Religion Notes


Issue: "Who's marching now?," Oct. 17, 1998

Jammin' in D.C.

For Constitution Avenue in the nation's capital, it was something different. Never mind that most of Washington was consumed with the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. More than 1,000 young players split into 250 teams and swarmed onto the street to participate in a mammoth three-on-three basketball competition one morning last month. Kids raced back and forth, coaches shouted instructions, and thousands of spectators clapped and cheered, with gospel music blaring from singers and bands in the background from a nearby outdoor stage. Later, everyone crowded around the stage to see and hear professional basketball and football players. They included Calbert Cheaney (Washington Wizards), Hubert Davis (Dallas Mavericks) Hersey Hawkins (Seattle Supersonics), A.C. Green (Dallas Mavericks), Andrew Lang (Milwaukee Bucks), and Darrell Green (Washington Redskins). The pros gave short "Championship Living" talks about staying in school, sexual abstinence, saying no to drugs, and a personal relationship with Christ. This was "Jammin' Against the Darkness," a five-year-old sports-related evangelistic outreach conceived by co-founder Steve Jamison, an evangelist from Vancouver, Wash., and others. It relies heavily on local organization and support; more than 500 pastors and other leaders from Washington-area churches worked behind the scenes. That night, competition finals moved to the MCI Center, where 15,000 people were on hand. Music (including the well-known pop group dc Talk), testimonies from the pro stars, and a message by Mr. Jamison capped the evening. About 1,000 people walked the aisles in response to the evangelist's appeal to receive Christ. In his testimony, Mr. Green, the Redskins star, explained how true sorrow for sin leads to repentance. It was a theme on the minds of many in Washington at the time.

Tragic illustration

In a sermon to a Saturday night audience at Livingway Christian Fellowship Church International in Jacksonville, Fla., guest preacher Melvyn Nurse, 35, wanted to portray the dangers of dabbling in sin. It's like playing Russian roulette, he said. He held up a borrowed .357 Magnum revolver, inserted a blank, spun the cylinder, and closed it. Each time he discussed a specific sin, he spun the cylinder, put the gun to his head, its barrel pointed upward, and pulled the trigger. Suddenly, during one such move, the gun fired. This time, the barrel apparently was not pointed upward enough. A hard cardboard-like wad that blank rounds spew for several feet shattered part of his skull, and he fell to the floor, bleeding. His wife and children were in the congregation. Mr. Nurse was rushed to a hospital, where he died five days later.

Trading freedom for integrity

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Daniel L. Crocker, 39, turned himself in last month. As a Christian, he said, it was the right thing to do. Mr. Crocker lived with his wife of 11 years, Nicolette, 36, and their two children in a quiet community near Dulles Airport in Virginia. He was a warehouse manager and his wife was a stay-at-home mom homeschooling Isaac, 9, and Analiese, 8. They had come to the area from California seven years earlier. They were active in Fairfax Assembly of God church. But Mr. Crocker was living with a terrible secret. When he was 19 and on drugs in Kansas City, Kan., he sexually assaulted and killed 19-year-old Tracy Fresquez. He told Nicolette about it before they were married, blaming it on drug influence. Over the years, they struggled with how to reconcile the slaying with their faith, she told a Washington Post writer in a front-page story. He had asked God's forgiveness, but the burden seemed to get heavier as time passed by. The showdown came when Mr. Crocker began ministering to an inmate as part of the church's prison outreach. "How can you go and visit this man and tell him all about God, and you know in your heart that you should be there, too?" Mrs. Crocker asked him after one of the visits. "His crime is smaller than yours. How can you face that?" For the next several weeks, Mrs. Crocker said, her husband deliberated over how he should turn himself in. He sought the counsel of a Prison Fellowship official whom he had met: Al Lawrence, who also served on the pastoral staff of Shiloh Baptist Church in nearby Alexandria and is a former District of Columbia police officer. Mr. Lawrence contacted Kansas authorities last month and arranged for Mr. Crocker to surrender. Mr. Crocker quit his job and explained to his children what had happened. The Crocker family prayed together and read from the Bible. The children cried and begged their daddy, "Don't do this," Mrs. Crocker recalled. She said her husband tearfully tried to tell them why he had to do it. "Daddy was wrong for taking the life of another person. I have to go. I'd be a hypocrite if I raised you by the word of God and I didn't do that. I can't live with that." Mr. Crocker boarded a plane alone on Sept. 22, and that night he confessed the crime to police in Kansas. He made no deal with prosecutors, who charged him with first-degree murder. If convicted, he could face a life sentence but be eligible for parole in 15 years. Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison suggested the system might show some leniency because he turned himself in and apparently had stayed out of trouble with the law. But, he added, Mr. Crocker still should be held accountable for what he did that night in 1979. Louis Fresquez, the slain girl's father, said he's not about to forgive the killer, and he should be hanged. "If he found God, where was God when he did this to my daughter?" In Virginia, Prison Fellowship and Fairfax Assembly have rallied around Mrs. Crocker and the children. The family has little money and will need a lot of help, a PF source told WORLD. Mrs. Crocker recently spoke to her jailed husband by telephone. He is, she said, still convinced he did the right thing.


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