As we conclude our television emphasis of Rescue LIFE, it is fitting to address the topic of forgiveness. For those who have suffered so much abuse, it is especially difficult. But two of LIFE’s key mission partners, Peter and Ann Pretorius, have also faced a painful situation that required them to forgive. Their story exemplifies the power of forgiveness for all of us. -editors
Early one morning, the telephone rang. It was my older sister with devastating news. My youngest sister, Teri, and her husband, Jay, had been murdered. My four-year-old nephew and 21-month-old niece were now orphans, and our entire family was thrust into the news spotlight because the murderer was a notorious serial killer.
Having heard of similar tragedies across our native South Africa, I often wondered how people coped with such cruel circumstances. Since my husband, Peter, and I had given up our business to start a ministry to our country’s impoverished black people, I often prayed that serving others would shield us from such evil.
As my sister’s shocking message replayed in my head, I began to cry out to God. Instantly, I felt God’s power come upon me and I had a strong urge to pray, “Father, forgive him; he did not know what he was doing.” As those words came out of my mouth, I became aware of a river of forgiveness flowing out from my spirit.
Feelings of hatred, anger and unforgiveness towards this man, who had taken the precious lives of my loved ones, threatened to overtake my emotions — but the strength of the river would not let those feelings take root. The flow of God’s forgiving grace was obliterating them.
My initial experience with God’s forgiving grace was with my own sin. I had asked Him to forgive me in a prayer of salvation and He extended His mercy to me. I had memorized the Lord’s prayer and understood that I must forgive others’ trespasses against me, as I am forgiven of my trespasses. But when faced with this seemingly impossible task of forgiving the man who killed my family members, my greatest inspiration came from Jesus Himself. He extended mercy to cruel, godless men — even as He was dying from the terrible wounds inflicted by those men.
Another source of inspiration for me was realizing that the Father sacrificed his own Son to offer forgiveness to a degraded, dying world — and to sinners like me. He knew His unfathomable act of grace could empower us to face any crisis in life…if we would open our hearts to receive it.
I could have easily become embittered toward the native South African people after what happened to my sister’s family. I could have abandoned the evangelistic and humanitarian relief work that my husband and I had begun, but God did a supernatural healing within me. I forgave and let God’s indescribable comfort absorb the shock and pain of losing Teri and Jay.
Instead of “returning evil for evil,” my husband and I increased our work of “blessing.” Today, our ministry reaches millions of people across Africa. We take food, water, clothing and medical supplies to these impoverished war-torn countries. We establish agricultural projects, drill water wells and build schools. But most of all, we take the transforming message of God’s love and forgiveness to hurting people.