Wednesday, March 11, 2015

After a murder, can reconciliation and forgiveness take place?

In her book, Between a Rock and a Grace Place, Carol Kent tells the story of Tonya Sargent, a mother and a manager in a store, being shot and killed by Matthew Ben Rodriguez.

Carol's son, P. J. was incarcerated and sentenced to life in prison for his having murdered a man. Years later, Carol was speaking at a weekend conference called "Extraordinary Women Conference". One of the women listening to her speak was Tonya Sargent's daughter, Tammy Wilson.

The letter she sent to Carol after hearing the presentation at the conference convinced Tammy to write a letter, telling the burden of living without a mother, a mother who was killed with one bullet while minding the store.

Carol informed P.J. about the letter she had received and he wrote back to say that Matthew Ben Rodriguez was in the same prison and he was one of his best friends in jail. Not only that, but Matthew, like P.J., had come back to his Christian faith while being incarcerated.

With this foundation, and based upon Christian principles, a number of letters were written back and forth from Tammy to Matthew, and from Matthew to Tammy. He revealed much more to her than what happened at the trial. The court case dealt with the murder, but Matthew told his whole life story, opened his heart and told her how he began to get into trouble, starting with petty crime first.

What followed next, the ups and downs of confession, regret, and healing on his part - for having been able to communicate with the family whose mother's life he had taken; and on Tammy's side, for learning about the man who killed her mother, is an amazing story.

Neither Matthew nor P.J. will ever leave their Florida prison. They will stay behind bars until they die. But, the Christian message of Jesus Christ, to love your enemies, to forgive, is being lived out in a way that will take your breath away; and I hope it will help us to see our way through the violence and hatred that tugs us down these days. I recommend your reading this book.

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