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Man forsakes suicide, finds life at nativity

TYLER, Texas (BP)–The salesman left Georgia in early
December, intending to make one last sales trip before
ending his life in a motel room in Tyler, Texas.
But instead of taking his life, he found it through a
divine appointment with a nativity pageant at Pleasant Hill
Baptist Church.
The salesman, Richard, told his story in a letter to
the church.
For several years, the church has sponsored a
drive-through nativity pageant. “We kind of came to the
point where we realized the cantatas we were doing inside
(the church building) were not drawing a response, so we
decided to move outside,” explained Roger Hickman, the
church’s minister of music and education.
The church set up an elaborate nativity pageant on the
parking lot, where someone could drive onto church property
and “get the whole Christmas story, from the angels
proclaiming the birth, to the city of Bethlehem, where they
had potters and blacksmiths, bakers preparing bread and
cooks roasting chickens.”
“We did the whole nine yards — shepherds, townspeople,
wise men, live animals — and, at the end, the manger
scene,” he said. The pageant was staged Monday through
Friday, Dec. 8-12.
“The time was really determined by when we could get
the camels,” said Ed Spivey, the church’s interim pastor.
“We had all the other barnyard animals, but we had to rent
the camels.”
Abut 150 church members donned costumes to produce the
show each night.
Visitors received hot chocolate, coffee and apple cider
when they drove onto the property — along with a brochure
“which told the Christmas story very simply,” Hickman said.
A children’s Bible was used “because we wanted it to be very
simple. On the back of the brochure was a plan of
(Christian) salvation, telling people how to be saved.”
The pageant theme was “For an ever-changing world,
there is a never-changing message … Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Seventeen people called the church to say they had
accepted Jesus as Savior, and one college-age young man
rededicated his life, Hickman reported.
But the highlight was the typed letter that came in the
mail from Richard, a salesman from Atlanta.
It told how Richard had planned to commit suicide in
his motel room, using a pistol he had packed in his luggage.
Richard admitted he had “not been a good dad or husband” to
his wife and three daughters.
The letter told how Richard was sitting in his room
with the pistol in his mouth when he heard the television
announcer say, “For an ever-changing world, there is a
never-changing message.”
He listened, and when he heard the address of the
church, he decided he had nothing to lose if he went there.
He arrived after the pageant had ended for the night and all
of the participants had gone home.
With a flashlight, he went through the scene. At the
manger, he found one of the brochures. When he read the plan
of salvation, he fell on his knees before the manger and
asked Jesus Christ to save him.
“Standing in front of the manger, I saw a paper lying
on the ground,” Richard recounted in his letter. “On the
front of the manger were those words used by the TV
announcer: ‘For an ever-changing world, there is a
never-changing message.’
“Then I read, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord!’
“I was then asking God, ‘But what can you do for me?’
And with that, I turned the handout over and read, ‘You can
receive Christ today.’
“I fell to my knees in front of the manger and asked
Jesus Christ to save me. … Thank you … Thank you.”
Richard’s discovery of the brochure was a miracle,
Hickman said, because every night a team of people went
through the scene to pick up the debris to make sure the
pageant area would be clean for the next performance.
“It is amazing,” Hickman said. “We were so meticulous
in picking up the trash, but he found the one brochure we
had overlooked at the manger.”
Hickman posted the letter the night it arrived, and the
people who took part in the pageant were “very excited about
it.” He got a telephone call at 6 the next morning,
Saturday, which woke him from a sound sleep, he added. “One
of our members called and asked if we had anybody to read
the letter in church Sunday,” he said. “I told her I
couldn’t read it in the service, because just reading it
silently had me bawling like a baby.
“She said she wanted the honor of reading the letter in
church because her father and a brother both committed
suicide. She told me it was important for her to tell the
story about how God had used Pleasant Hill Church in a very
small way to save someone.”
Hickman admitted he has a habit of throwing away
envelopes when he opens mail and had “chunked” the envelope
from Richard’s letter. Therefore, the church has only the
name and the fact he is from Atlanta.
The letter included Richard’s last name, but it has
been omitted from this story.
Spivey said the church has attempted to find a listing
for Richard on the Internet. They have written and attempted
to call but have not yet made contact with the salesman
whose life was saved — physically and eternally — by the
Christmas nativity pageant in Tyler.

    About the Author

  • Dan Martin