By Nigel Boys
On Sundays in church, people generally share their repentance and conversion story with others, and the New Vision Life Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee is no exception. However, Pastor Phillip Robinson had a new story to share with his congregation this week — one that was definitely out of the ordinary. He told the tale of his father’s murderer, Ron Hammer.
Hammer, who now identifies as a Christian, told the congregation via Skype that when he heard that Robinson had forgiven him for shooting his father in cold blood outside the grocery store he owned, it “changed his life.” Hammer was convicted of the murder of Wayne Robinson in 1986 but denied being the gunman for years until Jesus touched his heart, telling him to confess, according to Hammer.
“I gave my life to Christ in October of 1996, but I’ve never really received the full blessings that Christ wanted me to have until one day he whispered and told me, ‘well you haven’t confessed to the Robinson family,’” Hammer told Robinson and his congregation. “And I sat and wrote a letter to Mrs. Robinson (the pastor’s mother), and it was 20 years after the crime had taken place. And I told her how I had taken your father’s life and how it was an accident and that I never meant to hurt anyone.”
Previously, the pastor wanted revenge against the murder and his accomplice, who attacked his father when he was returning to his store with $10,000 cash on that fatal night. Robinson confessed, “I wanted him dead.”
“I wanted them to pay the full price for their crime,” Robinson told USA Today. “A great deal of my life was hanging on their conviction. It felt that way. I figured they would do it again.”
Along with a life sentence for the killing of Wayne Robinson, Hammer received an additional 35 years for armed robbery, which satisfied the grieving son’s thirst for revenge at the time. Although he was ready to forgive Hammer eight years later, the two did not come together until the convicted felon wrote the letter to Robinson’s mother 13 years later, around the time he took over the New Vision Baptist Church
“I couldn’t communicate with Ron Hammer until he communicated with us,” said Robinson.
As he had asked in the letter, Robinson forgave Hammer after he admitted to be the gunman in his father’s death. The two men then started writing to each other.
“That letter from you, Phillip, truly touched me,” Hammer told the pastor in front of his congregation. “The words of wisdom and what God had planted in your heart to tell me changed my life that day. I’m so blessed by the forgiveness that you have given me.”
Hammer was released from prison in March this year after both Robinson and his mother testified on his behalf at a parole hearing in 2014. The two men met for the first time in May and are considering writing a book together, said Robinson, adding that he now considers Hammer to be a friend.
On the night his father was murdered in the parking lot, Robinson had been working at the family’s grocery store. Although he heard the shots, he didn’t realize the awful truth of what had just happened until later, he recalls, stating that he kept on working.
“This has nothing to do with me,” he said at the time of the incident, before he knew his father had been killed.
Robinson, who was 30 years old at that time, jumped into his car and raced to get his mother, who lived a few blocks away, because his father had been taken to hospital. He said that when told that his father had been pronounced dead on arrival to the hospital, his first thought about the shooter was that he “wanted him dead.”