Forgiveness isn't easy, by any stretch of the imagination. Living in this fallen world, we are bound to experience our fair share of heartache. I mean, Jesus himself told us in John 16:33, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We will experience trouble. We will struggle. It is guaranteed. But, you know what else is guaranteed--the fact that He has overcome. This world of trouble isn't the end of the story. It's only the smallest piece of a greater story. Jesus came to this broken world, filled with its broken people, and experienced the fullest measure of brokenness in his body and spirit on that cross, and by doing so, He gave us the only way to overcome. He was the ultimate example of forgiveness. And it is only BECAUSE of His love on that cross, that we can choose forgiveness in our lives too.
Our children come to us at City of Refuge Ministries having experienced quite a lot of brokenness in their young lives. Many came from backgrounds where they were sold into slavery or sent into situations of child labor, many come from situations of abuse and neglect, and some were abandoned. Poverty leads families to some really hard decisions, and some of the burdens of those decisions fell on our kids. Our hope and prayer is that while they spend time with us at CORM, somehow, God would free some of their hurts and fears, their worries and insecurities, and that they would learn to forgive so they can live beautiful healed lives into the future. It's not an easy journey. Forgiveness never is. And, often, it is a journey that is ongoing. It doesn't have an end, but perhaps just various heights and depths. We have the sweet privilege of being along on the journey for many of these kids, and pray that it continues as they grow and move out on their own.
We would love to share with you a few stories of forgiveness from some of our children here at CORM. These stories are captivating pictures of the journey. It is our hope that as you read, you would be encouraged to pray. And maybe even take a step or two on your own journeys.
*Kwame & *Ama
"This story is about our dad. He did not take care of us, but left us. It all began when he could not take care of us or send us to school. Our aunty, who was his sister, decided to send us to school, but our dad said no, because he had issues with our aunty over a cow.
One time, after my Mom traveled for a funeral leaving me at home with my dad. My dad left me with no food or help for many days. When my mom returned from the funeral, my father came home drunk. My mom confronted him, and he hit my mom’s leg. Her leg broke and was never fully healed. My dad put us through a lot. After he left us, we were struggling to survive due to my mom's leg injury, so I (*Kwame) had to go out and work to feed the family, due to my mom’s health. My mom sent me to help someone fish so we could get money to survive.
One day, I was rescued from fishing and I was brought to live at City of Refuge with my sister, *Ama. My mother was sent to prison for a time because she had sent me out to fish. At first, we had this bitterness for our dad because he was the cause of all the hard things our family went through. When my mom came back from prison, she spoke to us [*Kwame and Ama] about our father and encouraged us to forgive him. It was hard, but we have forgiven him because whatever happened has already happened and there is nothing we can do about it but to let go of everything."
Forgiveness. It doesn't mean forgetting what happened, but the words of *Kwame ring with such truth. "There is nothing we can do about it but to let go of everything." The letting go is hard and it is continual and it is a place that we run back to, sometimes often, but it is the road to healing. We are trusting that for *Kwame and *Ama. *Kwame (now in 8th grade) and *Ama (now in 6th grade) love school and thoroughly enjoy time with their friends. They talk to and visit their mom regularly.
"My story all started when my mom left us with my dad. My dad was a fisherman. When he would bring the fish, my mom fried the fish and would travel to sell it. She went one day to sell and never returned. We heard that she had said she could no longer stay with my dad because he was not having money.
One day my dad and l visited my aunty in Battor. This was near where my mom was staying and she asked my dad to allow me to come stay with her at where she was, so I went to my mom in a different community. That is how I found out my mom was remarried. My mom promised to send me to school, but when I got there, she made me follow her and my stepdad every day to the bush to burn charcoal and sell. I always saw kids going to school, so one day I asked my mom if I could go to school. She said she didn't know and must ask my stepdad. Instead, my stepdad told my mom to send me to a man who has cows, so that I could become a herd boy.
A few days later my mom and an uncle of mine took me to my master, where I would be a herd boy. The agreement they made was for me to work for three years and they would get one female cow in return. When I got there, I met a cousin who was also working for my master. Anytime we would go into the bush to feed the cows, my cousin would beat me because he was older than me. There was not a single day that I didn't experience a beating. One day I told my master I wanted to leave, and he told me that he was not the one who brought me, so I should go tell my mom. A few days later, my cousin beat me again, and I decided to run away that evening. I packed my things and hid them somewhere and later ran away to my aunt's place. When my mom heard I left my master, she and my stepdad went to report at the police station for my dad to be arrested, because they thought my dad was the one who came for me. My aunty reported the case to social welfare and that was how I came to City of Refuge Ministries.
Since then, I always had this bitterness against my mom for not allowing me to go to school, for leaving my dad to go marry another man because she said my dad did not have money, and for sending me to be a herd boy and trying to arrest my dad for nothing. I told myself I did not have a mom and would not forgive her until one of the kids here at CORM, *Kwame, spoke to me he said I should let go and forgive my mom for whatever she has done to me. He reminded me that she is still my mom and I could not go and take a different person as my mom. He said that no matter what happens in life, we cannot replace our parents even if they don't make they right decisions, they are still our parents. *Kwame told me about his story and how they [*Kwame and his sister] came to CORM. After hearing his story, I knew I needed to forgive my mom and I am doing that now."
*Yaw's story is real and honest. It isn't easy and he shares the depths of pain a young boy might experience, but because of *Kwame's story of forgiveness and the redemption that brought to his heart, *Yaw is seeing the way forward in his own forgiveness journey.
*Yaw is currently attending school on our campus, Faith Roots International Academy. He is in the 6th grade and he works hard to be successful in school. It hasn't been an easy journey for him as he has missed so much in the years he was living with his mom, but he is dedicated and we are trusting God's timing for his life. *Yaw maintains communication with his dad.
These are just a few of the stories that we have the joy of walking alongside. We see the messy. We see the hard. We see the effects of a broken world and the toll that has taken on the children brought to stay at City of Refuge Ministries. But, we also know a God who is good. He has good and perfect plans for each one of His children and this working out of forgiveness is part of that journey. And we are seeing the good. In moments. In glimmers. In smiles. In new confidence. In learning to love Jesus. And learning to love others because Jesus loves them.
Article written and compiled by Autumn Acheampong
Stories of *Kwame, *Ama, and *Yaw as narrated to our Impact One Social Work staff.
*Kwame, *Ama, and *Yaw are pseudonyms to protect the privacy of the wards of City of Refuge Ministries.