Rebecca Nichols Alonzo’s family was terrorized when she was a child. Her mother was shot and killed, and her father was seriously injured as 7-year-old Rebecca and her 3-year-old brother watched helplessly.
As horrible as the attack was, the author of “The Devil in Pew Number Seven” decided to forgive the perpetrators. She talked about intentional forgiveness in an interview on Intentional Living with Dr. Randy Carlson.
“There is hope beyond the hurt; there is a purpose beyond the pain,” Rebecca said, who based her decision to forgive on Ephesians Chapter 6. “You do not wake up in the morning, feeling like forgiving someone. I had to make a choice to live by the word of God.”
Rebecca told the Intentional Living audience what happened after her family moved to Sellerstown, N.C., near Raleigh, in 1969 to pastor the local church. The community welcomed them with open arms…with one exception. Horry Watts, an influential local politician, harbored a grudge against Rebecca’s father, Robert Nichols, because Nichols fired his wife. Watts began an assault of terror on the Nichols family that would last for years.
The family received threatening phone calls and letters, damage to property, shootings and bombings that culminated for years. On March 23, 1978, another local man, Harris Williams, walked into the Nichols’ kitchen armed with three guns. Her mother did not survive the attack, and her father died seven years later, never recovering physically or emotionally. Rebecca became an orphan, later adopted by her aunt.
“We watched as this man shot our parents in front of us,” Rebecca said. “It shattered our world.”
Williams was convicted of second-degree murder. Watts pleaded no contest to two counts of conspiring to bomb the church and parsonage and was sentenced to 15 years. His sentence was reduced, and he left prison after one year.
See Rebecca Nichols Alonzo in this interview with CBN.
The experience was shattering, but Rebecca found forgiveness through her father’s teachings from the Bible.
“My parents were intentional on living what they preached in front of me” Rebecca said. “Because I watched my parents pray, and forgive, over and over again, that was my example.”
After Rebecca turned 17, more than 10 years after the attack, she received a call from Watts.
“I can’t live the rest of my life without knowing you’ve forgiven me?” he said. “Can you?”
“Mr. Watts,” Rebecca said, “we forgave you a long time ago.”
How do you deal with forgiveness? Post your comments below.