Every year during Benedictine College’s mission trip to the Philippines, FMC hosts a medical clinic for inmates at the Malaybalay City Jail. On Benedictine’s most recent trip, we were separated into teams: checking vitals, diagnosing, giving medicine, and praying over the inmates. I was on the prayer team. After the inmates had their check-ups, they would come to us. My team was made up of three women and we all took turns leading the prayers. When I asked the inmates what to pray for, they often asked for prayers for their families, freedom, healing, or fair trials in court.
One of the inmates sat down and explained that he was in prison because he raped someone and his only prayer was that he wanted to go to heaven. I felt like someone just hit me in the chest. As a victim of sexual abuse myself, it felt unbearable to not only pray over this man, but to pray for him to go to heaven. So much rage and hurt filled me. The last thing I wanted to do was pray for him. It was so incredibly hard – as if looking my own abuser in the eye and choosing to see Christ in him and to feel Christ’s love for him. I closed my eyes and begged the Holy Spirit to help me. I have never prayed for someone so intensely in my life, because I had to lean on God for every ounce of strength to pray. While praying for him to go to heaven, I realized that Jesus not only desired his conversion of heart, but my own conversion of heart – my own forgiveness and healing.
This experience has been life changing. Jesus asked me to extend mercy and forgiveness, just as He extends it to me. When we give our lives to Jesus for the sake of spreading the Gospel, He uses us to bring His healing love to others – and He uses them to bring that same love to our own broken hearts. I am so broken, but Jesus wants to use me because of my brokenness, not in spite of it. When we give our brokenness to Jesus, His light is all the more able to shine through us.
I truly desire for that inmate to go to heaven; the beginning of my forgiveness journey is to desire the same for my abuser. Jesus is calling me to radical forgiveness and radical love. Through forgiveness, Jesus desires to free me of my pain and suffering. He is so good. I have chosen to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth and every day I fall more and more in love with Him. I can’t help it. He has freed me from my sin and shame and wants to use me to help free others.