The Old Testament book of Jeremiah, the longest in the Bible, deals largely with the covenant between God and the Israelites, his chosen people. Worship God solely, and he will protect you, Jeremiah says. Turn to others, and the Lord will wreak punishment.

Charlene Bowie’s Bible has a bullet lodged in Jeremiah, right between chapters 29 and 30.

It’s been there for a year, but she hadn’t shared the story much until a few weeks ago. Sitting on her front stoop in the Brooklyn Homes, Bowie recounted how, last July, a bullet came in through the upstairs window. She and her granddaughter had just come in from the Brooklyn Day celebration and were sitting on the bed when it happened. The round pierced her window unit and grazed her granddaughter’s back. They crawled on their stomachs to the other side of the house where they listened as more and more bullets were fired off. They heard the screaming outside.

She said she found the bullet a week later when she was cleaning and saw a tear in the leatherbound book. She was overcome. Jeremiah 29:11 reads: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” The Lord had intervened.

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“I just started praising God, thanking God,” she said. “It could’ve hit her in the back, she could’ve been paralyzed for life.”

Charlene Bowie poses for a portrait at Brooklyn Homes in Baltimore, June 13, 2024. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

The story of a Bible stopping a bullet is an oft-repeated tale in modern-day Christendom, usually associated with soldiers at war who would have died were it not for the good book in a breast pocket. A Union Army private in the Civil War was saved from death when his copy of the New Testament stopped a musket ball. A British soldier in the trenches of France in World War I is said to have found a piece of shrapnel lodged in the book of Isaiah, chapter 49, verse 8: “I will preserve thee.”

There’ve been falsehoods, too. In 2014, a bus driver in Ohio claimed he had been assaulted by three men and that the Bible he was carrying deflected two bullets fired at him at point blank range. The story made headlines across the country, another example of divine intervention, but police would later say that the bus driver lied about the ordeal.

When Bowie first told the story, she knew it sounded like a stretch. For one, she didn’t have the Bible anymore. Her granddaughter’s father had asked for it last year, wanting to show it off to his co-workers at the Port of Baltimore, she said. He never gave it back, and getting in touch with him to send some photos was proving tough. She had faith he’d get back to her, though.

A few weeks went by. Eventually, the calendar turned to Tuesday, July 2, the one-year anniversary of the Brooklyn Day shooting. Two people, 18-year-old Aaliyah Gonzalez and 20-year-old Kylis Fagbemi, were killed last year. Twenty-eight others were injured. Bowie lives on a corner that was in the middle of the bedlam — you can see the spot where Gonzalez died from Bowie’s back door and the spot where Fagbemi was shot from her front door.

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To mark the occasion, the city held a “healing” event for residents where they connected them with services and gave away food and other household items. Hundreds of people lined up for the giveaway, Bowie included.

She came home with a shopping cart filled with bread, canned food, drinks, umbrellas and a rug.

Those were great, she said, but she had something else she was more excited about. The 67-year-old pulled out her phone and opened her text messages. There, in the conversation with her son-in-law, was what she’d been waiting for.

Charlene Bowie had her proof.