After a lifetime of preaching God’s Word, 78-year-old retired pastor Bob Johnson was robbed and kidnapped — and discovered he had cancer. Instead of despair, he chose hope, and he is determined to keep moving forward.
On a Sunday afternoon this past October, a stranger came to his rural home in Colleton County while his wife was away on an errand. The man wanted to know if he could spare a bottle of water. When Bob returned with the water, the stranger asked, “Do you know someone with a pickup who might give me a ride? I will sit in the back, so they won’t have to worry about giving a stranger a ride.” He said he had been walking about eight miles and was going to Walterboro to see his mother.
Bob replied, “Since you need to see your mother, I’ll take you into town.” He left the man on the porch and went to retrieve his keys. When he returned, the man was in the den and greeted Bob with a “large knife.” The man demanded all the money in the house, saying, “I know you must have some cash, living way out here. Now get it!”
Bob retrieved an envelope containing $1,400. The man then spotted Bob’s favorite hunting rifle, a .30-06 caliber, which was loaded. The intruder chambered a round and pointed the rifle at Bob with the command, “Open the gun safe! I am desperate, and I am not going back to prison. I need the money.” He then forced Bob to wrap a shotgun and three rifles in a blanket and drive him to Walterboro.
Why did Bob choose to help this stranger? “Having lived in the Ruffin community for over 40 years, 24 of which I pastored Ruffin Baptist Church, I was used to people asking for help of some type,” he said.
Bob said two things happened on the trip: “All the jitters and apprehension left, and the peace of God’s presence settled over me.” The man lowered the gun barrel to the floorboard and said, “I am not going to hurt you. I am not going to shoot you. What I am looking for is a place to let you out where it will take you 15 to 20 minutes to get to a phone (he had smashed Bob’s cell phone) and give me a head start.”
He forced Bob to exit the vehicle and drove off. Soon, a nearby homeowner stopped, and Bob was able to borrow his cellphone to call 911. Then he called Patti, his wife, who had returned home from her errand. She came “flying back to Walterboro” to get him.
The next afternoon, the robber was apprehended near Cana, Va., when the Jeep ran out of gas. “He was arrested by the Virginia state police after resisting arrest and is now in the Colleton County Detention Center,” Bob said.
“Patti and I have lived out here in our home since 1993. Only at night was our door locked, unless we were not home. Now, even if one of us goes outside, the door is locked. We are in the process of having a security system installed.”
His advice to others: “We live in a wicked, disobedient and rebellious world. Don’t take chances with those you love.”
He has not recovered his guns, but he did recover $930 of the $1,400 the man took from him. He also got his Jeep back, but the head gasket was blown on the engine.
On Jan. 20, he had bladder surgery and later learned that the tumor was cancerous. He has more surgery scheduled and a treatment strategy that involves chemotherapy once a week for five weeks.
“Since the surgeon is very optimistic about getting it all, I will just praise the Lord and keep on going!” Bob added.
It is hard to stop a man who won’t quit.