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Thomas Hamill’s rescue ignites celebration

MACON, Miss. (BP)–For Greg Duncan, May 2 began with a 6 a.m. knock on the door from a local police officer making his way through the small town of Macon, Miss., to relay the news they had all waited to hear.

“That just started what I call the grapevine of Macon, and within an hour or an hour and a half at the most, everyone in Macon probably was aware of the fact that Thomas was safe,” Duncan, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Macon, said in a telephone interview with Baptist Press May 3. “We had a wonderful day of celebration in the churches in the area.”

Kellie Hamill, her children and other family members joined a host of media for a service at Calvary Baptist hours after receiving the news. The church is in the midst of a 40 Days of Purpose campaign -– with the scheduled theme May 2 being worship.

“I had a phone call first thing yesterday morning from Fox saying, ‘Are you going to change your message?’ and I said, ‘No, our message is going to continue to be about Jesus, and we’re focusing on worship so we’ll just worship God with an additional prayer of praise for His answer to our prayer because we’d been praying as a church, as a county,'” Duncan said.

The day of celebration culminated in another community prayer vigil at the courthouse, which had continued each night while Hamill was in captivity.

“It was a time of praise and celebration, but at the same time we continue to remember those who are held against their will there in Iraq as well as our military and our president and other leaders,” Duncan said. “The celebration was across denominational lines, across racial lines.”

The tremendous answer to faithful prayer has shown the community of Macon the importance and power of prayer, Duncan said.

“At the same time it’s always a bittersweet thing when you hear that Thomas has been freed and several other soldiers gave their lives yesterday in Iraq,” the pastor said. “So we’re continuing our prayer vigil and will do that at least until Thomas is back home in Macon if not longer because God has given us this opportunity to be drawn together, and He has shown us the importance of prayer and the power of prayer not only in Thomas being freed but how it’s brought the community together.”

Duncan said the swarm of media that has descended on the tiny town of 2,000 has been a remarkable evangelical opportunity.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity that God has given us to proclaim Christ to folks from around the United States right here in Macon that we never would have had had it not been for this situation,” he said.

Duncan was in the room where Hamill’s aunt and cousin, both members of Calvary Baptist, were speaking to various morning news program anchors May 3. As he waited and prayed for the two, he said he had a chance to share Christ with several workers from ABC, CBS and NBC.

“I found some fellow believers that said they were seeking an opportunity for God to show Christ through them in our secular media,” he said. “That’s really encouraging, and I just received a blessing by being there.”

The pastor spoke with Kellie Hamill Sunday night, and she told him one of the first things her husband told her was that during the entire time he was held captive, he was praying.

“To me, for that to come out of a man’s mouth when he’s been captured for 23 days and one of the first few things that he’s sharing with his wife in the two-three minutes they had to talk is that he had been praying constantly [is something special],” Duncan told BP.

Duncan said he is looking forward to having Hamill return to Macon so he can see what God has in store for the life He spared.

“I’m just excited to be reunited with him again here soon and to see how God’s going to use this to change his life, to change his direction and perhaps more clearly focus Thomas in His will and way for his life,” he said.

Prayer is still important for the situation, Duncan said, because Hamill will likely be challenged in dealing with the publicity when he returns.

“He’s not a publicity person, so we’re just going to continue to lift up him and the family during these days,” Duncan said. “I know they’re already being called and offered book deals and movie deals and all that, so it’s going to be difficult. Reporters have told us we haven’t seen anything like it’s going to be when Thomas gets home. Where there were 10 or 12 trucks there will be 50 trucks. So again, we’ve got some wonderful evangelistic opportunities.”

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  • Erin Curry