Thursday, September 1, 2011

Amish Grace and Forgiveness

The following thoughts came after watching "Amish Grace" and reading an article in a church magazine.

If you have not heard about the Amish shooting in 2006, please read about it here

 Excerpt from a Church Magazine

"In the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania, a devout group of Christian people live a simple life without automobiles, electricity, or modern machinery. They work hard and live quiet, peaceful lives separate from the world. Most of their food comes from their own farms. The women sew and knit and weave their clothing, which is modest and plain. They are known as the Amish people.

A 32-year-old milk truck driver lived with his family in their Nickel Mines community. He was not Amish, but his pickup route took him to many Amish dairy farms, where he became known as the quiet milkman. Last October he suddenly lost all reason and control. In his tormented mind he blamed God for the death of his first child and some unsubstantiated memories. He stormed into the Amish school without any provocation, released the boys and adults, and tied up the 10 girls. He shot the girls, killing five and wounding five. Then he took his own life.

This shocking violence caused great anguish among the Amish but no anger. There was hurt but no hate. Their forgiveness was immediate. Collectively they began to reach out to the milkman’s suffering family. As the milkman’s family gathered in his home the day after the shootings, an Amish neighbor came over, wrapped his arms around the father of the dead gunman, and said, “We will forgive you.”  Amish leaders visited the milkman’s wife and children to extend their sympathy, their forgiveness, their help, and their love. About half of the mourners at the milkman’s funeral were Amish. In turn, the Amish invited the milkman’s family to attend the funeral services of the girls who had been killed. A remarkable peace settled on the Amish as their faith sustained them during this crisis.

One local resident very eloquently summed up the aftermath of this tragedy when he said, “We were all speaking the same language, and not just English, but a language of caring, a language of community, [and] a language of service. And, yes, a language of forgiveness.”  It was an amazing outpouring of their complete faith in the Lord’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” 
The family of the milkman who killed the five girls released the following statement to the public:

“To our Amish friends, neighbors, and local community:

“Our family wants each of you to know that we are overwhelmed by the forgiveness, grace, and mercy that you’ve extended to us. Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. The prayers, flowers, cards, and gifts you’ve given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you.

“Please know that our hearts have been broken by all that has happened. We are filled with sorrow for all of our Amish neighbors whom we have loved and continue to love. We know that there are many hard days ahead for all the families who lost loved ones, and so we will continue to put our hope and trust in the God of all comfort, as we all seek to rebuild our lives.” 
How could the whole Amish group manifest such an expression of forgiveness? It was because of their faith in God and trust in His word, which is part of their inner beings. They see themselves as disciples of Christ and want to follow His example.

Hearing of this tragedy, many people sent money to the Amish to pay for the health care of the five surviving girls and for the burial expenses of the five who were killed. As a further demonstration of their discipleship, the Amish decided to share some of the money with the widow of the milkman and her three children because they too were victims of this terrible tragedy.  To read more of this article, click here The Power of Forgiveness from the LDS Publication "Ensign"

My Reflections

I cried when the news of the Amish school shooting broke on October 6, 2006.  I had driven through this area many times and loved seeing how the children played and the family units working together.  The Amish people that I came into contact with were so humble and kind.

"Amish Grace" has been available on DVD for awhile.  I finally decided to watch it today and tears streamed down my face as I once again tried to comprehend the love that was shown and the trials that were overcome.  The movie was based on a true story, but some fictational characters and circumstances were added.  

In the movie, a fictional character, Ida Graber, struggles with forgiveness after her daughter was shot and killed.  She makes a friend who is a news reporter and together both learn that forgiveness is the right thing to do. There was no violence depicted in the movie.

I have not been placed in a circumstance to test what I would do, but I am not sure that I would forgive instantaneously!  I know forgiveness is for me and not for the person that has hurt me, but it is still so difficult to forgive somethings and to not hold that grudge. 

What are your thoughts on forgiveness?

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