How Do You Forgive?
Checking the News –
On October 6, 2006, 32-year-old, Charles Carl Roberts IV, entered the West Nickel Mines School. The one-room schoolhouse served as the education center for the Amish children Nickel Mines, a village in Bart Township of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Roberts was not an Amish man. He was a milk truck driver who delivered milk to several of their farms. He had three children and a wife.
On that fateful day, Roberts took hostages and shot ten girls. The girls ranged in age from 6 – 13. Five were killed in the process. Before the ordeal was over he took his life as well.
At about 10:25 a.m. EST, Charles backed his pickup to the schoolhouse. Entering the school, he approached the teacher, Emma Mae Zook and asked if she had seen a missing clevis pin on the road. (A clevis pin is a fastener with a cylindrical head, a point and a hole through the side which is used to join a rod or cable.) The teacher and the students stated that they had no knowledge of a missing clevis pin. Roberts then left the schoolhouse, only to return a few minutes later holding a Springfield XD 9mm handgun. He ordered the boys in the schoolhouse to carry items that were in the back of his pickup, into the school house. (The items included lumber, a shotgun, a stun-gun, wires, chains, nails, tools, a wooden board with multiple sets of metal eye-hooks, and a small bag. The bag held a change of clothes, toilet paper, candles, and flexible plastic ties.)
One of the girls and her mother escaped during this time. Roberts saw them running away and ordered them to stop, stating that he would shoot everyone if they got away. The girl, Zook, and her mother reached a nearby farm were they asked Amos Smoker to call 911.
The girls were lined up against the chalkboard. A pregnant woman, three parents with infants, and the fifteen male students were allowed to leave. Nine-year old Emma Fisher who spoke only Pennsylvania German did not understand his order to remain and she escaped when the boys exited the building. Ten hostages remained in the school.
The police arrived about six minutes after the 9-1-1 call was made. They briefly established telephone communication with Roberts who responded to their demands by threatening violence to the children. At approximately 11:07 a.m. he began to execute the children. The troopers rushed the building, but by the time they arrived the shooting had ceased. They soon discovered that Roberts had committed suicide. A few moments later the police were able to break through the barricaded door to assist the injured survivors.
That same day, the grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls warned his relatives not to hate the killer. He stated, “We must not think evil of this man.” Jack Meyer explained, “I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive, and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way, but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts.”
This stated proved to be true. One Amish man held Roberts’ sobbing father in his arms for an hour, trying to comfort him. The Amish community set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. About 30 Amish people attended Charles Roberts’ funeral. Although the Amish are very exclusive regarding their worship services, they extended an invitation to Charles’ widow, Marie, to attend the funeral of one of the victims.
Terri Roberts, Charles’ mother, said that her first reaction was that she was going to have to move from the community. The night of the massacre, however, the Amish drove their buggies up to her house to deliver a message of forgiveness. They wanted her to stay. This made a great impact on her life. Since then she has made it her practice to spend time with the most seriously wounded survivor every Thursday.
Terri found that she also had to extend forgiveness. She had to forgive her son for what he had done to others and to her. She said, “I realized if I didn’t forgive him, I would have the same hole in my heart that he had. And a root of bitterness never brings peace to anyone. We are called to forgive.”
Terri has discovered a ministry of forgiveness in the midst of the wreckage in her life. Besides writing a memoir, she delivers scores of messages to audiences about the importance of forgiveness. Another son has also found that he feels called to spread this message taught through example by the Amish neighbors. He has prepared a documentary film called, “Hope,” which details Terri’s journey from heartbroken mother to inspirational speaker.
Checking the Sources –
CBS, “Mother of Amish school shooter shares amazing story of forgiveness,” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mother-of-amish-school-shooter-shares-amazing-story-of-forgiveness/
CBS News, “Amish: Separate and Peaceful,” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/amish-separate-and-peaceful/
Mail Online, “’None of us needs to live the saddest part of our lives 24/7′: Mother of Amish schoolhouse shooter shares her story of forgiveness ,” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2520819/Family-Amish-schoolhouse-shooter-shares-story-forgiveness.html
McCall News, “Amish school shooter’s mother goes public with healing message,”http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/mc-pa-amish-school-shooter-mom-speaks-20131207,0,4293147.story
Daily News, “Mother of gunman who killed five Amish girls in 2006 cares for survivor of son’s massacre,” http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/mother-amish-killer-cares-survivor-son-massacre-article-1.1542337
Wikipedia, “Amish School Shooting,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish_school_shooting
- What is forgiveness? Define.
- What does forgiveness involve?
- If forgiveness an action or a feeling?
- Can you forgive if it is not sought?
- Is it bad to not forgive?
- Is forgiveness supposed to be unconditional?
Checking the Word –