Ministers and muggers

Crimes touch the lives of pastors as well as their parishioners. In fact, in some ways ministers may be more vulnerable than most people. But by following the authors' suggestions, you can make yourself a less tempting target.

Kermit Netteburg, Ph.D., is associate professor of journalism at Andrews University.


Acrime wave rolls across America, killing thousands and hurting millions each year. In 1980, 25,000 people were murdered and more than I million were robbed. Ministers are no more exempt than anyone else. When the Rev. Basilio David answered the knock at Saint Benedict's rectory door in Detroit, he didn't expect to face a gun-wielding assailant. The man demanded money, then tried to shoot Father David. Because the gun jammed repeatedly, Father David escaped with his life but he lost $ 175.

Wayne Olson, a Battle Creek, Michigan, pastor, was robbed in broad daylight after making a pastoral visit. (See accompanying story.) He bought four new security locks for his home the same day. His wife now hates to be home alone at night. Olson casts a wary eye over his shoulder. He lost far more than $30 in the robbery.

The Figgie Report on Fear of Crime warned, "Americans today have become afraid of one another. Fear of violent crime seems to have made the country helpless, incapable of dealing with the sources of its fear."

According to a Time article on crime, "Fear is measurable in the ways in which Americans are adapting to the new realities of crime the gun sales, the overbooked karate classes, the rush to buy burglarproof locks for doors and windows. It can also be seen in the way in which Americans have consciously changed the patterns of their lives. Wealthy businessmen, fearful of kid napping, who drive to work by different routes each day. Ordinary citizens who learn to walk the streets turning their heads from side to side to check on who might be behind them. Joggers who carry at least $20 'muggers' money' to avoid being shot."

Ministers face the problem of crime more frequently than other citizens. They do much of their work during evening hours. Parishioners who need help often live in high-crime areas. Pastors frequently are called to mediate tense home battles in which one family member is threatening another.

It's enough to make a pastor stay in his study.

But a pastor can't. The call of the ministry is the call to serve people. Like Jesus, the pastor's task is "to minister, not to be ministered unto." The minister can't run out on people who need help.

So the minister wants to stay home but feels compelled to go. God wants him to go, and God has promised in Psalm 34:7 that angels will protect him. But experts in crime prevention know that the minister can cooperate with God by not looking like a "target." Their advice could save ministers a lot of grief and money.

Although nothing is foolproof, preventive measures do reduce the probability of attack. To protect yourself and your property, here are things you should know.

1. If you're ever lost in an unfamiliar part of a city, don't stop to look for addresses. Muggers prey on people who appear lost or confused. Ask directions from a police officer, a hotel employee, or a store clerk.

2. Avoid public restrooms and stair wells in buildings and public areas especially after dark.

3. In a bank or store don't advertise your money. Be particularly discreet at the bank, a place thugs like to keep under surveillance. Put your money in your wallet before leaving the teller's window.-Before using 'a bank's outside money machine, be aware of who's around. In stores, replace your wallet in your pocket as soon as you have paid for your purchase.

Experts in crime prevention also know that no precaution will guarantee you a mugger-free day. If you are threatened in a confrontation, their advice will help you live to make another pastoral visit.

1. If your assailant has a weapon, don't resist. Your safest bet in all cases is compliance. Remember that robbers usually are desperate, often are on drugs, and can harm you over the slightest provocation.

2. Do not attempt to negotiate for some of your belongings. The longer you delay the mugger, the more impatient and more violent he is likely to become.

3. Do not make any sudden moves when reaching for your wallet or purse; a nervous mugger may misunderstand and attack you. Instead, say in advance what you plan to do and then move slowly.

4. Always carry some cash with you. If your pockets are empty, some muggers will turn violent out of sheer frustration.

Detective Roy Southerland of the Dade County Public Safety Department says: "Never give an armed robber the excuse he is looking for to work you over." Whether it's your money or your life, these precautions will help you avoid looking like a target and allow you to continue your ministry of serving others.

The Thief on the cross street

by Peter Marquez

"Act calm!" he muttered through clenched teeth.

Pastor Wayne Olson tried to comply, but the gun trembling at his ribs made it difficult. Who would have thought that around the corner from historic Battle Creek Sanitarium, in front of the home of a fellow Adventist, he would come a nervous index finger away from death?

There had been nothing special about the day no omens, no warnings. As associate pastor of the Battle Creek Tabernacle Seventh-day Adventist church, Wayne's day started with a 9:00 A.M. Bible study at the home of a church member.

Wayne looked forward to sharing God's Word as he drove past the old sanitarium. A turn from Michigan onto
Howland brought him to the right house, but no one answered the door. He returned to his car to note the missed
Bible study in a notebook he carried in his briefcase. Wayne was so intent on making notes that he failed to notice the lone figure approaching. Wayne put the briefcase on the seat beside him and looked up. The figure had halved the distance between them. He looked lost, Wayne thought. Perhaps he needed directions.

The man crossed the street, and suddenly he whipped out a snub-nosed pistol and ordered Wayne to open the
window. Before Wayne could speak, cold black steel pressed to his forehead. "I don't want to hurt you. I only want
your money."

"It's in my jacket..." ,

"OK, get it. . .slowly!"

Wayne carefully reached for his wallet, remembering the promise he had read during morning worship: "The
angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him" (Psalm 34:7, N.I.V.).* He smiled as he thought of the unnumbered mornings he had asked God for guidance and protection. He was grateful for the habit of morning devotions.

With the gun still at his temple, Wayne handed the thief all of his money, $30.

"Is that it?"

"That's it."

"You've got to be kidding!"

"I'm a minister. I wouldn't lie to you!"

The thief snarled and motioned toward the briefcase. Suddenly both men heard the sound of an approaching car. Their eyes met for a moment as the thief stuck his head in the window and the gun in Wayne's ribs.

"Act calm! Keep your hands down."

Wayne couldn't get a good look at the face of his assailant, but he did see the gun long enough to notice that the black paint on the stock had been nearly worn away.

The car passed. The thief searched Wayne's jacket pockets with one hand and held the pistol with the other. He
found only a Bible, the notebook, and some literature in the briefcase.

"OK, stick your head under the dash. Don't move until I get around the corner."

Wayne put his head beneath the dash. But as the gun pulled away from his side and the thief began to flee, Wayne changed his mind.

"Hey, wait a minute. Come back!"

The fleeing man turned like a shot. Wayne's head was sticking out of the car window. For some reason the thief did not shoot, but came back to the car.

Wayne searched through his briefcase for a Steps to Christ but found only a small booklet entitled The Last Warning Message. Wayne gave it to his assailant. "You'll read it, won't you?"


With that the thief was off. He ran down the street and disappeared between some houses.

Wayne was left alone and alive.

"Pastor Risks Life to Witness for God." It was the kind of story told in church—the kind that always happened
somewhere far away. But here? It was almost too much to believe. Who would have guessed it, a mission story from old Battle Creek.


Peter Marquez is a 1982 graduate of Andrews University. This story appeared in the December 7, 1982, issue of Insight. Used by permission.

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Kermit Netteburg, Ph.D., is associate professor of journalism at Andrews University.

July 1984

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