July 30, 2010— -- Held up at gunpoint, a store clerk invoked her faith to turn the desperate thief into a repentant gunman.
When a man tried to rob a MetroPCS cell phone store at gunpoint in Pompano Beach, Fla., store manager Nayara Goncalves, 20, calmly talked to the man about Jesus and her faith until he left without taking any money.
Goncalves said she doesn't know why she began to talk to him about Jesus.
"I believe it was the Holy Spirit of God that really made me want to tell him about Jesus," Goncalves told ABCNews.com.
"I would never be able to do that myself. I would never think that God could use me the way that he did," she said. "[God] impressed me."
A store surveillance camera captured the whole exchange between Goncalves and the would-be robber.
The man entered the store and made small talk about the rainy weather. He asked to see a phone, and then showed Goncalves a gun and nervously asked for the money in the register.
"I really hate to do this," the gunman told Goncalves.
She slowly walked towards the register and started to speak to the man, who told her not to be afraid.
"I'm not," she said. "I'm just going to talk to you about the Jesus I have."
"May God Bless you for that," the robber said in return. "Just know in mind that I absolutely hate doing this... I'm embarrassed I have to do this and I have no choice."
Goncalves continued to talk to the man about God and it started to work. Already nervous and reluctant, the man slumped onto the counter and looked more and more defeated.
Clerk Encourages Thief To Find His Faith
"Jesus got something way better for you," Goncalves told him. "I don't know what you are going through, but all of us are going through a hard time right now."
The man admitted that he is a Christian and told Goncalves that he goes to church at Calvary Chapel. She had been there, too. As it turned out, they both knew one of the ministers, "Pastor Bob."
The man apologized over and over to Goncalves, who stayed positive and calm throughout the ordeal. She even offered to help find him a job, but the man said he already had one.
"Then what are you doing here?" she asked.
"Cause I'm going to be evicted if I don't come up with $300," the robber said.
Though the man clearly felt guilty about robbing the store, he hadn't given up on his original goal. When Goncalves showed him the money in the register, he told her he had to take all of it. Once she told him that it would come out of her paycheck, however, he backed down.
"I don't want to do that to you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he said.
Before the man left, Goncalves pleaded with him to think about what he had done and to get back in touch with his faith.
"Jesus helps you, he can change your life. Go back to church. Find a job. Get real friends in church. Talk to a pastor, they can pray for you. You don't need to do this, Jesus is coming soon," she told him.
Completely defeated, the man revealed that his weapon was only a BB gun. He then complimented Goncalves.
"You know one thing?" the robber said. "Good will be coming your way for what you did today."
"You have a good day and God bless you," he said as he left.
Goncalves said she started to cry after he exited the store because she was relieved and awed at what had just taken place.
"I realized what had just happened, what could have happened if God wasn't here with me," she said.
What Goncalves said appeared to have greatly affected the man.
Sheriff's Office Now Looking for Repentant Gunman
"I believe I touched him with what I said," Goncalves told ABC News.
"I really hope I planted a little seed in his heart," she said.
The Broward County Sheriff's office is searching for the man who has been described as a white male who stands 5' 9" talll, is in his 30s or 40s, and has a mustache. They say the long surveillance video and the clues he gave during it about where he went to church should help them track down the man.
Kayla Concepcion, spokesperson for the sherrif's office, said they were all surprised by the incident.
"It's completely unique, to say the least," she told ABCNews.com.
"Usually we would tell people that you just comply with whatever the demands of the robber are," Concepcion said. "This definitely turned out to work well for her."