God Saved Me During the Dayton Mass Shooting
"He just kept shooting at me," Robert said. "I was walking across the street when he opened fire."
My mind began to flash back to that day in my class a couple years ago when I told him if he went back to the streets he would die.
The first time I met Robert was in prison. He wasn't the talkative type. He kept to himself, but week after week he would show up and listen to what I had to say. Statistics say it's the most violent prison in Ohio. The first time I went I joked with the guys, "Most people are trying to get out of prison. It took me a year just to get in."
I couldn't explain it, but something kept pulling me in this direction. I had to get in these prisons. Something inside me said I was supposed to be there. For over six years I've been going in here every week twice a week. At times I've had my doubts. Am I really making a difference?
But, when Robert told me what happened the night of the shooting, I knew the answer was yes.
I remember the day we were all in class. The guys had finished an assignment I had given them about making changes in their life. I don't remember what anyone else wrote about on that assignment, but I remember Robert's words raised an alarm.
Robert had never held a legal job. He was a drug dealer and this wasn't his first bit (what inmates call time served) in prison. Most of the guys when you talk about changing or what they're going to do when they get out will at least tell you they have plans to change.
Whether that 's true or not is an entirely different story. But, they at least put on a show of attempted change, and if I'm truthful I think most of them intend to change, they just don't have the tools and resources to fulfill their good intentions.
And despite their good intentions, there have been those that I just knew they were coming back to prison. And sure enough they came back.
"Hey Miss Julie," they'll shout out while I'm walking down the hallway.
"Hustle, what are you doing back?....Josh, what happened?....."
They'll usually just shrug and give me a somewhat embarrassed smile as if to say, you know how it is. However, Robert gave no pretense. He came right out and said that he may go back to his old life. But, unlike the other guys before him that I sensed would be back in prison, I didn't feel that way with Robert.
As I stood in front of the class I looked at Robert. "If you go back to the streets, you're not coming back to prison. You're going to die. Out of all the times I've come in and out of prison I've never told anyone this, but I feel the Lord told me to tell you that."
The room was silent. Everyone just stared. They knew I wasn't playing.
Robert got out of prison and I connected him to a friend of mine that helps guys with felonies get situated with jobs, housing and other requirements needed to acclimate back into society.
Everything seemed to be going well in Robert's life until one day I got a call from him. He didn't say anything specific that he was doing wrong, but there were a few things during our conversation that made me feel he was thinking about it.
We hung up and I continued to think about that day in class. I pondered it a few more moments when suddenly I had a vision of Robert getting shot and killed. Lord, is this You giving me a warning for Robert? I didn't want to call and tell someone something like this if it was just my imagination conjuring up scenarios, but I also didn't want to stay silent if this was a warning from the Lord. I didn't want another person's blood on my hands.
I had already felt the condemnation of this some months prior. Years ago a good family friend of ours had left his ailing wife due to an affair he had with another woman and had fallen into a downward spiral of womanizing. One day while driving, I heard the Lord say, "Call him and tell him to pray for his ex-wife as though his life depended on it."
Anyone who hears God's voice knows that it sounds a whole lot like our own voice. It comes through just like a thought in our head, only there's a pressing in your spirit. I can't really explain it, but for those who know what I'm talking about it doesn't usually involve burning bushes and lightning bolts. So, if you're not careful you can easily ignore it.
That's how the thought was with our family friend. And it probably didn't help that I had just shared words the Lord had given me for a couple of other people and they seemed to be ignoring them. So, when I heard this I somewhat dismissed it.
The others didn't listen. He's not going to listen either. Why bother? And then there was another thought. Maybe that's not God at all. Maybe it's just my mind wondering. Besides, I didn't think God meant literally.
But, nine months later when he dropped over dead...….those words haunted me.
Why didn't I tell him? Strangely enough, a couple months before he died he called me out of the blue, something he never did, and we got to talking about his ex-wife. He told me that one night at 2 a.m. he felt a strong urge to call his ex-wife and ask her for forgiveness. At the time he didn't know it, but his oldest son had been fasting and praying for him, for this very thing to happen.
When he shared this with me, I told him about the word I had felt God told me to give him to pray for his ex-wife, except I left out the part about "as if his life depended on it." I felt it sounded too harsh. When I got the call that he had died I felt an immense burden.
Why didn't I stress that? My mind couldn't help but wonder if there wasn't a missing element that he needed to hear. Where was his soul? Why was I so concerned with what he would think if I said that?
Now that he was dead my fears seemed so selfish. Why would I be more concerned with someone's opinion of me than their eternal soul? I swore that I would never again bare this horrible burden. I would no longer care what people thought of me. I wouldn't have another man's blood on my hands. If God told me to do something or say something to someone it wasn't my job to make them listen. It was only my job to tell them or warn them.
"When I say to a wicked person, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood." - Ezekiel 3:18
I wasn't going to make that same mistake with Robert. When I got that vision of him getting shot and killed I picked up the phone and called him. I shared with Robert how right after I got the vision I got an email that had referenced dying. I felt this was the Lord confirming His word. I gave him a strong warning that I really felt this was coming from God. Like that day in class, he didn't say much, but I felt he was taking me serious.
Some months later I felt this strong urge to call him, that there was impending danger coming. During this call I began to get a better understanding of where Robert's underlying anger and disdain for women seemed to be coming from. During our conversation he began to get angry when talking about his mother.
"If she do that I'm gonna treat her and talk to her just like I would someone from the street," he said. "Robert, don't do that. That's your mother. You need to respect her," I said.
And this is where the underlying story began to unfold.
"My father used to tie me up by my feet from the ceiling and beat me like a slave, and she stayed with him," he said. "And to this day she want to act like she don't remember this. That's what I went to prison for the first time. I shot my dad. He pulled a gun on me and I shot him. Later on, he ended up committing suicide by shooting himself. Both his brothers died the same way."
The vision I had of him getting shot by a gun...I now knew it wasn't a wild imagination I had conjured up in my mind. This was a generational curse in his family and it needed to be broken. The enemy had plans to take out Robert, just like he had taken out his father.
I began praying for the curse of violence and anger to be broken off his life and his family. I prayed for forgiveness to enter into his heart to forgive his father and his mother, and reconciliation into their lives.
I ended the prayer. "You know I do this because I love you Robert and God has a plan for your life." The man who oftentimes had very demeaning things to say about women quietly responded. "Yes, Miss Busby. I know."
At the time I had no idea the profound impact that prayer would have in saving Robert's life. Two months later, on a Saturday night as Robert crossed the street in the well-known Oregon District in Dayton, Ohio gun shots rang out.
"He kept shooting at me," Robert said. As he started running like so many others that night, it wouldn't be until later on when he looked at his hat, that Robert would realize just how close to death he came that night. One of the bullets had grazed the top of his hat.
If I ever had any doubt about prayer, I don't now. I am convinced the prayers that day saved Robert's life. "You know God saved you right?" I asked Robert.
"Yes," he answered.
"You have to tell your story of how God saved you Robert. He saved you for a purpose and He wants to use your story to save others," I pleaded. "I know. I wish there were some way I could thank the officers that night," he said. I promised Robert that I would try to find a way to make that happen.
I know it was God calling me into those prisons years ago to cross paths with men like Robert. Men that have purpose and calling, men that have kind hearts and want something different, but have had their souls broken in life and don't know how to break out of the cycle that they have been thrown into.
I also know this, that God loves these men so much that he puts it into the hearts of people to chase them down with God's love. And even if at first they reject it, He keeps chasing them.
And never again, will I ignore the voice of God to speak what He tells me. It could mean the matter of life and death in someone's life. I'm so glad that Robert is still here. I know God has great things in store for his life.