The following testimony was written by Rev. Martin Odi, an African minister whose son was murdered and the grace God gave him and his wife to forgive the killer in person. After 20 years of pastoral ministry, Martin now serves with Equipping Pastors International in East Africa. A MUST READ.
Testimony on Forgiveness
By Rev. Martin Odi
In the past I have shared with some of you about what happened in our family in 1996. Our first born son, Bildad, who was then age 14, was maliciously poisoned by our neighbor about eight months after I had taken office as the Bishop of the PAG churches in Kumi district, an area of 2681 sq km in the northeastern part of Uganda in East Africa.
We were left with two sons. One was not even a year old and very weak as he was born pre-mature under very bad circumstances. I kept asking God “WHY?” I cried out loud and burnt with anger inside. This went on for years but I had no intention at all for revenge. However, I remained very bitter toward God and myself! I thanked God for this issue on my lips but deep down inside I wished God would revenge immediately in order to appease my anger.
Last year a long time friend of mine, Dr. Henry Krabbendam ("Dr. K"), was having a discussion with me on responses of Christians to God’s dealing with them; citing the way evangelicals tell testimonies in their churches. Many will say, “I thank God this week because I got school fees for my children.” Another will say, “I thank God I got a new car, or a good house, etc.” But Dr. K asked me “How many will say, “I thank God because I got more holiness this week?’” This was a huge challenge to me although I did not express it to him at the time.
On another occasion, last year, Jonathan Menn and I where teaching Anglican clergy in three dioceses in Uganda: Nebbi, Arua, and Busoga. Our good friend, Rev. Moses Isabirie, of the Provincial Office of CoU, led us each morning in devotions from the Book of Philemon majoring on sincere forgiveness for those who have committed major sins.
While teaching from 1 Tim. 3 on “The Qualifications of Bishops and Pastors” Jonathan said “He must be gentle and went further to talk about how the pastor must be slow to anger and forgiving. In his closing remarks he gave us homework. He said, “Can you remember any person who has done you any wrong that you must go back from here and forgive? Write down his or her name.”
Although I was teaching alongside Jonathan, I wrote the name of the guy who poisoned my son. Then I began to pray for an opportunity to meet him because he had fled away from his home in fear of me and had separated from his wife and family. However, just a week earlier his younger brother brought him back into a meeting of our clan leaders in an attempt to reconcile him with his family.
My wife Helen and I were invited to this meeting and for the first time, after 12 years, we spoke openly, but with tears to this man, and all his family, affirming to all the fact that he killed our son. We stressed to the crowd that we are now ready to forgive this man. There was untold silence in this crowd with others crying silently. We said together that we want to do this because we are BORN AGAIN!
We invited the man and a few of his relatives to our home at a later date to pray officially a blessing upon him and for his family. Our hearts were so released that day we uttered publically from the depths of our hearts that we had forgiven this man. Praise the Lord.
Now I have the answer to the WHY question of the last 12 years. This is it: God did this so that Helen and I grow in forgiveness and his holiness in order to minister to those who are, and will be, in a situation like the one recorded in 2 Corinthians 1:3-8.
“The mission of our family continues to be the salt and light of our community.” We must not revenge Bildad by killing the children of the murder’s family for the following reasons: 1) All these people are not saved (dead in sins). Killing any or all of his children would mean exchanging the living Bildad with the dead boys. 2) The worth of our son to us is not equal to the six children of this man. 3) Vengeance belongs to the Lord not to us. 4) And lastly, our public testimony has shown our community and those around it that we can win our enemies by demonstrating the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
I don’t know how Helen feels but I am tremendously relieved from the burden I carried for the last 12 years. It is off my shoulders. As part of Equipping Pastors International (EPI), I teach pastors and leaders to be more like Jesus Christ. The one side of the sword of the Spirit has pierced me also. It has moved me to forgive my enemies as Christ forgave his killers on the cross. I thank God for my ministry in EPI and the mission of our Lord. Through this terrible experience I have been pierced by the Word of God and changed to be like Him. JESUS AND HIS WORD ARE ALIVE!