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4 jurors hear Drake preach after issuing guilty verdict

BUENA PARK, Calif. (BP)–Four of the jurors who convicted Wiley Drake attended morning worship Aug. 3 at First Southern Baptist Church, Buena Park, Calif.
Less than a week after declaring Drake and the church guilty of four criminal misdemeanor charges, a third of the 12-member jury heard Drake preach about justice and mercy in a sermon taken from Matthew 23.
It was a service attended by about 100 people, during which 16 among them made professions of faith.
Two jurors “said they were inspired by Drake’s message and will return” to worship and donate money to the homeless ministry, according to an account in the Aug. 4 Orange County Register.
“While we were being bombarded by the press after the verdict, two of the jurors, including the foreman, came up and said, ‘We just want you to know how sorry we are, and we’ll see you in church Sunday,'” Drake said. “But people tell me that all the time. I was surprised to see four of them here.”
News media and people who wanted to show their support for Drake swelled the congregation Aug. 4 to twice its usual size.
“I come here as a friend,” jury foreman Rebecca Ostrander, a Buena Park resident, told the Register. She told the newspaper the jurors followed the letter of the law in convicting Drake, but she admires his work with the homeless.
Another juror, Danella Rivera, told the Register, “How could you not support what this man (Drake) is doing here?” Two other jurors declined comment to the newspaper.
Drake referred to the trial during several sermon illustrations but his message was directed to the Christian church as a whole and not the secular judicial system, he said.
Drake zeroed in on Matt. 23:23 — Woe to the church for neglecting the weightier provisions of the law: justice, mercy and faith, as he put it.
“I believe the church has lost its mooring,” Drake said. “I think the church has only been involved in faith — evangelism — but that’s only one thing. Jesus said these three in one are most important and I don’t think it’s coincidental that mercy is in the middle.”
The church has abdicated its responsibility to show God’s merciful love through helping people with food, clothing and shelter, he said.
“When we talk to most people about faith, they’re faith-hardened, gospel-hardened. They’ve heard it so much they’re not interested in it,” the pastor continued. But those who first are ministered to, they open their ears and their hearts. “The best evangelistic tool we have is mercy.”
The pastor and the church are scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 22 for four city code violations, such as using a recreational patio as a “mercantile” where food and clothing are stored and distributed, and keeping the patio open after 10 p.m.
Drake is spending long hours at the church, preparing for the possibility that he might serve up to a 24-month jail sentence. If that happens, associate pastor Alex Whitten will assume legal responsibility for the church. Whitten, 22, graduated in May from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., with a B.A. degree in Bible. Drake said spiritual leadership of the congregation, meanwhile, would be assumed by Wiley Drake Jr., 18, who is respected in California Baptist disaster relief circles.
The specter of jail time is hovering over his family, Drake acknowledged. His granddaughter, a first-grader, drew a picture of him with prison stripes on his shirt and added a note that said, “Grandpa, we’re praying for you and will pray even harder if you have to go to jail.”