Yesterday I had the distinct privilege of attending a Victims' Rights Recognition event at Western Reception,Diagnostic, Treatment here in Saint Joseph. This is three prisons behind one set of walls...
I was asked to open in prayer; an inmate-band played a number, and then a man who works in the maintenance department of the prison (not an inmate) spoke.
First a video of his 17 year old daughter was shown. He was in an adjacent hallway. I went out and asked if I could pray with him; he gratefully said "yes." I had read his story before. He has never seen the video...
After the screening of the video, which showed a vibrant, beautiful young lady enjoying life with friends and family, he came in and spoke....mostly monotone...took him quite a while to gain composure to speak...and he then told the audience of the murder of his 17 year old daughter in 1997 here in St Joseph.
The details are horrific, not "only" in her multiple-stabbing slaughter, but in the fact that her then 13-year-old brother discovered her body...
His point was that though the murder viciously ended his precious daughter's life, the dreadful act dramatically and permanently impacted the brother, the parents, the friends.
Like all sin, criminal acts are not done in a vacuum.
He did share, at the end, how God had brought him to a point of forgiveness.
This was a "non-religous" event..
Then a woman spoke about the shooting death of her 21 year old son. Innocent bystander gunned down in a crossfire between two carloads of punks. Happened four years ago, no arrests made to date.
She said she wanted justice, an eye-for-an-eye, and she wasn't ready to forgive.
The program had already gone much longer than planned; the leader cut out a few things and gave me a few moments to close it out.
Throughout the event the proverbial pin-drop would not have been heard...
I prayed as I approached the podium, and then took just a few minutes to remind the inmates that though the event was focused on "victims," that the prisoners themselves were not victims.
They had done the crime; they had to do the time.
Sure, there may have been contributing factors, but "The fool has dug a pit, and fallen into the pit which he has dug."
Ceasing to use the greatest obscenity in our land, "It's not my fault."
A few glared at me; many nodded in agreement.
I expressed my condolences to the parents of the murder victims, and reminded the woman that forgiveness does not mean the repercussions of the act are erased. Forgiveness and justice can go hand-in-hand.
And I wrapped it up by speaking of the One who obediently volunteered to become the Ultimate "Victim" by wrapping Himself in our sins to pay the price that we should have paid.
It was a hard, amazing afternoon.