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Faces on Faith: Anchored

By Staff | Sep 26, 2013

June Sieber

On Aug. 20, 20-year-old Brandon Hill walked into the office of the Ronald C. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., with an AK-47 and magazines holding 500 bullets.

“I’m going to die today, and I’m taking people with me,” he told the woman at the desk.

With 870 kindergarten through fifth grade children in the building, the scene had every ingredient for a repeat performance of the Newtown tragedy.

Antoinette Tuff, school bookkeeper, was late arriving to work due to some devastating news. It was she who would confront the disturbed young man. The world has been stunned by what transpired in that school office. Tuff, setting aside her own terror, greeted Hill with amazing grace and compassion.

“It’s going to be all right, sweetie,” she said, sharing her own story of wanting to commit suicide when her husband left her.

While calming Hill, Tuff quietly texted the teachers to get the children out of the school, and made a 911 call to police.

When Anderson Cooper of CNN interviewed Tuff the next day and asked her, “How did you know what to say?”

She replied, “To be honest, I didn’t. I was just praying on the inside and asking God, ‘what do I say now – what do I do?'”

She told Cooper her pastor, Ulysses Tuff, had just finished a series of sessions on being “Anchored in God.” In fact that very morning she had gotten up early to study her Bible on what it means to be anchored, to have deep roots in faith.

Joseph Laconte, associate professor of history at King’s College reminds us of Martin Luther’s words: “Authentic faith strengthens and impels the behaviors to imitate Jesus.”

Antoinette had more than one chance to save herself when Hill left the office to shoot at the policemen out the door, but she quietly directed him to come back in the office. With assurances of, “Baby, I love you and everything’s going to be O.K.”

She eventually succeeded in convincing him to give up his weapons and let the police escort him out of the building, resulting in no harm to any of the children or staff.

Pastor Tuff of The Way, The Truth, and The Life Christian Center in Decatur, told his congregation the following Sunday, that, “She had many chances to escape, but she stayed and fulfilled God’s assignment, even at the risk of death.”

In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy says, “Love inspires, illumines, designates and leads the way. Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action.”

So we’re left wondering: how robust is our faith? Are we so imbued with the spirit of Christ, so anchored in God, that we would have responded with Antoinette’s courage and grace? Something to ponder.