“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”
Our work at the youth center in Africa gives us so many opportunities to walk alongside those God puts in our path. A group of girls who play sports together at the youth center began meeting with our teammate, Assay, to discuss topics relevant to their lives. During a discussion on forgiveness, Assay asked the girls if there was anyone who had hurt them, but that they hadn’t yet forgiven. Many of the girls shared stories, but one girl, Heyab, who was 15 and in grade 9, began crying instead.
After the other girls had gone, Heyab stayed behind to tell Assay about her father. When Hayeb was young, her parents separated and so she had grown up without knowing her father. When she realized he was remarried, with another family, she began to hate him. Her mother tried to convince Heyab to forgive her father, but Heyab couldn’t do it. She said to her mother, “You are beautiful and a good person. How could he do this to us?” Her father sent them money and gifts on the holidays, but Heyab wouldn’t accept them. Sometimes her father came to visit, but Heyab refused to see him. Heyab didn’t want to forgive her father.
As they sat and talked, Heyab asked Assay how she could forgive someone who did something like this. And so, Assay shared her own story – a very similar story to the one Heyab had lived. Heyab couldn’t believe it! She hadn’t expected Assay to understand. Assay told her that if she wasn’t ready to forgive her father – it was okay. But she encouraged Heyab to think about the many fathers who left their families, didn’t think of them at all, didn’t help them at all, even if they did have money – men who just wanted to live their own lives. And to think of God, who had forgiven her.
The next week when they got together, Heyab said, “Assay, forgiveness is so hard. Even though you encouraged me to think about forgiving, I still hate him. I don’t even want to think about forgiving him.” They talked a little more, but Heyab headed home again, without forgiving.
Every day, our team meets for prayer and Assay had been sharing Heyab’s struggles to forgive, and we had been praying for her. Over the next few weeks, Assay was starting to get excited, because she could see that God was beginning to open Heyab’s heart.
A week later, Heyab came to Assay again. “Assay, you were right! There are such worse stories – we are lucky to have his love and support even though he has another family. And how can God forgive me, if I don’t forgive my father? I don’t know if I’m ready to talk to him, but I’m ready to forgive him.”
Assay told her, “You need to forgive him from your heart. I’m sure that God will help you.”
The next time her father called her mom, she said hello from Heyab. After that, Heyab talked to him on the phone, herself, several times. After their fourth conversation, she finally decided to see him. Going with her mom, she sat down with her father and said that she forgave him. There was reconciliation!
Now whenever her father calls, or visits, she talks with him. Before the last holiday, her father bought her a really beautiful dress, and, for the first time, she accepted it. She is getting to know her two younger half-sisters.
The power of forgiveness has transformed Heyab’s life and provides a good example for the other girls, too. Heyab has learned that forgiveness from the heart, starts first with understanding the heart of God and his unmerited grace, mercy, and forgiveness through the power and shadow of the cross.
Written by an EPC WO Global Worker