Victims & Offenders Can Win- Learning About Forgiveness
By Lynda Lewis
How do you recover from a traumatic ordeal? Lynda tells us her terrifying story and shares her process of learning about forgiveness.
Lynda Lewis is an inspirational speaker, writer, storyteller and producer for HopeStreamRadio, who has traveled across Canada. She has spoken at conferences, retreats, churches and other women’s gatherings, plus has travelled and shared in our prisons. She is currently on 3 radio stations. You can read more about Lynda on the producer’s page.
A Life Changing Experience
The honeymoon was over and I was returning to work. Little did I know as I grabbed my morning paper on the way out the door that they would be writing about me, in tomorrow’s news. The events that led up to that crime started the night before in Ottawa. A cab driver had been abducted, robbed and stabbed 17 times. The sheep skin vest he wore saved his life, as it prevented the knife from penetrating too deeply, however one slash happened to hit under the vest and nearly severed a kidney. The driver passed out ~ and was placed in the trunk of his own cab. His body was dumped shortly thereafter and he was left for dead.
The assailants drove the stolen vehicle until it ran out of gas, after which they removed the cab’s dome and lifted the hood of the car and with outstretched arms crossed the highway, completely blocking the next vehicle from passing. That next vehicle was mine.
I was Belleville’s first female letter carrier and that’s not what I want to be remembered for, but I mention this, as the uniform I wore looked very much like that of a police officer, with the exception of the crest which reads Canada Post. This would explain the strange look they had on their faces when they stopped me. I couldn’t put it together at the time. They asked if I could just drop them off at the next service station.
We hadn’t driven very far when the one in front saw a service station across the highway. He told me to pull over and they’d run across. I checked my mirrors to see if it was okay to pull over and from my peripheral vision, I saw a knife coming towards me and felt a hand grab my hair. “Get in the back seat or I’ll slit your throat” he hollered. I reached out and grabbed the hand with the knife and we wrestled. I was screaming hysterically and when he let go of me to pull my head closer so he could slit my throat, I bit him. Yelling, he pulled his hand away as I opened the car door, let go of the hand with the knife and barreled out of the car into the oncoming traffic. I stretched out both arms and ran with a “hit me” or “help me” attitude. The driver stopped, seeing the panicked look on my face. “They had a knife” I exclaimed. “They tried to kill me, that’s them they’ve stolen my car.” I rattled on and on nonstop, as I got into his vehicle. I continued in the same fashion until he pulled safely up to the RCMP station. He kept his hand on the horn in anticipation, waiting until we were surrounded by RCMP officers. Then, and only then, did I finally calm down and feel safe enough to let go of the poor man’s arm and leave his vehicle.
I later learned that my escape had led to their conviction. I had been assaulted by two former convicts. The first one that spoke had work boots on and wore a navy blue parka, which I thought was covered with oil from him trying to work under the hood of the car. I later found out it was not oil but the blood of the cab driver, the color of the coat concealed that. My identification of the coat during trial is what connected the offenders to the crime. They were both sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Vengeance Belongs To The Lord
There is a procedure that I’m sure every victim of a violent crime goes through but my journey of recovery had just begun. I was experiencing nightmares. The officer that spoke to me after my abduction was trying to comfort me when he proceeded to reassure me of my good fortune. He said that in Ontario you get life for kidnapping, and since I could identify them both, they had no intentions of letting me live. “Oh, they might have sodomized you”, he continued, “or forced you to perform oral sex before killing you, but lady, you were a dead woman.”
I would wake up night after night fighting them off in my sleep, punching and kicking my husband. I’d cry and shake for hours sometimes after these episodes. Also, when driving if I hit a red light, and a man stepped off the curb, I would suffer panic attacks and lock all my car doors, thinking the man was headed in my direction, with the intentions of forcing me to take him somewhere. I prayed and prayed but these bouts continued
Another problem was my husband’s career. He was a prison pastor and knew which penitentiary these men were serving time in. I was afraid to go into the prisons with him like I did in the past because my court testimony had played a significant part in their incarceration. My entire life had been altered by their actions. I knew as a Christian I was to forgive and I had been making lip service to that effect, but both God and I knew it was just that, “lip service”. I had asked God to make it real because I couldn’t.
Later, I was subpoenaed to testify when one of my offenders was sentenced with the “Dangerous Offenders Act” at which time my husband was working on having Fredericton’s first “Dangerous Offender”, Mike Newman, released. My husband had also been approached by some inmates to have these men harmed because of what happened. “Vengeance belongs to the Lord”, was his statement. Yet there again, God knew my heart and that there was a part of me that wanted them to hurt like I was hurting.
Learning About Forgiveness
I realized now even in prison they didn’t feel safe. My husband was a changed ex-offender, but they didn’t know that. I prayed for God to change me and one morning He did. In prayer I pictured their sad beginnings as boys and broke down for the parents and the sadness I felt for both their lives. When the opportunity presented itself for reconciliation, I took it. When the inmate asked me to forgive him he cried. Sensing his vulnerability to show such emotion in a prison environment moved me to tears also. I later wrote a letter to the Parole Board on his behalf. This man was released and invited us to his wedding. He wrote his GED and to my knowledge he never returned to prison. Right after that meeting my nightmares stopped, and so did the paranoia.
The second offender refused reconciliation. I was later informed of his death. He died in prison. I’d like to sum this up by saying I once heard it said that “Two men looked out of prison bars, one saw mud, the other stars.” In this case one looked up, and asked for forgiveness, while the other one never did. God challenges us all to choose life and that’s my challenge to you. Victim or offender, our choices have consequences. I personally have experienced the benefits of seeing what stepping out in spite of fear can and will do in the lives of both the criminal and victim. When it’s God’s plan all He requires is our obedience.
You can listen to pod casts from Linda’s show, “Reflections” by clicking here
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Barbed Wire- ErikaWittlieb
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