After entering the nursing field in 1979, Rose Pauly’s career had been underway for 14 years when she withstood the most transformative tragedy of her life.
At the time, Pauly had begun a graduate program, pursuing her MBA after 14 years of working in cardiac care, neurological care, and the pediatric ICU. She returned home one day after having dropped off lunches to her kids at school, when she noticed an unfamiliar car parked outside her home. A man she didn’t recognize exited the vehicle and began following her up her driveway at a brisk pace.
Instantly, her guard went up. With an armload of books, Pauly started into her garage. As she looked back, she recognized the man as a contractor who’d bid on some cabinetry work in her home. Pauly and her husband had promoted Christian rock concerts for a time, and the man told her he was there to see about some cassette tapes they’d discussed.
“I dropped all my fear, and let him in the house,” she said. “He came up behind me and held a knife to my neck.”
As the man attempted to force her upstairs, Pauly fought back, and began to pray, audibly, as she begged him, “Don’t do this.”
“At that point, inside, I knew I would rather die than go upstairs with this man, so I kept fighting him,” she said. “My hands were on his wrist, and I started to pray. I said, ‘Heavenly Father, I ask that you let this man know you love him, and You don’t want him to destroy his life by doing this thing.’ And I remember looking at him and saying, ‘God loves you.’ ”
In that moment, Pauly said her fear was lifted, and her heart went out to her assailant. He stopped for a moment, hung his head and sighed. Pauly then ducked under his arm and ran to the front door only to discover he’d deadbolted it behind them.
“With one hand, I’m fighting with this guy, and with the other, I’m opening the deadbolt,” she said. “I still remember the words in my head: ‘Be strong.’ ”
Pauly eventually grappled her way free and out the door. She headed down her porch to the curb, and sat down, and her attacker came and sat down beside her. It was high noon as Pauly just started praying aloud again in broad daylight, while the man held his head in his hands, apologizing.
“I said, ‘There’s real good and there’s real evil in this world, and you’re under the control of evil right now,’ ” Pauly recalls. “I told him, ‘You need God in your life.’ He says, ‘I don’t even know where to start.’ ”
Pauly’s assailant was arrested, and served five-and-a-half years in Colorado’s Canyon City Prison for the incident. The overwhelming nature of the experience led Pauly to set aside her nursing career and pursue a path to ministry. She completed a master’s degree in theology, and from 1996 to 2010, worked full-time as a pastoral minister, establishing the nonprofit Tenacious Love Ministries, which she still maintains today.
Perhaps even more miraculously than the event that upended her life was the way in which her attacker re-entered it a decade-and-a-half after the fact.
“During that time, he had a life-changing encounter with God in prison,” Pauly said. “Sixteen years later, he and his wife reconnected with my husband and me in the same living room, and I got to hear the whole other side of the story.”
From 2011 to 2012, Pauly interviewed him about the entire encounter, penning a book, “Desperate Hope,” which tells both of their stories in tandem. In it, he shares his battles with addiction and despair, and she describes the way her faith helped free her from victimhood and leveraged a tragedy into the springboard that launched a mission. Writing the book “was truly a process of letting go of fear,” Pauly said.
“When you go through a traumatic event, fear is embedded in the cells of your body,” she said. “It was a journey out of that, and it was a journey of pressing in, and recognizing a God behind it all who wanted to meet me in my fear and in my trauma, and keep me out of a pit of being a victim where you’re paralyzed by your fear.”
“That was what I was free from, but it was a process of a daily encounter of God meeting me there, and walking me, step by step, out of that place,” Pauly said. “Foregiveness is not denying what happened. It’s calling evil and violence by its right name, but it’s surrendering your right to get even. When I surrendered my right to get even, I was set free.”
Pauly said she is still in contact with her one-time assailant, who is still married. His three children are now grown, and are all thriving. And her own ministry has flourished in the meantime as well. Tenacious Love Ministries has supported Dominican Mission, a program that builds schools for Haitian refugees living in the Dominican Republic after the devastating earthquake of 2010. Her son helped alert the family to the immense needs of Haitian school children after the disaster. For the past eight years, Tenacious Love has helped build a school there, supporting its operations and staffing with regular donations.
As her ministry grew, Pauly spent 18 months working to reinstate her nursing license in 2015. (She hadn’t drawn a salary from her work, and wanted to generate an income to support the nonprofit.) By 2016, Pauly had taken a position as a breast navigator and patient education advocate, at the Banner Imaging McKee Breast Center in Loveland, Colorado.
“I have such a desire to pour into people’s lives with hope and encouragement, and now, I’m a breast center navigator and educator,” she said. “I work with the patients to teach them about their breast biopsies. I am the one who notifies them when the pathology comes back. I usually am the one calling them to notify them, and help them get set up for all the follow-up care, emotionally, and for all the physical things that have to happen.”
“We have a phenomenal team here with great, exceptional practitioners, which means the patients are very well supported,” Pauly said. “It’s been just pure joy that part of the job is to be able to use the pastoring and those kinds of experiences in my life.”
Neither has Pauly lost sight of the transformative power of her traumatic experience to change not only her life, but the lives of those around her. It’s a lesson that underpins all the work she continues to do.
“If it hadn’t been for the intervention of God, I wouldn’t be here,” Pauly said. “He didn’t just save my life this day, but He took this event, and He used it for good. It opened up the door for a ministry to women who’ve gone through difficult things.”
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