Presbyterians Today

SEP-OCT 2016

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 27 on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) website in the first two days. What a testimony to the power of prayer as we both healed so quickly! Multiple surgeries were done to reconstruct my jaw and face, and finally, in January 2015, we returned home to the United States for more surgery. John's eye surgery was done a second time, with another two fragments removed, but sight did not return. My face has been completely rebuilt by plastic surgery. Practicing forgiveness along the way Wherever we go to share our story, we ask people to pray for the young man who shot us. We talk about the miracles God did in keeping us alive and about all the people he set in place to help us along the way. How do you forgive something like this? You practice—long before something terrible happens. God began to teach me about forgive- ness when I was a young mother of two on the mission field, and John was always gone. I remembered the words of Basilea Schlink, founder of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary. She says there are times we need to forgive someone who isn't actually doing anything wrong. John was doing his job and I was unhappy about his being gone all the time. I began to forgive him and gained much peace. More lessons on forgiveness came in the years among the Suri people—so much killing, so much violence against the innocent. I had to forgive. When we forgive, we are not saying that what was done is OK. It is not OK. It is not OK that John lost his left eye and that I have been through so much surgery. But when we forgive and bless the offender, we get healing, and we let God repay them. "Vengeance is mine," says the Lord. Praying for and blessing our enemies brings us to a point where we ask God not to repay them but to forgive them. There is also a need to ask for forgiveness. We all do things that need to be forgiven, but sometimes we have to ask forgiveness when we haven't done anything wrong. Why would we want to do that? To be reconciled and to be healed. Our daughter was in nursing school under an instructor who had nothing good to say about Christians. I counseled her to pray for her, to bless her and to thank God for her. The Holy Spirit went a step further. The Spirit encouraged her to ask forgiveness of her instructor for whatever Christians had done to her. It changed the whole tone of this instructor, and she no longer deni- grated Christians in class. John has had opportunities to return to Ethiopia, to encourage the Suri church and to baptize many new believers that God is bringing into God's kingdom. In March he baptized people close to the village of the young man who shot us. At the baptism John heard that the young man also had shot and killed two other people and had to run for his life. The good news is that a church is being built in his village. Isn't God awesome? God has taken the prayers for the young man and caused people from his village to come into the kingdom! John has also had the opportunity to work on reconciliation between church leaders in Suri land, between an evangelist and the synod, and in a wonderful all-day conference to help cleanse old wounds between synod leaders and congregational leaders and members. With weeping and hugging, forgiveness was asked for and received, and feet were washed in humility. God has begun a new thing and will bring it to comple- tion. We hope to return to Ethiopia in October this year and will share our story of forgiveness with other tribes who are enemies. Gwen and John Haspels served as mission co-workers in Ethiopia for nearly 40 years. They worked primarily with the Suri people and continue their ministry in the region. John Haspels works with synod leaders in Ethiopia on issues of reconciliation at both the congregational level and the denominational level.

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