GARY — "All we want are the keys," the group of young men said, guns drawn straight at Nakinta Kendrick — a mother of four — the night of Nov. 15.
Kendrick, 41, of Gary, was stopping to get snacks with a friend at a gas station on Broadway in Gary when they were confronted by a group of men.
“They said ‘All we want are the keys,’ so I gave over the keys. It’s always better to give over the keys than for us to even try to defend ourselves because we didn’t have no guns, and if we did fight back, one of the three would have shot us,” Kendrick said.
Kendrick called 911. Minutes later, she saw squad cars flying up Broadway in Gary, she said.
The suspects had led police on a high-speed chase before crashing her car into a utility pole, totaling it and leaving Kendrick without a car, she said.
That night presented Kendrick with one of the worst sides of humanity, but by the end of this story, Kendrick would be lucky enough to have witnessed what she calls a miracle and one of the best sides of humanity.
‘We all feel it’
For the next few weeks, with her vehicle stuck at a tow yard, Kendrick said she hitched rides with a co-worker to her early morning job at a truck stop in Sauk Village, Illinois. Her pastor at her longtime church, Tree of Life MBC in Gary, the Rev. Eric Boone, continuously exchanged text messages and phone calls with her to check up on her.
"He kept telling me to trust in God, and I trust God, I been trusting in him," Kendrick said.
“My No. 1 concern was her life. Once I found out she walked away without a scratch, God began to tug away at my heart,” Boone said. “We’re a close church family. When we go through something, we all feel it. I didn’t want to see her struggling like that, a hard-working mother who loves her four children.”
After learning her car was totaled, Boone immediately sprang into action and raised about $3,500 through church members, family and friends. His wife, Tereka Boone, said that they went car shopping last week while Boone’s brother and sister searched for cars online.
By Friday, they had found something.
Unwavering in her faith in God, Kendrick, as choir director, sang her heart out at church this past Sunday — not knowing what had been going on behind the scenes, Tereka Boone said.
Tereka said her husband preached a sermon Sunday about being in need of a blessing and praying for a blessing to come.
Upon the closing of the service, he asked the entire congregation, Kendrick included, to walk outside and to think about the blessings they are in need of, according to a live Facebook video posted online of the unveiling.
“We’re going to say a prayer and believe in God to do something miraculous for the people that’s here, for this church, for this ministry, with our lives, with the future, from the youngest to oldest, in the name of Jesus,” Boone said as he opened the church doors and had everyone follow him outside.
Less than a minute later, a teary-eyed Kendrick stood in disbelief as she was presented with a fully insured, 2012 Nissan Versa, with a red bow and her nickname “KIN” spelled out in balloons on the windshield.
“I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t expect none of this to happen. It was like a miracle. I’m getting chills now just thinking about it,” Kendrick told The Times on Tuesday.
Boone said this year has been exceptionally tough for everyone with the COVID-19 pandemic — his church and its members included.
“2020 has been a year of adjustments, of challenges, but it’s also a year that’s brought out the best in us with a lot of things outside our control,” Boone said. “We have been able to still do things for our community, even though we haven’t always been able to meet face to face.”
Boone said he credits the church family for pulling together and helping Kendrick at an incredibly difficult time.
“Everyone I called wanted to work to bring her joy,” he said. “I believe when God blesses you, he blesses you to be a blessing ... To see this weight lifted off her shoulder, and leaving church that day with that burden gone, God gave her what she needed.”
Kendrick said she can’t thank everyone enough.
“I’m thankful, I’m grateful, and still overwhelmed by it all," Kendrick said. "If I could turn a cartwheel I would.”