A miraculous story has emerged out of North Carolina, where a man who walked into a church during a sermon on growing violence in the community while armed with a rifle accepted Christ after the pastor prayed with him.
"I'm the first person to see him and when I saw him, I thought it was a dummy gun, but then I saw the bullet clip in his hand and the bullets were shining," Pastor Larry Wright of the Heal the Land Outreach Ministries in Fayetteville, told CNN of the incident that took on the New Year's Eve.
The 57-year-old pastor, who is also a city councilman and retired soldier, then walked up to the gunman and asked him, "Can I help you?"
The gunman asked Wright to pray for him, which the pastor did before asking him to hand over the weapon and ammo magazine he had. After the gunman obliged, the pastor carried on with his sermon.
Police were called but were instructed to wait outside so as not to disrupt the rest of the service, Wright told the Observer.
"If he was belligerent, I was going to tackle him," the pastor said. "I want to follow up with him and see that he's getting the help and resources he needs," he added.
After Wright finished his sermon, something amazing happened: "I finished the message, I did the altar call and he stood right up, came up to the altar, and gave his life to Christ," Wright said. "I came down and prayed with him and we embraced. It was like a father embracing a son."
After accepting Christ, the man, a parolee and military veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome, apologized to the congregation of about 60 and told them he had intended to do something terrible, but the Lord spoke to him.
"It's so hard to describe, to explain the excitement and love of God in the room. This man came in to do harm, and he has given his life to Christ," Wright told CNN.
Allison Woods, a church member, described the emotions she felt when the gunman first entered the room: "It didn't seem real because it was like the scripture that our pastor was reading, it was like it came off the page. It's the next day, when you think of all that could have happened, what could have gone wrong, it sinks in how terrible it could have gone wrong," she was quoted as saying.
Sylvester Loving, a deacon at the church, added, "I think that night the spirit of God was definitely in the place."
The story stands in stark contrast to an earlier event, where 21-year-old Dylann Roof opened fire during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, leaving left nine dead, including Rev. Clementa Pinckney.
Speaking at the first service held at the church since the shootings, Interim Pastor Norvel Goff Sr. preached a sermon titled "The Power of Love," stating, "Last week dark powers came over Mother Emanuel. But, that's alright. God in his infinite wisdom said 'that's alright. I've got the nine.'"
Comforting the mourners, Rev. Goff said, "This is not the end. We will see our loved ones again." He reminded attendees that while many hearts are broken, God has the power to heal even the deepest of wounds.
"God is with us, with you and God gives us the ability to let it go," he added, referring to the hatred displayed just a few days earlier. "We are better than that."