May 31

Paying it Forward – With a Rock

This guest posting comes to us from Michael Terrell who will be the Full Time Pastor at Canton United Methodist Church as of July 1st.

Not only is this an especially poignant reminder of what many of our Veterans have gone through it is the story of what so many of our Veterans are still going through. I felt as though as our Bishop of the Upper New York Annual Conference calls us to Conference, with a rock in hand and plans to send us home with the rock of another, this is a wonderful story of what a rock can mean.

As the hymn says “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, all other ground is sinking sand”


On Monday, Memorial Day, I took a walk to get some last minute goodies at the local gas station. As I was walking, a gentleman drove by me and put his hand out the window as if to say, “Hold on!” The car then proceeded to turn around and as the car approached, not recognizing who it was, I was getting nervous.

A man got out of the car and said deep and loud, “Hey – I need to talk with you, do you know who I am?” Sadly, I did not recognize his face. He then tells me I saved his life three years prior. As he shared with me a few of the details, my mind was refreshed.

It was a busy day for me as I entered my office at the church. Exhausted I sat down at my desk, ready to catch up on my work. The church thrift shop had just closed for the day and I was alone. Within what seemed to be maybe an hour, I heard a loud noise of the outside doors opening and in comes a gentleman who had been crying, screaming, and in a rage. Needless to say, I was taken aback and my mind was racing as to how to handle this surprise guest.

He says, “I need help. Please help me. Please help me. I can’t take no more. Please help me.” I then asked him to sit down, after he had thrown two of my metal chairs and had almost broken my office door off the hinges. His hair was a mess and he looked as though he had not shaved in days. His eyes were glassy and he was in pain.

I asked him to calm down and to begin telling me what was wrong. It was then he pulled out a knife. At first, I think I was shocked I was actually witnessing somebody pulling out a knife in my office, a complete stranger, in this little country town, in my rookie pastor’s office. My next thought was the thought of pushing a button under my desk to call for emergency back-up. Since my desk was not equipped with that, and noticing my phone was quite a ways from me, I knew I had to act as if he did not scare me.

I asked this gentleman, who I will name “Bob” what he needed the knife for. He said he wanted to kill himself. He had no reason to live. I just could not believe this kind of stuff was real, and here it was right in front of me. Bob mentioned that he had just gotten out of the military about 5 months prior, and his wife had left him, due to his anger issues, and that his children wanted nothing to do with him, and all of his friends had deserted him. Bob was desperate and thought the world would be better off without him.

I know that military service is difficult, demanding and dangerous, and that for some, returning to civilian life poses challenges. I also once heard that “a Christian must carry something heavier on his or her own shoulders than chips” and Bob really needed my help. Now was my chance and I needed to do it right.

We just began talking about how he got into the military and what he loved about it, and how he grew up and about some of the things he loved to do. We started talking about family and during this conversation which lasted a few hours; I managed to retrieve the knife from him. I think he realized that him, taking his own life would not make things any better and when I asked him if I could contact a crisis counselor, he replied yes.

After trying my best to find in the phonebook various counselors, I managed to get somebody on the phone who would speak with him, and along with my strong urging I was able to let the person on the phone know it was a life or death situation and not to play games. This seemed to make him feel better, coupled with the fact that I asked him to call me to let me know how he made out and I told him I wanted him to follow up with me on his progress.

I also wanted to give him a stone I received at a Walk to Emmaus event. This was a stone I kept in my pocket for years. I wanted him to have this stone and told him that at the times when I am in a desperate situation, I need a reminder that there is something that holds me together – my trust and God and my faith – a faith that is solid as a rock, and that I have built my own life on the rock of Christ, and that this same rock can help him too, regardless if he believes or not (I think he did, because after all, he came into the church!). He was touched by this gesture and took the stone and promised he would call me. He then thanked me for my time, shook my hand, promised he would be in touch with me, and left in a pick-up truck.

Bob left me with a knife in my hand, rock-less and in some odd way, joyful. I think he was actually going to follow through with what he promised me.

After this incident, I remember being so emotionally drained, I went home and spent some time with my wife and we talked. I was really scared at first and thought for sure my life was going to end. I thought about my daughter living without her dad, my wife without her husband, and my mom without a son. My life was flying before me in the moment I saw that knife.

Bob looked great. He gave me a big hug and said “thank you” for all I did for him. He said I gave him a new life. I told him he made the first step by admitting he needed help and sought it. Now three years later, he has his life back together and was grateful. He was headed to a support group meeting as we spoke.

He obviously had heard that I am due to leave this church to serve as pastor for the Canton United Methodist Church in Canton, NY. He said he was sorry to see me go, and that he wanted me to have something. He proceeded to pull out of his pocket a stone – the very, shiny orange stone I gave him three years ago. He told me he wanted me to have it, so when things are scary, I can remember that my faith is solid as this rock. He placed it in my hand and said, “thanks again, I have to get going to my meeting” and he drove off in his car.

I was speechless. I could not believe what had just transpired. Of course, I went to the store, and then came home to share with my wife what happened.

I thank God every day for the little things I am blessed with. I know that any minute everything I have can be taken away from me. In every situation, I try to put myself in another person’s shoes. Life is tough. We need to stand on that solid rock of Christ. If nobody knows what that rock of faith is about, I need to show it to them, and like what Jesus did for me and pay it forward.


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    • Pam Weis on May 31, 2012 at 9:04 pm
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    really enjoyed this post

    • Miranda Rand on June 2, 2012 at 8:37 pm
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    Very touching story, very well written. Shows just what faith, empathy, and a cool head can do.

    • Meredith Vanderminden on June 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm
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    Michael, this is an amazing story. I am inspired by you faith, courage and compassion. Thank you for sharing it. Blessings!

      • Michael H. Terrell on June 19, 2012 at 8:01 pm
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      To those who read this story, there is an actual ending! My last Sunday serving this church, I was greeting folks and saying good-bye, when a lady came over to me and hugged me. As she did this, she whispered in my ear, “That man you spoke of who wanted to commit suicide, is my husband. You saved my life too.Things are wonderful now. Thank you.” Then she walked away. I am at a loss for words. God is so good and I am so happy. Amen!!

      1. God is good indeed Michael ! God Bless you ! Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us !

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