Every Sunday for the past nine years, members of the Landisville (Pa.) Mennonite Church have prayed for a son of their congregation. Every month they send him a small sum of money, and every month some of them visit him.
Prayer, money, and visits: fairly typical examples of congregational caregiving, one might suppose. What's atypical is that nine years ago, after a meal with relatives on a calm Sunday afternoon, 14-year-old Keith Weaver killed his parents, Clair and Anna May, and his sister, Kimberly. The inexplicable horror of the crime and the loss of lives rocked the Weavers' family, church, and community to the core.
In the middle of their grief and disillusionment, however, members of the Landisville congregation got busy. They helped clean the house where the murders occurred, established a legal support committee to care for Keith's needs so that the surviving brother and sister wouldn't have to, and founded a "seventy times seven" fund to collect money for his expenses. They studied grief, forgiveness, and victimization in Sunday school and sermons, calling on the expertise of area chaplains and counselors. A year after the tragedy, they held a memorial service to lament the loss of their loved ones and to recommit themselves to the journey of forgiveness.
These days they are continuing that journey, through prayers and financial help and visits to Keith in prison.
"Forgiveness is an act of God's grace," says Landisville pastor Sam Thomas. "You don't forgive and forget; you forgive again and again and again."
This story is one of many included in God and the Victim, a recently released collection of essays. The chapter authors—a zesty mix of theologians, pastors, and counselors—examine topics of evil, victimization, ...1
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