“I Met This Lady Today”

Americans are spellbound by the saga of Ashley Smith, the Atlanta woman held hostage by murder suspect Brian Nichols. Reporters covering the story are mystified over how anyone at the mercy of an escaped inmate -- one who that very day killed another woman and three men -- could remain so calm. The answer is that Smith had learned to trust God. During her ordeal, Smith -- the widow of a murder victim who suffered much in her life -- was able to enter into the suffering of her captor. She calmed him and told him God just might have had a purpose in sending Nichols to her apartment. She even served him, making pancakes. In nearly thirty years of prison ministry, I've met many Ashley Smiths all over the country. What they have in common is the belief that faith in God can triumph over fear. One of the most memorable stories is that of a young Texas woman whose story has dramatic parallels to Ashley Smith's. Twenty-three years ago, Margaret Mayfield was shopping in San Antonio when a gun-wielding man suddenly confronted her. "I'm the man who killed the woman at the restaurant last night," he announced, "and I'm going to kill you if you make one move." Mayfield had just been abducted by mass murderer Stephan Peter Morin. Terrified, she began praying aloud. Instead of ordering her to drive away, Morin began to sob and talk about his unhappy childhood. Mayfield told Morin, "It's not coincidence you're here. God brought you to this car. Even though you have committed some horrible things, God still loves you." Morin then forced Mayfield to start driving, and as she drove, Mayfield continued telling Morin about the love of Christ and playing evangelistic tapes. Morin suddenly had her pull off the road, and he began to pray: "Jesus, I am sorry for everything I have ever done. Please save me." Morin then picked up his pistol, took out the bullets, and put them in Mayfield's hands. Morin decided to go to Fort Worth to see evangelist Kenneth Copeland, whose tapes Mayfield had played. Eight hours after her abduction, Mayfield watched as Morin boarded a bus and waved goodbye. When police picked him up hours later, Morin surrendered quietly. "This morning I would have got up and shot the gun," he told the officers. "But I met this lady today, and now I'm different." Years later, after he'd been ministered to by Prison Fellowship in prison, he was taken to be executed for his crimes. His last words: "Lord Jesus, I commit my soul to you, I praise you, and I thank you." The stories of Margaret Mayfield and Ashley Smith and many like them are tales of the triumph of faith over fear. They illustrate the truth of the message John Paul II has preached so consistently for nearly three decades: "Fear not." Ashley Smith and Margaret Mayfield overcame fear with faith and overwhelmed evil with good. There's a wonderful lesson in this -- particularly at this season of the year, an encouragement to all of us. If we trust the promises of God, we need not be held hostage by the most dangerous hostage-taker of all: fear. We can discover what we Christians will celebrate on Easter Sunday: the great joy and power of faith, no matter the circumstances. And we give a watching world hope.


Chuck Colson


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