What would be my reaction if a man burst through my door and demanded, “Give me all your money!”
To be honest, I’m not sure, but the actions of Robert and Frances Belote have challenged me to walk my Christian talk, even in the most extreme situations.
The Leesburg, Va. couple, both in their 80s, were enjoying a peaceful Friday afternoon in their home when their world was suddenly interrupted by an angry man with a gun, who proceeded to tie their hands with telephone wire.
William Spencer had planned on holding up the couple, robbing them and making his getaway in their car.
But the Belotes refused to let him off the hook so easily. They spoke gently and kindly to him, despite the fact that they both feared the worst. “I said to myself, ‘This is the end. This is it,’ ” Frances told reporters.
With those kinds of thoughts and a man with a gun in their home, how did the Belotes manage not to panic? Frances continued, “But God was here. We felt his presence, and it gave us peace, and we were able to be calm.”
They did more than just “be calm.”
Several hours into their hostage situation, Frances made Spencer some cereal and offered him some iced tea. (He drank an entire pitcher while in the Belote’s home.)
Once police and SWAT teams had been notified, Robert put his hand on Spencer’s shoulder and told him kindly that he had gotten himself into a mess and that he needed to surrender to police.
Throughout the ordeal, the Belotes prayed for Spencer and were kind to him. What could have been a deadly hostage situation ended without incident. Spencer gave himself up to police and the Belotes were safe and unharmed.
The Belotes admit to being frightened, but that was not enough to shake their faith. They knew the power of “Amazing Grace“, and also believed in the strength of individuals to overcome evil, even in small ways. Frances hid in the bathroom to call police, and stopped Spencer from stealing her engagement ring and wedding band, simply by telling him, “Those are sacred to me, put them back.”
We may not be faced with a hostage situation, but we will encounter broken, misguided people at large in our towns and neighborhoods every day. They may not be holding a gun to our heads, but like Spencer, they long for love and understanding.
It would do us all well to take a page from the Belote’s playbook and treat everyone around us with love and grace. After all, something tells me that this wasn’t the first time that the Belotes had loved the seemingly unlovable. This was just the first incident dramatic enough to make the news.