The Devil in Pew No. 7
(iStock Photo/theprint; sterlsey)

A parishioner's obsession with controlling a small-town church became a living nightmare for a new pastor's family. Here's one woman's remarkable story of pain and forgiveness.

I ran.

 My bare feet pounding the pavement were burning from the sun-baked asphalt. Each contact between flesh and blacktop provoked bursts of pain as if I were stepping on broken glass. The deserted country road, stretching into the horizon, felt as if it were conspiring against me. No matter how hard I pushed myself, the safe place I was desperate to reach eluded me.

Still, I ran. 

Had a thousand angry hornets been in pursuit, I couldn't have run any faster. Daddy's instructions had been simple: I had to be a big girl, run down the street as fast as my legs could carry me and get help. 

There was nothing complicated about his request. Except for the fact that I'd have to abandon my hiding place under the kitchen table, risk being discovered by the madman down the hall and, in turn, provoke another confrontation. I knew, however, that ignoring Daddy's plea was out of the question.

And so I ran.

Even though Daddy struggled to appear brave, the anguish in his eyes spoke volumes. Splotches of blood stained his shirt just below his right shoulder. The inky-redness was as real as the fear gnawing at the edges of my heart. 

I wanted to be a big girl for the sake of my daddy. I really did. But the fear and chaos now clouding the air squeezed my lungs until my breathing burned within my chest. 

My best intentions to get help were neutralized, at least at first. I remained hunkered down, unable to move, surrounded by the wooden legs of six kitchen chairs. I had no illusions that a flimsy 6-by-4 table would keep me safe, yet I was reluctant to leave what little protection it afforded me. 

In that space of indecision, I wondered how I might open the storm door without drawing attention to myself. One squeak from those crusty hinges was sure to announce my departure plans. Closing the door without a bang against the frame was equally important. The stealth of a burglar was needed, only I wasn't the bad guy.

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