When have you been in a situation in which you needed forgiveness or perhaps you needed to give forgiveness? This subject usually grabs us in the gut and sometimes paralyzes us. Forgiveness often comes hard!
On my recent trip to Kenya, I heard an account that is more dramatic than any experience I have ever had myself. However, I am betting some of you have been through incidents of offense and hurt that have been very difficult, too.
Here is the story as I heard it.
January of 2009 was a very difficult time for Kenya. By African standards, Kenya had been a peaceful country for several years. However, at the end 2008, a presidential election took place that looked like it could be very close. An incumbent president was running for re-election against a strong contender. Some of the early polls suggested the contender was winning. However, in the end the incumbent was declared the winner—perhaps because his people counted the votes.
Some people were not surprised when the incumbent won. But this was a great disappointment for those who favored the contender. You see, when a president from one tribe wins the election, government services and government jobs are likely to go to members of his own tribe…and not to others. Some describe the situation as, “It’s my time to eat!”
When the results were announced, that outcome became the excuse for youth from every tribe to riot. If the candidate from your tribe had lost, you had an excuse to loot and kill those from the tribe that had won. If your tribe’s candidate had won, you rioted in reaction to the rioting from the losers. Even if you were from neither tribe, you had a right to be angry because everyone was angry.
In all this melee, a young man named Kip Kurui watched with concern as young rioters from another tribe swept through his village, burning houses and targeting anyone from the “wrong” tribe. But he was horrified when they turned to his own home, broke down the door, and then murdered Kip’s father right before his eyes.
Why Kip did not die too was a bit of a mystery. After burying his father, he brooded about that terrible night. Kip realized he knew one of the men who had killed his father. Exacting revenge on this man became the driving force in Kip’s experience, the reason to live.
After a month of terrible unrest in Kenya following the election, an uneasy order was restored. The man who had participated in the death of Kip’s father was arrested and put in prison.
Then life suddenly began to change for Kip. A trainer came to his village to talk about changes that he had seen in other villages through a strategy called Community Health Evangelism. People who had believed that life would never improve, began to wonder if there might be hope after all—not hope coming from outsiders, but hope that could come because of choices you made for yourself. The key was that you needed to trust and cooperate with your neighbors in bringing change. But there was an obstacle: few in Kenya had reasons to trust their neighbors at this time.
However, these development ideas came with stories about Jesus. Jesus had loved his neighbors enough to die for their sins, and for the sins of everyone else since. The more Kip heard about Jesus, the more he realized that he did not deserve what Jesus had done. Kip wanted the forgiveness that Jesus offered him.
The problem was that for Kip to receive forgiveness from Jesus, he had to be willing to forgive even the man who had killed his father. All his friends and family said Kip should kill this man as soon as he got a chance.
The chance came sooner than Kip had expected. An amnesty policy caused the Kenyan government to release the man who had killed Kip’s father after just two years. It would have been easy for Kip to kill this man, because the man became a drunkard.
Now Kip needed to make a choice. Would he kill this man as all his family urged him? Everyone said it was his duty and that his action was above the law. On the other hand, should he take the forgiveness that Jesus offered and, in turn, forgive this man as well?
The fateful day came when Kip saw his father’s murderer standing in a public place. Kip walked up to the man, who cringed before him, but instead of hurting him he publically forgave the man and walked away.
The murderer was amazed, and so were all the onlookers. The result was much broader than just life for the murderer and peace for Kip. Everyone began asking, “Why did Kip do such an unusual thing?” People began to realize that Kip’s ability to forgive came from Jesus, and Kip had heard about Jesus through the local trainer for Community Health Evangelism (CHE).
Suddenly CHE began to make much better sense. If people could really forgive one another, ideas about trusting each other became much more possible. Interest in CHE went way up, and as people worked with each other some marvelous things began to happen that brought economic as well as interpersonal hope. Kip’s ravaged and bitter community became a place instead where children could grow up safe and wel, where schools reopened and flourished, where families learned to love in new ways, and where many
people came to know and love Jesus.
Perhaps this true story of Kip’s can be of help to you and to me. Things happen in our lives that leave us offended or damaged, though perhaps not as severely as Kip was.For us too, forgiveness can come hard.
So, let me ask you, “Is your inability to forgive or ask for forgiveness robbing you of peace and hope?” Medical Ambassadors would love to be of help to you, not only of help to people on the other side of the world. God’s love and forgiveness, through a strong, personal relationship with Jesus are just as real where you are as they are in Kenya. Can MAI help you too? Can we offer to bring you in touch with him?
You can use the attached response card to tell us how MAI can help you.
In addition, you can be one of those who helps bring peace – peace with God, peace with yourself, and peace with your neighbors – to people in many desperate places around the world. Is God prompting you to use MAI as a tool in your hand to help bring peace and reconciliation to people who doubt that is possible?
Look again at the response card. Does God want you to support MAI generously? Is God nudging you to get involved around the world by praying or going yourself? Please take a quiet moment to listen to him. Careful listening greatly improves my hearing when I’m asking God what he wants me to do.
Thank you for caring about the Kips of this world!
John Payne, MD
P.S. I am especially praying for God’s peace for you, and I know you will only find it when you are willing to listen to him the way Kip did.
John, God wants me to promote forgiveness!
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