June of 2007 I blogged on an event that took place in Jamaica involving a very good friend and servant of Christ who has moved from America to reach out to the lost and needy on the mountain. Her name is Karen. The event involved an accident involving her car and the ensuing court case against the native jamaican who caused that accident. Here is Karen's court experience:
Hard benches have never been more uncomfortable than they were that day, as I waited for almost 4 hours to hear the names "Brunk vs. Dennis" called. By now, I had visually inspected every inch of the courtroom, drab and undecorated and antiquated as it was, obviously painted and repainted dozens of times. Lizards and insects of all kinds climbed in and out and around all the rafters. Large fans whirred, circulating hot air, and I shifted my weight continuously, unable to avoid bumping into the person next to me, but unable to stand up or leave the courtroom as this would dishonor the Lady Judge. First I struggled with insatiable thirst (foolishly failing to carry a water bottle with me), then all I could think about was wondering where the nearest bathroom facility might be. (I had been informed that there is no public restroom at the courthouse, but I noticed that there are conveniently a number of bushes scattered around the perimeter.)
For the most part, I was well entertained as I listened to all the cases as they came before the judge. People argued vehemently over everything from the price of peanuts to unpaid bills to someone cutting down a neighbor's mango tree, to unpaid laborers, to accusations of verbal abuse and threats of physical violence. I listened soberly as one person after another was reprimanded by this no-nonsense judge as she either dismissed trivial arguments or cases without evidence or demanded that they pay up by xx date OR TEN DAYS IN THE LOCKUP, WITH HARD LABOR!!...... Even as some poor souls stood and held the well-worn Gideon Bible in their right hand to swear they were telling the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, one still had to wonder. One man mistakenly repeated...... "the truth, the whole truth, nothing about the truth......" whereupon even the Judge laughed and made him say it over. Sometimes it resembled a comedy show, although stern-faced police officers stood solemnly in attendance, and whenever laughter would break out they would shout: "SILENCE IN THE COURT!!"
What brought me to this place and time was the result of an accident involving my Surf (SUV) last summer, when a local uninsured taxi driver was speeding down the narrow mountain road, unable to stop when the two vehicles met on a blind curve. (Someone else was driving the Surf with my permission.) The crash "totaled" Monk's car, and the Surf sustained considerable damage, although it was repairable. Thankfully no one was seriously injured. In spite of the long-awaited police report which clearly put Monk at fault and a written statement from the insurance company that although there was liability coverage on Monk's vehicle, he was not a covered driver as he had had his license for less than a year, he was heard to boast throughout the community that he was NOT at fault and would accept no responsibility for it.
On numerous occasions, I attempted to have a private conversation with Monk regarding the accident. Although my own comprehensive insurance policy would cover the majority of repair expenses, the excess (deductible) of over $700. (US) was not included. In addition to this, the cost of my policy increased by 100% at the annual renewal. Monk continued to behave disrespectfully, including hanging up the phone when I called him, and spinning his tires on loose gravel as he sped away when I stopped him along the road. Any potential agreement seemed to be getting no where fast.
Long after courtroom scenes and dialog had blended into monotony, I finally stood and stepped forward at the sound of my name. I was well prepared with written documents and had also rehearsed in my mind what I believed God wanted me to say. (Seeds for a wise solution to this perplexing problem had been planted in my mind by friends from Ohio, Scott and Jennie Couchenour and Brian and Melissa Carter, who had recently volunteered time in Jamaica.) The Judge: "Ms. Brunk, what is your charge against Mr. Dennis?" I replied, "Your Honor, I would first like for Mr. Dennis to be presented with the evidence that he is in fact guilty of causing this accident, and to admit that he stands responsible for accepting the consequences of his choices and his failure to be properly insured." The Judge asked for my documentation, and after carefully reviewing it, she stated, "Mr. Dennis, the evidence is clear. You have been found guilty of reckless driving and having no insurance, and you will be held responsible for paying the price of the damages."
"Your Honor, there is something else I would like to say...." "Yes, Ms. Brunk?" "Your Honor, this man and his family and I live in the same community. I love his children, who attend Bible Club on my veranda every Saturday. My own boys take taxi with him up and down the mountain, and pay fare every time. I do not want anything to stand between us. I have decided that based on the fact that Jesus forgave me when I was not worthy to be forgiven, I wish to also offer Mr. Dennis forgiveness for what he has done, and to consider his debt paid in full." As I spoke, the courtroom became absolutely silent, and I could see the Judge's eyes widen. When I was finished, she spoke again. "Mr. Dennis! Have you heard what this lady has said?? Mr. Dennis, let me assure you that it is RARE that a person comes to the court to offer forgiveness! Mr. Dennis, you are guilty, and yet Ms. Brunk has offered to forgive you! What do you have to say?"
Monk stood to my immediate left, and after a few moments of stunned silence, he spoke softly. "I accept her forgiveness." I turned to face him, and as he turned to look at me, I offered my hand in a gesture of peace. He reached for my hand, and as I looked into his eyes, my heart was filled with compassion for his soul. Could God possibly use this experience to soften his heart and draw him to the forgiveness of Jesus? Might this even be an instrument of healing in the community, where the cycle of rejection and retaliation and darkness needs so desperately to be broken? Dear Jesus, let it be so.....
In the months previous to this, I had carried a heavy burden of uncertainty, but as I walked from the courthouse grounds that day, I felt as if I were walking on air. ......"my chains fell off, my heart was free.....!" .....to carry on, doing what God has called me to do......to represent the heart and hands of Christ in ALL things. To God be the glory!
I just recently received an email message from Karen today. The story goes on. Here's a portion of her email:
"Someone told me recently that when I forgave the driver (Monk) who caused the accident to my Surf, it was the thing that has caused the community to respect me most. And it has proven to give me opportunity to minister to his extended family in ways that otherwise would have been a closed door. In fact, just Tuesday evening, two of his sisters sat here in my hall (living room) and I spoke very clearly to them of my love for their family and their need to make peace with God. Their hearts are softening.
Now just last night, another of their sisters and Monk’s sister who lived in Kingston was gunned down with 8 shots, killed as she stepped off the city bus to walk to her home. When I heard about it early this morning, I went straight up to their home, where I was able with God’s help to offer comfort and friendship.
An act of forgiveness may seem like it's stuck in time. But make no mistake. When we forgive, we open doors we never dreamed of. God can use that. Forgiveness is a GREAT way to Serve Strong!