Victim impact and forgiveness
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Annette Stanwick, keynote speaker at Cochrane’s Banquet of Hope, shared her story of forgiving her brother’s murderer. Photo by Warren Harbeck
You’ve been invited to present a victim impact statement at the sentencing of your beloved brother’s murderer. At last you can make your outrage known. But what will you say?
Annette Stanwick, speaking at Prison Fellowship Canada’s Banquet of Hope this past Friday at Cochrane Alliance Church, explained her decision.
Prison Fellowship Canada is a national community of reconciliation and restoration to prisoners, ex-prisoners, their families and victims using a faith-based approach to transformation based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
I just wish I could give you a taste of the outstanding Alberta beef dinner served by the Cochrane Alliance team, to the accompaniment of live music provided by the Grace Revolution Band, that evening.
What I can do is heap praise on prominent broadcaster and emcee Darrel Janz’s interview with author Raymond Mowla about the ex-offender’s bondage to booze, drugs, control issues and crime. It was Mowla’s encounter with the love and grace of Jesus Christ, and the need to forgive others, including his mother, he said, that set him free. (See his books, Broken Hearted Joy and Servants of Light.)
But what about Annette Stanwick’s victim impact decision? In the Calgary author’s keynote address she celebrated the miracle of forgiveness.
“When my brother Soren was murdered 20 years ago, I never dreamed I would feel led by God to forgive his killer in the courtroom in Virginia,” she said. “I was angry! It had been 18 months with no answers.”
One night she heard the Voice. “And God said, ‘I love your brother’s murderer as much as I love you and as much as I love your brother.’”
The next morning she was a different woman, she said.
An avid motorcyclist, Annette put on many miles in prayerful probing and processing. The words, “forgive them; they didn’t know what they were doing,” kept going over in her mind. Her response? “Make me willing and make it possible.”
At the trial, after speaking of the enormous hole the murderer had left in her brother’s family and of how she herself struggled with the senseless atrocity, she looked into the murderer’s eyes and said:
“Travis, I want you to know that the most important impact of this whole experience for me is that God has given me a new understanding of love and forgiveness.
“Travis, God has impressed me that he doesn’t love what you did, but he loves you in spite of what you have done. He loves you with a love that will never end and he longs to show you that love. He loves you just as much as he loves me and just as much as he loves my brother Soren. There is nothing so deep, so dark and so horrible, that he cannot and will not forgive. And he longs to forgive you for what you have done, Travis.
“Here in the quietness of this moment I am offering God’s love and forgiveness to you, Travis,” she said, and then added, “and I am also offering you my forgiveness.”
From that moment on, Annette became an instrument of healing for many. For more of her story, see her book, Forgiveness: The Mystery and Miracle (www.annettestanwick.com).
To learn more about Prison Fellowship Canada, visit their website, prisonfellowship.ca.
© 2019 Warren Harbeck