Thursday, June 7, 2012

Paying the Price -- (Long, but worth the read, I promise)

 It’s 6:00pm on Sunday, November 20, 2011, in a church auditorium where a soul-winning workshop should be in full swing.  Instead, it is being used as a time of prayer.  At that moment, every mind and heart in that room is praying together for the same thing.  Glancing up at the pulpit you would look for the Pastor of this church leading his congregation in such a fervent prayer session…yet he is not there.  He is the one being lifted up in prayer, rather than the one leading the prayer.  The Pastor is laying in a hospital bed in Intensive Care. Finishing up with the prayer time, one of the Assistant Pastors says to the congregation “We knew we would pay a price…”. 
Pay a price for what?  Well, let’s rewind a year…

In late 2010, Shannon Foote, Assistant Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Marrero, LA, went to his dad, Pastor Craig Foote, with an idea that God had laid on his heart.  They knew that in the upcoming year of 2011, they wanted Soul-winning to be their focus.  It was then that they set a goal of seeing 2,011 people saved in the year 2011.  This goal by many was thought to be unattainable.  Soul-winning had always been a big part of Grace Baptist Church, but never had numbers like that been put up in a twelve month span.   However lofty, the church knew that they had God on their side and with Him nothing would be impossible!

It was an excellent year!  Each month they saw many people saved and began to see the numbers slowly climb.  Once a month they would have a “Soul-winning Marathon” where church members would go out all day and spread the gospel.  These days always turned out great results.  God was really blessing their labors! 

On November 19, 2011, members of Grace Baptist Church got ready to go out on their monthly Marathon, just as they had done for the last ten months.   It was a good day.  God moved in the hearts of many people and they saw 101 people accept Christ as their Savior.  That number in and of itself is just amazing…but even more amazing is that number caused them to reach their goal.  They had done it!  As a church, they had seen 2,011 people forever change where they would spend eternity. 

As calls and texts were going out informing everyone that they had reached the goal…a key person was missing from the celebration.  The Pastor.  Nobody had heard from him in a little while, he was not answering his phone, nor was the other gentleman that was out with him.  After about 30 minutes, the family got a call that would stop all celebrating in its tracks.  Pastor Foote had been attacked and robbed and was being rushed to the hospital. 

The details that emerged later were that he was talking to a young lady, when a young man hit him from behind with what is presumed to be a baseball bat. While he was lying on the ground, another young man robbed him of his cell phone and wallet. 
With his New Testament and gospel tracts strewn across the ground, Pastor Foote laid there unresponsive.

From their best calculations, it was determined that Pastor Foote was attacked almost at the exact moment that the 2011th person’s name was written in the Book of Life that evening.  The Devil realized the amount of souls that he had lost out on and decided to try to take out the leader.  God removed His hedge of protection from around the man of God and allowed this to happen.  They were now “paying the price”.   But why? 
Why endanger the life of this dear Pastor, Husband, Father, Grandfather and Friend?  What is God’s Perfect Plan?  We know that we can always hold on to the promise of Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  How much the comfort of that promise was needed at this moment! 

As soon as news started to travel thru the church of what had happened, two unlikely partners united…prayer and Facebook.  Posts from church members requesting prayers for Pastor Foote flooded Facebook, pleaful messages were sent via text and email, along with numerous phone calls being made.  Within minutes, people all over the world, whether they knew him personally or not, were lifting this great man of God up in prayer. 
Praise the Lord for technology!

Once at the hospital, it was determined that he had sustained a fractured skull, 14 brain contusions along with swelling and bleeding on the brain and some memory loss.  The brain was swelling and surgery was likely needed to relieve the pressure of the swelling.  However, the more grave the situation seemed, the more prayers that were sent up to Heaven.  Praise God the prayers worked and the swelling went down, but the threat of permanent brain damage and/or memory loss was still very real.  However, that was something that only time would tell.

By his side the entire time was his wonderful wife, Susan, his two children Shannon and Emily, and their spouses.  You have never seen greater testimonies of how to fully trust God thru a difficult time than this family exhibited.  Just days after the attack, while Pastor Foote was still in ICU, someone commented on how calm Mrs. Foote was and she said “Once I found out he was alive, I really have had God's perfect peace surrounding me.  I know it is all the prayers!”.   She never left his side and never waivered in her faith for even a moment.  What a shining example this should be to all of us!

Pastor Foote spent several days in ICU, then was moved to a regular room where he spent several more days.  He was released from the hospital on Nov. 25th with a good prognosis for a lengthy but full recovery.  He was admitted back into the hospital a few days later with some blood clots and an infection, but once again our faithful God came thru and he was treated and quickly released.  The doctors told him that it would be approximately 3-6 months before his brain would be healed enough for him to get back in the pulpit to preach.  However, on December 25th, with our mighty God of strength and healing behind him, he stood up in his pulpit and preached a powerful message just 5 weeks after his attack.  The church was packed with people celebrating the birth of Jesus and witnessing the Christmas miracle that stood before them.  The message was from Luke chapter 1.  John the Baptist was a great man, but the will for his life was greater than him.  It was about how his life and ministry pointed to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. 
This attack on Pastor Foote was much greater than him and what was happening in his life, it was about how this situation pointed to Jesus Christ and brought glory to Him.

The next several months were long and difficult.  Pastor Foote suffered from severe headaches from the brain healing itself, some short-term memory loss and a great deal of joint pain from his inactivity while healing.  Mrs. Foote stood faithfully by him and everyone else carried the load of his duties.  He has been released from the neurologist and besides going thru some physical therapy right now to alleviate the joint pain, he is almost fully recovered.  Praise God, he is back every week where he belongs, behind his pulpit, preaching the Word of God without apology. 

Several local News crews followed the story of what had happened with Pastor Foote.  They interviewed his son, his son-in-law, church members and eventually the Pastor himself.  As unbelievable as this story was to them, the one thing the reporters could not seem to grasp fully was the willingness that they had to forgive the young men responsible for this.  How could they be so quick to forgive someone that came so close to taking the life of this beloved man?  But as they pointed out, do we not, as Christians, receive forgiveness from God?  Why would we not extend that same forgiveness to someone that has wronged us?  Matthew 18:22 says we are to forgive “Until seventy times seven.”  Once again this family and this church were great examples of behavior to exhibit during a trial.  Perhaps this was God’s Plan for this situation?

Both young men involved in the attack and robbery have been arrested.  The 16 yr old who robbed him after he had been attacked spent 30 days in jail before the case was thrown out.  The 18 yr old who assaulted him is out on bond and is awaiting trial on his charges.  We pray that justice is served, but more importantly that there will be an opportunity for this young man to receive Christ as his Savior and forever change the path of his life.  Is that God’s Plan for this situation? 

As a result of the news coverage, a few people came to visit the church for the first time.  One man joined and is now serving God in the church.  Several would profess that this has changed their prayer life and relationship with God forever.  The church is thriving and continuing to reach lost souls for Christ.  Is this God’s Plan for this situation?

On May 6th, an Appreciation Service was held at Grace Baptist Church for all those involved in the treatment and care of Pastor Foote during his recovery.  Several of the honorees, who marveled at the fact that the church wanted to honor them for just merely “doing their job” were not able to make it to the service because they were busy helping others by merely “doing their job”.  Praise the Lord for faithful policemen, emergency personnel, doctors, nurses, etc.!  A few were able to make it to the service though and were honored and thanked for the part that they had in giving this family back their Husband, Father and Grandfather and giving this church back their Pastor. 
As a result of that service, one of the ladies being honored, bowed her head and accepted Christ as her Savior.   How wonderful our God is! 

Could it be that God’s Plan was for all this to happen so that this young lady would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus? 
Or is it for the 2011 souls that were saved from eternal Hell? 
Or the great example of God’s love and forgiveness being shown to their community?
Or the changes that were brought about in the lives of the church members?
Or to possibly change the lives of these misguided young men? 
Perhaps the answer is “all of the above”.

We may never know God’s Perfect Plan for this situation.  However, I believe if you were to ask Pastor Craig Foote if it was worth it, he would say that he may not have enjoyed the payment, but he would gladly pay the price!

This happened.
This happened to someone I know.
This happened to MY Pastor.
This happened to a man that is not only my Pastor, he is family.  (His son is married to Sister #3)
This happened for MANY more reasons than we will ever know on this side of Heaven.  
This happened so that my life and my relationship with the Lord would be forever changed. (Reason #9,531)

Just out of ICU

Going home

Back where he belongs
2 of the greatest people I know

1 comment:

  1. Such an amazing story. Inspiring. I started to cry. Bless him, and all the good there is. Big high five to the people that gather to pray and help- the act of unselfishness is very refreshing.