The Power of Forgiveness
June 1, 2003 - On January 23, 1999, missionary Graham Staines and his sons, Philip, 10, and Timothy, 8, were asleep in a vehicle in the village of Manoharpur, Orissa. Staines, who for 34 years worked in India with people who suffer from leprosy, had been conducting open-air meetings in the village. As Staines and his sons slept, a group of militant Hindus doused the vehicle with gasoline and set it ablaze, then prevented Staines and his sons from getting out and kept would-be rescuers at bay.
by Gladys Staines
The horrific killings called attention to increasing violence against Christians in India. But the remarkable witness of Staines' widow, Gladys, has called attention to the overwhelming power of God's love and forgiveness. Here, Gladys Staines tells of her continuing work and witness in India.
The leprosy work is continuing; the leprosy home is a place where people with leprosy come for treatment, but they also are involved in the running of the home. Some of them work in the kitchen, some in the fields or in other areas. We have a rehabilitation program of rope-making and weaving. We also have a dairy, and we raise livestock.
We have about 60 people living at the home right now. We don't just treat their bodies; we also work to give them fresh hope. Leprosy sufferers are usually rejected by society. We show them love and acceptance, and that makes a huge difference in their healing—the fact that we love them, accept them and touch them.
There has never been a lot of opposition to the Gospel in the area where we live, although there has been opposition in some areas, such as where Graham was killed.
But when Christians show that they are determined to continue in their faith, when people see that believers have a peace that others don't have, and when people see a complete lifestyle change on the part of believers, they start asking, "What is this all about? We've taunted you and done this and done that, and still you stand here for Christ. Tell us what it's all about."
After Graham's death, everyone expected me to go back to Australia. They also expected me to take the bodies back and bury them in Australia. It never occurred to me to do such a thing. Graham and I would rather be buried in the country where we were serving. So we buried them in the cemetery at the leprosy home.
It is a tremendous witness now, as people come to the cemetery. We've got a gravestone inscribed with: "Where, O grave, is thy victory? Where, O death, is thy sting?" (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:55).
When I was explaining to my daughter that Graham and the boys had been killed, we agreed that we would forgive those who did it. And I can say from my own experience that forgiveness brings healing.
I've heard many stories of people who have come to Christ after seeing the way that I have accepted it all. I heard a story from someone in a neighboring state who was distributing tracts. One man who received a tract asked, "Is this the same Jesus that [Gladys Staines] believes in?"
"Yes," the Christian said.
The man replied, "I want to know that Jesus."