Loving My Friend And Brother, Richard Bennett

Monday, June 9, 2014

There is a verse in Proverbs that states: “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”    

This last Saturday I woke up to a headline that startled and saddened me greatly.  My friend, Richard Bennett, had been arrested by the police.  As I read the news report, the first words out of my mouth and that of my wife's were “Oh No! This cannot be!” 

You see, I have personally known Richard for several years, not just as another acquaintance but rather as a close friend and brother in Christ.  Richard is someone with whom I have laughed, cried, prayed and shared deep spiritual moments.  There is seldom a time that I meet with Richard, which oftentimes is weekly, that I do not share an embrace with this "man’s man" and we walk away as stronger men and the cares of life seem a little lighter.  His wife and children have broken bread with our family in our home.

I have had the privilege of witnessing Richard’s passion and heart for dozens and dozens of young men and women in our community that most have written off.  I’ve attended the program Richard leads at Washington Alternative school where kids who others gave up on are being reached by “Mr. Bennett” as the kids call him.  Richard's tough love returns esteem and respect from many of these kids who look to him as the father they've never had.  I suppose it’s easier to understand these kids' struggles and their tendency towards trouble when you’ve been there yourself.  And Richard has been there, growing up as a troubled kid and young adult who followed the path of so many of his inner-city peers, and paid dearly for it, bearing both the emotional and physical scars that speak to his tough past.  

Yet the path of personal and eternal destruction upon which Richard found himself was forever changed when God reached out to him and transformed his life through a personal relationship with Christ.  I’ve seen Richard up close and personal for several years now and can attest to the walk that Richard has with Christ. At the same time, as a fellow believer, I do realize that all of us face struggles and temptations in our lives.  And I know that at times we fail our God, our families and ourselves.  I do not say this to suggest that what has been reported is true for I understand there is another side to this story that differs from the one filed in the police report and reported in the media.

That said though, I do not offer this piece in order to directly weigh in on the charges being made about Richard but rather to share my personal experience with my friend and something I am learning through this process.  

Too often many of us (myself included) accept as "gospel" truth whatever we read in the news or hear reported on T.V.  Invariably though there are two sides to every story. When an arrest is made and a news report is filed about the incident seldom is the other side heard, or if it is, little to no credence is given to it.  Furthermore, we forget that an arrest is not a conviction. Thankfully our founders had the wisdom to base our justice system on the concept of "innocent until proven guilty."

There will be much more to come on this story.  And time will affirm the truth of the matter.  From a personal standpoint I hope that the facts reported are not accurate.  But regardless of the truth, I know that Richard is a good man and he needs our love and prayers.  And it's why I believe that "a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."   

In closing, I have a personal message for Richard:

Richard, my friend, as you face this adversity, know that I love you and I'm here as your brother to walk with you through this difficult time.  You, Jessica and your family are in our prayers and we know that God is near you and will sustain you as you continue to lean on Him. 

Mark D. West
?Ooltewah


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