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With BTK arrest, police official voices gratitude for prayer

WICHITA, Kan. (BP)–“We ask for community support all the time, and that certainly does not exclude faith-based support,” Robert Lee, deputy director of the Wichita Police Department’s detectives division, told Baptist Press March 2.

Lee was one of three upper-echelon officers who attended a January prayer meeting interceding for the capture of alleged serial killer “BTK” in the Kansas city.

“I thought it was very appropriate for the community to do this and for us to be there,” Lee said of the prayer session held at Immanuel Baptist Church during an ice storm.

Wichita patrolmen, state and federal investigators and even representatives of elected officials from Washington, D.C., participated in the Jan. 11 meeting. On Feb. 25, Dennis Rader, president of the board at Christ Lutheran Church in Park City, a Wichita suburb, was arrested.

“The prayer meeting was specific in nature and very much about this specific case,” Lee said. “I would like to think any time I go to church I would feel God there.”

Terry Fox, Immanuel’s pastor, noted that how the case was cracked showed God’s intervention as a result of the prayers.

“What’s on the news this morning [March 2] is that they were able to figure out some of the clues, which were like puzzle pieces, and that’s how the broke the case,” Fox told Baptist Press, “… and that’s exactly how we had prayed.

“We felt like there was a spirit here over our community and we wanted our prayers to encourage the community that God was watching over us,” Fox continued. “Also, we wanted to pray that the police would have the wisdom to catch BTK. We knew he was communicating with the police and giving them clues, but they were unable to resolve the clues and that’s why we felt the prayers for wisdom were necessary.”

Fox had learned that BTK –- whose acronym means “bind, torture, kill” –- had ties to religion and possibly a church. He pressed that connection during a press conference in conjunction with the Jan. 11 prayer meeting.

“We felt the church was stepping up and asking [BTK] to do what was right,” Fox said. “We said, ‘We know you obviously have made wrong choices but it’s not too late to turn your life around.’ We made a plea for him to come to Jesus…. I had a lot of phone calls about that, people asking, ‘Do you really think He could be saved?’ and I’d answer, ‘Absolutely. It’s never too late.’”

The Jan. 11 gathering also included time for prayer for the families of the victims of BTK.

“Several families came,” Fox said. “We offered them our condolences, healing and prayers for comfort to them.”

The pastor said the prayer meeting was taken seriously by people in the community and the police department because Immanuel, the largest Southern Baptist church in the region with 2,400 in worship last Sunday, is on television and radio weekly.

“I think when you do something like this, it takes a visible church to get the media to come and draw the people into it,” Fox said. “All the TV stations from across the region were here, even Oklahoma City and Tulsa. And I think it’s important the police department would be willing to come rather than blowing it off, saying, ‘Oh, that’s just a bunch of Christians.’ I think it said a lot about the church’s influence in the community. I think it shows they respected the church and they were desperate for the help.”

Rader, married for 30 years and the father of two, is charged with 10 counts of murder, including a family of four; a widow who lived just three doors from him; and a young woman whose brother fought with BTK and survived. The killing spree is thought to have started in 1974; but after 25 years of silence BTK surfaced last March with letters to the media and police.

The church where Rader was a leader appears devastated.

One week, Rader had helped gather the offering; the next week, members sat numb at the news of a man they had watched grow in leadership positions over the last 30 years.

“We like to think he became more and more convicted of what he had done and actually wanted to be helped,” Fox said. “I think that can be very much related back to our praying for him.”