seem real because it was like the scripture that our pastor was reading, it was like it came off the page,” she said. “It’s the next day, when you think of all that could have happened, what could have gone wrong, it sinks in how terrible it could have gone wrong.”
During a WRAL interview with Wright, the man returns to the church the next day to apologize once again and Wright embraced him with true concern and love.