by Todd Starnes
A telemarketer more than 600 miles away has been credited with saving the life of a 77-year-old pastor who was nearly beaten to death in a brutal attack inside his church office last winter.
Rayford Pridgen, pastor of Cortana Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, La., had just completed his morning walk when he stopped by his church office. Once inside, Pridgen was beaten by an intruder with a "billy club" until he was nearly unconscious.
It wasn't the first time someone had broken into the church where Pridgen has pastored 16 years. In 1999, someone stole all the church's music equipment.
The intruder disabled Pridgen's office phone and used the cords to tie up the minister. While he was crouched on the floor, Pridgen's assailant took $4 from his wallet and the keys to the minister's car.
Then, according to Pridgen's wife of 50 years, Jane, the story turned miraculous. "My husband was in and out of consciousness for about an hour and a half," she told Baptist Press. "When he finally came to, he was able to work away the cords and free himself."
Nearly blinded by his head injuries, Pridgen crawled down a hallway, searching for another telephone but he couldn't see to find the phone.
And that is when the first miracle occurred. "All of a sudden, the phone started ringing," she said. "He was finally able to find the cord but the phone was too high and Rayford couldn't reach it."
Quickly losing strength, Pridgen jerked the phone cord and the receiver fell to the ground. "He prayed and asked God to keep him conscious," she said.
Then the second miracle occurred. "He couldn't reach the phone to dial and just when the phone hit the floor Rayford heard a voice."
That "voice" turned out to be an unidentified telemarketer calling from Atlanta. "Rayford told the lady that he was hurt and needed help and he gave her the telephone number of one of his deacons."
Keeping Pridgen on the other line, the telemarketer telephoned Vance Allision, a church deacon and the owner of a local wrecker service.
"We ended up on a three-way call with Brother Preacher, the telemarketer and myself," Allison recounted. "She told me that I needed to get to the church quickly. She kept him on the phone and tried to calm him down."
Allison arrived at the church and found his pastor slumped in a hallway, covered with blood. "He had a real bad gash on his head. It looked pretty bad," Allison said. "What's even more amazing is that he was recovering from open heart surgery and was on medication. He could have bled to death."
Pridgen was taken to Lady of the Lake Hospital where he was listed in stable condition. Allison said local authorities promised to find the man who assaulted the pastor.
Allison and Pridgen's wife both credited the unknown telemarketer from Atlanta with saving the pastor's life. "You know, some people might think it was coincidence, but we're Christians and we know it to be otherwise," Allison said.