Forgiveness (A most incredible true story)

The scene is a courtroom trial in South Africa
A frail black woman rises slowly to her feet. She is something over 70 years of age. Facing across the room are several white security police officers, one of whom, Mr van der Broek, has just been tried and found implicated in the murders of both the woman’s son and her husband some years before. He had come to the woman’s home, taken her son, shot him at point blank range and then set the young man’s body on fire while he and his officers partied nearby.
Several years later, van der Broek and his cohorts had returned to take away her husband as well. For many months she heard nothing of his whereabouts. Then almost two years after her husband’s disappearance, van de Broek came back to fetch the woman herself.
How vividly she remembers that evening, going to a place beside a river where she was shown her husband, bound and beaten, but still strong in spirit, lying on a pile of wood. The last words heard from his lips as the officers poured gasoline over his body and set him aflame were, “Father forgive them…”
Now the woman stands in the courtroom and listens to the confessions offered by Mr van de Broek. A member of the South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission turns to her and asks, “So what do you want? How should justice be done to this man who has so brutally destroyed your family?”
“I want three things,” begins the old woman calmly, but confidently. “I want first to be taken to the place where my husband’s body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial.”
She pauses, then continues “My husband and son were my only family, I want secondly, therefore, for Mr van der Broek to become my son. I would like him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have remaining in me.
“And finally,” she says, “I want a third thing. This is also the wish of my husband. And so, I would kindly ask someone to come to my side and lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr van der Broek in my arms and embrace him and let him know that he is truly forgiven.”
As the court assistants come to lead the elderly woman across the room, Mr van der Broek, overwhelmed by what he has just heard, faints. As he does, those in the courtroom, family, friends neighbours – all victims of decades of oppression and injustice – begin to sing, softly but assuredly. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” (From J.John & Mark Stibbe)

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12 Responses to Forgiveness (A most incredible true story)

  1. nedu says:

    This story is very inspiring. It only takes the grace of God to forgive such crimes… truly,”…., to forgive is divine” God bless you for sharing this wonderful story.

    • Geoff Heggadon says:

      Thank you Nedu, it is a very powerful testimony and as you say, it is only possible by the grace of God. God bless. Geoff

  2. Digna Beckman says:

    Such Christ-like love can only be given by the power of the Holy Spirit.
    I pray Mr.Van der Broek is a changed man who will enjoy this generous offering of forgiveness, and witness to the love of Christ. Thanks be to God.

  3. Enock Okyere says:

    My eyes are misty reading this powerful story of forgiveness. Forgiveness indeed is the attribute of the strong. No weak person can forgive like this. May God help us to forgive one another.

  4. Doug says:

    Tis story is exactly what I was looking for as an opening illustration for my sermon on forgiveness and reconciliation. Incredibly moving, and a testimony of God’s grace at work in a person’s heart.

  5. Dominic Rodrigues says:


    I really loved this story and have used it before.

    I am conducting an Advent Service in my parish. One of the things I will lead people to do is to forgive. Do you have any other such powerful stories of forgiveness that you could email to me? I would very much appreciate it.

    Thanks and God bless
    Dominic Rodrigues

  6. Dan Brown says:

    Greetings, Geoff,

    What a wonderful story, I am working on message series called Pure Mercy and this account fits perfectly. Can you tell me your source ? I would like to look deeper into the story if possible. Dan Brown

    • Geoff Heggadon says:

      Hello Dan, it has been a number of years since I published this piece, from memory I believe it was taken from a magazine called the Curate’s Diary published in Ireland. God bless Geoff

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