THE DEVIL IN PEW NUMBER SEVEN

Rebecca Nichols Alonzo

Rebecca never felt safe as a child. In 1969, her father, Robert Nichols, moved to Sellerstown, North Carolina, to serve as a pastor. There he found a small community eager to welcome him—with one exception. Glaring at him from pew number seven was a man obsessed with controlling the church. Determined to get rid of anyone who stood in his way, he unleashed a plan of terror that was more devastating and violent than the Nichols family could have ever imagined. Refusing to be driven away by acts of intimidation, Rebecca’s father stood his ground until one night when an armed man walked into the family’s kitchen .

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Rebecca never felt safe as a child. In 1969, her father, Robert Nichols, moved to Sellerstown, North Carolina, to serve as a pastor. There he found a small community eager to welcome him—with one exception. Glaring at him from pew number seven was a man obsessed with controlling the church. Determined to get rid of anyone who stood in his way, he unleashed a plan of terror that was more devastating and violent than the Nichols family could have ever imagined. Refusing to be driven away by acts of intimidation, Rebecca’s father stood his ground until one night when an armed man walked into the family’s kitchen . . . and Rebecca’s life was shattered. If anyone had a reason to harbor hatred and seek personal revenge, it would be Rebecca. Yet The Devil in Pew Number Seven tells a different story. It is the amazing true saga of relentless persecution, one family’s faith and courage in the face of it, and a daughter whose parents taught her the power of forgiveness.

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  • Tyndale House Publishers
  • Paperback
  • August 2010
  • 100 Pages
  • 9781414326597

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About Rebecca Nichols Alonzo

Becky Alonzo never felt safe as a child. Although she lived next door to the church her father pastored, the devil lived across the street. This tormented man terrorized her family with rifle shots and ten bombings. When these violent acts didn’t scare them away, he went even further. During dinner one evening, seven-year-old Becky and her younger brother watched as their parents were gunned down. Today Becky speaks about betrayal and the power of forgiveness. She is a graduate of Missouri State University and has been involved in ministry, including a church plant, youth outreach, and missions, for thirteen years. She and her husband, along with their two children, live in Franklin, Tennessee.

Praise

“As Christians we often pray, ‘Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.’ It’s a lot easier to ask God for forgiveness for our own failings than it is to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Becky’s story shows us that, with the Lord’s grace, forgiveness and healing are possible, even in the most horrific of situations.”—James D. Daly, President and CEO, Focus on the Family

“Without a doubt, this is one of the best books I have ever read. I believe Becky’s story will be greatly used of our Lord to change the lives of countless numbers of people.”—Sherrill Babb, Ph.D. Chancellor, Philadelphia Biblical University

“Forgiveness seems so unnatural. For the offended to be able to remove the debt of the offender can only be a ‘God thing.’ The Devil in Pew #7 proves that point very well.”—H. B. London, Jr. Vice President, Church and Clergy, Focus on the Family

“Get ready to be captivated and inspired by Becky’s testimony. We simply could not put the book down.”—Sam and Kathi Katina, The Katinas

Discussion Questions

Though he was in pain, Rebecca’s father struggled to appear brave. Can you recall a time your own parents had to appear brave for you? If so, explain.

Describe a time in your life where you had to wait patiently for the Lord to answer your prayers. What was the outcome? What did you learn from the experience?

Rebecca writes how Robert and Ramona each had different ways of coping and healing after the loss of their child. What were these differences? Do you think men and women respond to loss differently? Why or why not?

How do you think you would react if you returned home to find that it had been broken into and that there was no heat, no water, and no phone? What would be your first thoughts?

Despite the fear of future attacks on his family, Robert was determined to stick it out and overcome the persecution. Why do you think he decided to stay in Sellerstown? If you were in his shoes, what do you think you would do?

What does Robert’s reaction to the second bombing say about the Christian mandate to love your enemies? Describe a time when you struggled to respond to an enemy with love.

Describe what you think might have happened if Robert had let his momentary lapse of judgment after two years of pent-up frustration take hold of him?

In what ways did the church demonstrate their support to the Nichols family? Do you think most congregations today would stand by their pastor as they did, or do you think members would be more likely to leave?

Do you think it was difficult for Ramona to support her husband’s decision to remain in Sellerstown? Why or why not? If you had been in her position, do you think you would have responded differently?

Ramona read Psalm 91 to the church congregation on what would be her last time at church. Discuss the significance of this passage for the Nichols family. How is this passage significant in your own life?

At Ramona’s funeral, assistant pastor Mitchell Smith said, “It would appear that we’re here in defeat, but we’re not; we’re here in victory! (page 186).” Do you agree with this perspective? Why or why not?

Imagine you were a member of the jury. What would you think when Harris’s attorneys tried to make the case that Harris was intoxicated during the time of the shootings?

Explain what the verses from Revelation 21:3-5 mean to you. What other verses offer an eternal perspective that give believers something to look forward to despite the pain and suffering we experience here on earth?

In spite of his ongoing physical and mental anguish, Robert never gave up on this faith in God. What can we learn from this?

Was there ever a time you blamed God for a difficult, unexpected situation in your life? Explain. What are some ways to keep anger at God from making a permanent home in your heart?

Rebecca lists four negative things that happen when we choose rage and retaliation over forgiveness. Which ones speak to you the most? Have you experienced any of these as consequences of withholding forgiveness? If so, explain.

Lewis Smedes offers the perspective, “When you forgive a person who wronged you, you set a prisoner free, and then you discover that the prisoner you set free is you.” Explain how the act of forgiving can set you free. 

Do you agree that forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling? Why or why not? 

Discuss how you might view forgiveness differently after reading Rebecca’s story.