A pastor from North Carolina was just about ready to pounce on a dangerous-looking man who walked into his church wielding a rifle near midnight on New Year's Eve.
But instead of him using his 6-foot-2, 230-pound body to tackle the armed newcomer, Pastor Larry Wright said he embraced and ministered to him after the latter told him that all he wanted was his prayer, CNN reported.
Wright said he took the man's rifle and handed it to a deacon. One by one, the deacon and three other church members hugged the man to make him feel loved.
"And then I began to minister to him and pray to him and talk with him," the pastor said.
Wright, who leads the Heal the Land Outreach Ministries in Fayetteville, North Carolina, said he was talking to his small congregation about the senseless deaths in his community when the man holding a rifle in one hand and an ammo magazine in the other entered the church, sparking fear among the 60 worshippers inside.
Wright, who was a retired Army sergeant, said at first he thought the firearm was a "dummy gun."
"But then I saw the bullet clip in his hand and the bullets were shining," he told CNN.
As first reported in the Fayetteville Observer, Wright said he walked up to the man and said, "Can I help you?"
Wright told the man to sit in the front row and stay there.
"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," the pastor said. "I came down and prayed with him and we embraced. It was like a father embracing a son."
Wright said had the man made an antagonistic move, he would have tackled him to the ground to stop him from harming the people inside.
Indeed, the unidentified man later admitted that he intended to do "something terrible" that night, but that the Lord "spoke" to him and told him to seek prayers instead, Wright said.
The man then apologised to the churchgoers.
He told the pastor he had just gotten out of prison, had a new job and a new bride.
"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.
Sylvester Loving, a 67-year-old deacon, told the Fayetteville newspaper, "I think that night the spirit of God was definitely in the place."