Our 75th Anniversary Thanksgiving service was a deeply moving occasion. So many stories emerged of God’s grace in people’s lives and faithful service of his Son. There was much to give thanks for.
Of the many words spoken, one word rings in my mind still a week later: ‘forgiveness.’ Thirteen years ago I heard a young Esther Scott (nee Staines) speak about her forgiveness of the religious extremists who took the lives of her father and young brothers in an appalling act of violence in India in January 1999. All those present at the conference were affected by this story of grace extended to guilty enemies.
Her mother Gladys stood at our Thanksgiving service and told us of the time that severe persecution of Christians was being reported in other parts of India. “What will happen if this persecution comes to us?” they asked. “We,” they answered, “will forgive them.”
It was just a week later that her husband Graham and two boys, Philip and Timothy were taken from her. It was a refusal to hold their crimes against the murderers of their family, that allowed Gladys and Esther to avoid being swallowed up by bitterness. It allowed them to continue serving the people of India despite what had been done to them.
Exploring our history has exposed moments of deep hurt, painful division, bitter disappointment and alienation from the college. Our Thanksgiving service was a time of healing for some. But we know there is more work to be done bringing reconciliation to people who have contributed richly to the college’s precious history.
Some wounds run deep. What makes it possible to forgive is the forgiveness extended to us. There was time when the Father and the Son planned our rescue and restoration. There was a time when they might have asked, “What will we do when they crucify the beloved only Son of God?” “We will forgive them?” was the answer. And on the day Jesus’ resolve was put to the ultimate test, “Father forgive them,” was his answer.
May God strengthen us to find healing and unite together in the service of his Son, who loved us and gave his life for us.