By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
It was dark when Phyllis Baker turned back to the car she had been loading in her driveway in McCalla.
But not so dark that she couldn’t see the guns.
She and her husband, Tom, and their friend and fellow retired missionary Mary Simmons were getting ready to leave for a conference in the early morning hours when two young men emerged from the darkness. One held a gun to Tom, the other to Mary. They ripped Tom’s phone from his belt. They demanded money and the keys to the car.
And Phyllis Baker started yelling.
“All I could think of was a man who had been shot in his driveway last year in a subdivision nearby,” she said. “So I just started crying out to Jesus as loud as I could — ‘Jesus, come save us, come help us.’”
She said she probably sounded like a crazy person, but as she yelled, one of the young men shouted for the other to leave.
“The other young man was going through Mary’s purse, and she just kept saying to him, ‘You don’t need to do this; you need to turn your life over to the Lord,’” said Phyllis Baker, a member of Grace Life Baptist Church, McCalla.
‘A strong tower’
The young man left, and he left behind her wallet, credit cards, car keys — and the car itself.
“All they got were Tom and Mary’s phones,” she said. “I believe the name of Jesus is a strong tower, and when we ran to it, He saved us.”
Simmons said she was grateful God gave her the words she needed and kept her from being afraid.
“I praise God for giving me the courage and words to share — that God was what both boys needed,” said Simmons, a member of Main Street Baptist Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, who along with her late husband, Errol, was one of the first missionaries to serve in Hungary after the iron curtain fell. “I thank him for taking away my fear, and I praise God that He showed His power over the danger we were in when we asked Him.”
Police were able to track her phone and retrieve it that day. Though she and the Bakers were shaken up, they left later in the day for the Celebration of Emeriti, an event held once every five years to honor the International Mission Board’s (IMB) emeritus missionaries.
“Two days later, the police called us while we were at Ridgecrest and said they had arrested two juveniles that they were pretty sure were our thieves,” Phyllis Baker said. “The conference was a great time of worship for us, and we praised God for what He had done.”
More than 2,200 IMB missionaries including the Bakers and Simmons hold emeritus status. That adds up to a combined total of 25,297 years of service — and a lot of stories.
For the Bakers, those stories included at least a handful of trials — during 27 years abroad, they had been robbed in three countries.
The Sept. 11 incident made four.
“It always is unnerving, but God has always been faithful, and we’ve lived to tell the story,” Phyllis Baker said. “They just walked up and saw three old, gray-haired people and thought they had found easy pickings. They didn’t know we had the Lord fighting on our side.”