Seventy Times Seven

Recently I was able to visit the girls at the Lupins safe home. Each time I visit I am nervously aware of who I might represent to these precious ones. Will they associate me–being a man–with their abusers? Additionally, it seems, the girls are very nervous around me initially because most of them have never seen a mzungu (an “affectionate” term now for a non-African). This combination makes the first few minutes of the visit awkward. Fortunately, our staff have a program for the girls to follow to break the ice. By the end of the visit on the first day, some of the girls were actually talking with me. Some were even making fun of my accent and trying to mimic my American English. My itinerary had changed somewhat and I was able to visit with the girls a second day. While there was some nervousness again, one of the little ones was a lot braver. I could see her in my periphery getting closer to me each time I wasn’t looking at her. When I turned to her, she would quickly cover her face; but it didn’t take her long to sit beside me grabbing my arm and rubbing my skin to see if the “white” would come off. She would not let go of me the rest of my time there. I was extremely blessed to have the time with them, and didn’t want to leave.

Since I had plenty of time on the return trip (even more since my flight was canceled), I was able to spend a good bit reflecting on the visit. Something that came to mind was the issue of forgiveness. Lupins believes that the healing process can only work when the girls choose to forgive. I’m reminded of Mark 18 when Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive someone, he offers seven times as a generous number. Jesus responds that seventy-seven (or even seventy times seven depending on the translation) is a more appropriate number. This number was supposed to be ludicrous to highlight that there is no limit on forgiveness. I balk at this on silly things. I’ll forgive someone for cutting me off in traffic a few times, but there is a limit! In light of what we are asking Lupins girls to do, this is insanity. We all know that a lack of forgiveness only hurts us, not the ones who we don’t want to forgive. This knowledge makes it a little easier knowing we are forgiving for us, not the other person. In reality, we are forgiving to be more like Christ and to understand the forgiveness that He offers us, but I digress. How does this relate to my visit? What I experienced were girls that had every temporal right to harbor hate and bitterness expressing an incredible amount of joy. Their lives are far from fair and often the legal system fails to bring them justice. However, they have joy. They have forgiven and most have accepted forgiveness from God. I have a lot to learn from these precious souls.

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