PARSONS, Tenn. (BP)–It was about 8 p.m. on Nov. 26, 1999, when policeman Roy Wyatt pulled over a driver near downtown Parsons, Tenn.
Wyatt, also pastor of Darden (Tenn.) Baptist Church, was just beginning his 12-hour shift. He expected an uneventful night as it usually was for the patrol officers in this laid-back community just west of the Tennessee River. Parsons formerly was on one of the main highways cutting east and west through Tennessee, but now with Interstate 40 just to the north, all that busyness has changed.
Officer Wyatt pulled the driver over because his car was missing taillights. As he approached the car, the driver, a young man in his 30s, got out. Wyatt, who has 20 years of law enforcement experience, recognized the man as the one who reportedly had been in an illegal incident earlier that day. Wyatt told him to lean against the car and asked the man if he had a weapon as he began frisking him.
“Then I saw the gun and the fireworks started,” Wyatt said in his understated way.
Wyatt’s partner shot the driver, but not before the man shot Wyatt in the face, in the abdomen and in the leg with a .38 caliber pistol. The driver died at the scene.
“It’s been a long drive, but God is still in control,” Wyatt said. “He was in control in the beginning and he still is. He gets all the praise and glory,” the policeman-pastor said of his experience.
Wyatt, 55, gives God the credit for his recovery because many times medical workers didn’t think he would recover.
He nearly died three times the day of the shooting. He has endured three major surgeries, in addition to two surgeries on his face and two surgeries on his abdomen. Wyatt developed a respiratory infection, staph infection and pneumonia which nearly killed him. He spent three and a half months in intensive care and a total of four months hospitalized at Madison County General Hospital, Jackson, Tenn.
Yet last October, he went back to work both as a pastor and policeman on patrol.
The main miracle of the shooting, Wyatt said, was the change in his partner and fellow officer, Darrell Drehman. After saving Wyatt’s life, Drehman started attending church for the first time. Several weeks after the shooting, he made a profession of faith. A week later, Drehman was killed while working at a car accident. A telephone pole fell and struck him.
Wyatt said if the only purpose of the shooting was to direct Drehman to God, it was reason enough for him.
“If I had to go through the same thing again for somebody to be saved, I would do it,” he stated.
Other miracles Wyatt counts from the shooting include a fellow policeman on the Parsons force who has started attending Darden Baptist Church along with his family. And Wyatt believes he can influence other people with whom he comes in contact through his work because of his experiences.
“So many people are not saved,” he lamented.
Because of the shooting, God also has worked in the lives of the people who learned about the crisis, prayed for him and saw God answer their prayers, Wyatt explained. This group includes people living around the world, he said.
“I believe God heard the prayers of the Christian people and spared my life.”
Wyatt predicted he will be a better minister as a result of the shooting even though he’s having to learn how to speak differently from the pulpit. Wyatt lost one of his two vocal chords because of the length of time he had tubing down his throat.
He can’t sing anymore either, added friend Doyle Neal, director of missions of the Beech River Baptist Association, based in Lexington, Tenn. “But he couldn’t before,” joked Neal, as the two men laughed.
A sense of humor and friends certainly have helped him recover, Wyatt said.
Wyatt said he hopes to be able to minister to the family of the man who shot him. They must be devastated, the pastor said, adding that he has never lost a member of his immediate family.
The experience brought Wyatt’s family, which is very close, even closer, he said, and taught them to expect miracles from God. His family includes his wife, Judy, and sons Brad Wyatt, minister of youth/education at Highland Baptist Church, Columbus, Ohio, and Greg Wyatt, minister of youth, First Presbyterian Church, Savannah, Tenn., and a public school coach; and four grandchildren.
The family delayed their first Christmas after the incident until July so he could be a part of the celebration, Wyatt said. The grandchildren even waited to open many gifts until then, he added proudly.
Violence is “just one of the hazards of the job [of a policeman],” Wyatt said. And all jobs have hazards, he added, but now he goes to work each day realizing he saw “the hand of God working and protecting and moving.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: THE POWER OF PRAYER.