By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
I have a daily ritual, and it involves getting my coffee in the morning, complete with a dab of coconut oil in it, sitting down, opening up my journal, and writing down five things for which I am grateful. If my journals are left behind for any who might be interested in reading the record of my life, most often the early-morning “AM Grats” listing is going to start out with number one being coffee, and number two being sun. Anyone who is from the “Great Northwet” understands the importance of the first two, trivial and shallow as they may seem. They just get my gratitude juices flowing, and then I move into weightier matters like Steve (my husband), my salvation, my family, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, being an American woman, Juice Plus, or some specific thing that has seemed as though it was specially delivered as a tender grace from Abba Father. Being able to do Athens Now as a later-in-life career for which I had no training is one of my “grats” as well, even though there are moments when I wonder, “Why did we decide to do this again?” That often hits on Publication Day, has been pushed aside for the last seven years, and I almost always sigh with amazement and humble satisfaction at having the team and the opportunity to bring “information and inspiration” to the Tennessee Valley. Through the miracle of online publishing, we are also now read all over the world.

Developing an attitude of “guerilla gratitude” is crucial in successfully shooting the rapids of contemporary life because now, more than I can ever remember, we are surrounded by bitter, fearful people. These folks look at people, who are grateful to be alive, and are committed to wrestling life to the ground until their last breath as being more than wack-a-doodle. How can it be for some that it is an amazing time to be alive, while others pray for death to take them? I understand that illness, chronic pain, loss, death, divorce, broken relationships, abuse of all kinds, and the worst life slings at us can make it challenging beyond belief, and I understand it from experience. However, I have met many who are smack dab in the middle of the very things described above, and they still can say, “It is well with my soul.”

I think this is most dramatically exhibited in our senior care facilities, and we have some excellent ones here in Limestone County. I get the chance to interview residents and tell you their stories, which are often told through the oddly beautifying glow of gratitude emanating out of a frail and sometimes pain-wracked body. I think what gets me the most is when the frail still choose to use their limited energy to help others.

One such permanent resident at the Limestone Health Facility leads an abundant life using her walker, takes a long stroll down the many halls in order to get exercise, and makes sure that her friend is in tow. They stop and visit folks along the way, and she expresses affection and concern for all that she meets. I know from having previously interviewed her that the loss of her husband of 64 years knocked her for a loop, but she has landed on her feet with the help of her walker, her faith, her family, and the facility, and she is a “gratitude guerilla.” Another lost a child 55 years ago, and the grit with which she could say, “All things work together for good,” made a lump form in my throat. She knows where she’s been, she knows where she’s going, and her story, as common as she feels that it is, has strength in it for all who will listen.

What a time to be alive! The good, the bad and the ugly are all friends in different disguises, waiting to be discovered and made into a “documentary,” that if heeded will strengthen your soul and spirit, and nourish those around you long after you are gone.

Ali Elizabeth Turner
We have a holiday tradition in our home, and that is to go to a movie on Christmas day. Everyone agreed that Darkest Hour, a docu-drama on Winston Churchill and the build-up to the miraculous rescue of troops on the beach of Dunkirk during WWII, was to be the winner of our vote; and I’d like to see it again.

There are a number of good reasons to go see this movie. If you are a fan at all of what I call the “craft” of movie-making, this thing is remarkable from an uncommon standpoint, and that is the use of prosthetic make-up. Actor Gary Oldman, who plays the part of Churchill, had to spend five hours a day having the make-up applied, and that was before the day’s shooting schedule began. In addition, it took about an hour to remove the make-up, and the realism of his character is indescribable. Oldman nails his portrayal of Winston, from the walk, the talk, the hand gestures, the voice, the humor, and the benevolent irascibility, to the heavy drinking.

In addition to Oldman’s character, the attention to detail when it came to automobiles, costumes, hair styles, telephones, typewriters, radios, and more was painstaking. In a word, it is a fantastic period piece, period. There is a scene when Churchill is delivering a thunderous speech to Parliament and there is a young woman up in the gallery listening to him. The actress looked so much like my mom at the same age that it was almost eerie.

As much as the phrases “cinematic triumph” and “masterpiece” get bandied around when it comes to movies, not only is it true in the case of Darkest Hour, it is an understatement. The film’s worth is in the history lesson and what it means to have unshakeable resolve when no one believes you are on the right path. Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister who preceded Winston, had effectively sold England down the river straight into Adolph Hitler’s control. The Conservative Party knew that they needed to replace Chamberlain for his policies of appeasement, but no one wanted Winston even though he had been warning everyone about Hitler for years. Under protest Winston was appointed, and immediately the members of his own party tried to politically hamstring him, sabotaging every attempt of Winston’s to show England forth as strong and willing to resist the Nazis.

Winston Churchill was sworn in on May 10, 1940, and Operation Dynamo, the code name for the rescue of the British soldiers on the beach of Dunkirk, was just a few weeks later on June 4, 1940. He had less than a month to not only settle in to functioning in the underground bunkers of 10 Downing Street, but plan and execute the operation which saved close to 330,0000 British soldiers.

Then, after the miracle that was Dunkirk, Winston went straight into England’s “darkest hour,” the blitzkrieg attacks by the Luftwaffe on London, as well as the ground and air war on the continent. While his resolve to “never surrender” certainly was tested to the limit, he stood firm. He got England through the war, and then was rather unceremoniously discarded in the 1946 election.

At the end of the day, Darkest Hour is a worthwhile reminder of the kinds of prices which were paid by the Greatest Generation for our freedom, and those of one man in particular, Sir Winston Churchill. Go see it.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
When Ted Cruz was in Huntsville campaigning in the sweltering heat of August of 2015, he announced to the crowd that was packed in the room to listen to him speak that the first thing he would do on the first day of his presidency would be “to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” The crowd stomped and cheered. When I had my ten seconds with the guy for a photo op, I quipped, “And, you will have Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) over for lunch!” “Great idea!” he said, laughing as the camera clicked. Our mutual and momentary humorous reference was to the fact that when a different POTUS was in the Oval Office, Bibi was essentially made to wait in the lunchroom while the President finished his dinner. No state dinner, not even an invitation to the Residence for a quick bite or a pepperoni-free slice. It was embarrassing, especially if you live in a region which is as legendary for its hospitality as is the South.

That same POTUS had said in 2008 that any agreement with the Palestinians “must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state with secure, recognized, defensible borders. And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”

Interestingly, when former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich briefly ran for the Presidency in 2011, he promised the same thing as Senator Cruz, as did then-rival Presidential candidate U.S Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. She said during a televised debate, “Of moving the embassy, I already have secured a donor who said they will personally pay for the ambassador’s home to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” She then told the audience, “Like you, my commitment is unequivocal and unchanging. We stand with Israel.”

I walked into the Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful office on December 6th, the day President Donald Trump announced that he had hauled off and done what had been promised way back in 1995; he had called for us to keep our word, and move the embassy. By “word,” I mean that on October 23rd of that year, the 104th U.S. Senate voted 93-5, and the House voted 374-37 to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. However, no one in the Oval Office had done anything to make that happen, and as weird as this may sound, no US Embassy on the planet has ever been located anywhere than the capital of a sovereign nation, except in Israel.

Happy tears as the result of Lynne Hart’s enthusiastic “breaking news” greeted my cheeks, and I could only imagine what the response was in Israel. While the mainstream news warned that this would only serve to cause the region to blow up…again, the truth of the matter is that with the exception of a few flag burners, the response in Israel was one of gratitude, not so much to President Trump, but to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

From the Wailing Wall clear back up to the hillside terraces that start at the street, thousands of people crammed the area. They were not dancing, and trust me, Israelis know how to dance. They were praying, and I am sure they were celebratory prayers. Yet, the question remains: Why is this such a big deal? Because every country should have the right to determine the location of its own capital, and we were simply acknowledging that. It is not the business of “the international community,” and hopefully the US will be followed by other allies in respecting Israel’s rights as a democratic state and our strongest ally. Even people who hate Israel acknowledge that Jerusalem has always been seen as the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and anyone with common sense knows that if you attack a country, as happened 50 years ago in the Six Day War, and you lose, you forfeit anything you thought you had claim to. These are the universal rules of war, end of story.

This December, when light is such an important part of the celebration season of Jews and Christians, when the impossible is recorded, remembered, acknowledged and feted, let us remember that even the promise of upholding an American law and keeping our collective word is an act of courage, and true courage will always chase the worst darkness.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
This is the time of year when even the most cynical among us talk about miracles without apology. It is the season whose unifying theme for Jews, Christians and Messianics is divine light that guides, illuminates, comforts, and defies tyranny. With Hanukkah starting on December 12, it seems fitting to tell the story of an inner light that was nearly extinguished, and as of this week is burning afresh in the heart of a centenarian and his senior citizen nephew. This inward menorah, this light of love and the miraculous reunion that occurred between a Holocaust survivor and his nephew is dear beyond words, and a fitting way to usher in the Season of Light.

Eliahu Pietruszka, 102 years old, fled Poland at the age of 24, believing his entire family had perished in the camps. While it was true that he lost both of his parents and one brother who had a twin, one of the twins whose name was Vovik had survived, and believed that Eliahu had perished. Vovik had escaped from a Siberian work camp. Eliahu moved to Israel in 1949, one year after that nation was “born in a day,” and now lives there in a retirement home. Vovik passed away in 2011, having lived the rest of his life in Russia as a construction worker, and had a son, André, who is now 66. Through the relentless search by André; a mutual cousin named Hagit Weinstein Mikanovsky, as well as Eliahu’s grandson,

Shakar; and facilitated by the Yad Vashem database of Holocaust survivors, along with an online video of Eliahu’s 100th birthday, dots were connected and puzzle pieces came together. At last, Eliahu and André were able to meet for the first time. The video of that family restoration is truly touching, and then to have them meet with other surviving family members who had been previously unknown to each other is nearly unbearably wonderful.

Visibly choked up, Eliahu said, “It makes me so happy that at least one remnant remains from my brother, and that is his son. After so many years I have been granted the privilege to meet him.”

Debbie Berman, a Yad Vashem official who came to the reunion, felt that same sense of privilege and awe, and commented, “I feel like we are kind of touching a piece of history.”

I have visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum which is located in Jerusalem, and whose painstaking commitment to find as many survivors as possible is part of this miracle. As difficult and sobering as it is to be reminded of one of the darkest periods in the history of man, one leaves there with a strange resiliency and resolve to live life well, to take nothing for granted, and to refuse to succumb to fear. I hope I get a chance to go back someday, because my life changed in that building.

I guess another way of putting it is that light was meant to be stronger than darkness, if we let it. And let us burn brightly within during the holidays and beyond, no matter what darkness threatens to snuff us out.

By: Ali Eliazbeth Turner
Notice that the title of this piece is “Nursing A Nudge,” and not a grudge, and this is a story about what I have come to believe happens when we “get out of the sour and into the power.” Anyone in business knows that there are times when things just go south—deadlines don’t get met; clients cancel; team members are MIA; Charter/Spectrum gets attacked either by a solar flare, the Russians, the Norks, the Chinese, or all of them; and the “comms” are dead in the water for the day, as was the case on Tuesday. No question, Athens Now was officially behind the 8 ball. Sometimes these kinds of circumstances converge into a perfect storm, and this publication cycle was threatening to do just that.

Now for the disclaimer: If you are a client who had to cancel this week, you have already talked to me, and I know that these were circumstances beyond your control. I am not here to “guilt” you, I am simply using this to illustrate my most recent adventure with the Lord in the Land of Athens Now.

Tuesday the 14th was one of my favorite events of the month, the Chamber of Commerce Coffee. Various businesses sponsor breakfasts, we meet all over town, and it is a great way to network. The energy is always good, and 99% of the time it serves to give me that nudge that inspires me to cross the finish line of a publication cycle. However, I’ll be honest, I was just feeling sour and sorry for myself, and I seriously thought of slippin’ out the back, Jack, and trying to figure out what I was going to do to pull together what seemed like a total tangle of loose ends before we went to print.

The time came in the order of Tuesday morning’s events when Chamber Director Jennifer Williamson invited people who were attending for the first time to introduce themselves, and Dana Hill, Executive Director of Traditions Senior Living, did so. She was delightful, and I decided to take a chance and ask if she would be interested in doing an article. I thought to myself, “The worst she can say is, No.” Still feeling a bit cynical, I pushed through my fears, and went over and introduced myself. The result is what you see on the front cover, and I am forever glad I didn’t buy a first class one-way ticket to “Self Pity City via Whiney Airlines.”

What was waiting for me in the course of our interview later Tuesday afternoon was a tour of a brand new facility with the chance to play a beautiful piano and the invitation to come play that same piano anytime I wanted to, meet lovely people old and young, pray with a woman whose sons had been in Iraq, meet a nurse whom I would trust caring for my own mother, make a new friend, see amazing photos of Athens, and leave with a profound sense of gratitude.

What if I had “nursed the grudge, and not the nudge?” What would I have missed out on? As we enjoy our Thanksgiving holiday in 2017, let’s choose to get better at “the nudges,” and 86 (get rid of, be out of) the grudges. God bless you all abundantly!

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Around seven years ago, I attended a prayer breakfast at a Juice Plus+ International Conference, and I heard two completely different men speak. One was white, a man by the name of Ron Hall, a high end art dealer from the Ft. Worth area, and his best friend, Denver Moore, a formerly homeless man, also from Ft. Worth. The person who was not there was Ron’s wife, Debbie, who had passed away from cancer. The three of them had become inseparable since Debbie talked her husband into volunteering at the homeless shelter that was near where Denver “lived,” and the result was a NY Times Bestseller called Same Kind Of Different As Me.

After Debbie was gone, the men spent a total of 9 ½ years travelling and telling their story. The book stayed on the NYT list for over three years, and I consider my copy that is autographed by both of them to be one of my dear treasures. This is because until Denver met Ron, he was illiterate. And, if Denver had never invaded Ron’s life, he would have remained relationally illiterate. They were able to raise millions for homeless shelters all over America, and to stir people to do more than write checks.

I longed for this most unusual story to be made into a film, and was ambivalent about my desire for a couple of reasons. The first was that many faith-based movies are cheesy, poorly filmed, poorly acted, lack continuity, and I didn’t want to see it ruined. The other was that the story was so unusual I couldn’t imagine that they could find anyone who could even come close to what it was like to hear Ron and Denver tell their story.

I am glad I was wrong about my misgivings, and I got my wish. Same Kind Of Different As Me is playing in Madison, Huntsville, and Decatur, and it delivers. Several of the people in it are Academy Award winners or nominees, and it is anything but cheesy.

Greg Kinnear, who was nominated for an Academy Award, plays the part of Ron Hall and he nails it. Academy Award Winner Renée Zellweger plays the part of Debbie, and I have rarely seen someone speak at times more clearly without saying a word. Djimon Hounsou, one of those actors that you have seen a zillion times but perhaps didn’t know his name, is compelling as Denver. Academy Award Winner John Voight is superb as Ron’s alcoholic father, whose redemption is nearly as touching as Denver’s. The chemistry between all of them works, and the bottom line is a movie that preaches powerfully about the power of love without being preachy.

One last production note: a businessman in Mississippi had sold his flagship company for more than 100 million dollars, and was planning on investing the proceeds. Instead, he felt God would not leave him alone until the proceeds from the sale went toward the production of the film. A true step of faith, and a good lesson that reminds us all that ultimately we own nothing, whether we are rich or poor. The gospel mission that was transformed for the movie has remained transformed, and the community around it has been, as well. All of this was Debbie Hall’s dream, and Denver was the man she saw in a dream before they ever met. Go see it. It will be worth your time and your money.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
History has been made in our town once again, due to the fact that a statue has been erected in honor of a timelessly courageous man, Judge James Edwin Horton, Jr. For me personally, the irony is great that in an era when it has become politically fashionable to move controversial stone and/or metal historical figures out of sight so as not to “offend,” under the inspiration of Judge Jimmy Woodruff and others, we in Limestone County have put in plain and permanent view a life-sized reminder of a man who in his day was the embodiment of controversy as well as courage.

I began to learn about the Scottsboro Boys case in my seventh-grade social studies class in the mid-‘60s in Seattle, but I knew nothing about the man who fought for the falsely accused defendants from the bench despite great physical and personal peril. I just knew from my textbook that justice had prevailed, and as a 12-year-old, I was glad. I didn’t know for nearly 15 years after we moved here in 2000, that it was in our courthouse that “justice rolled down like waters,” as the book of Amos enjoins. This was because the historical narrative implied that everything was settled in Scottsboro, and there was no mention of the fact that this battle was fought all over North Alabama in the circuit court system, it just mentioned that it had gone on up to the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

I have told the story often that it wasn’t until I was attending a political victory reception upstairs in the courtroom where it all occurred, that I happened to notice a small brass historical plaque memorializing the decision, and was happily stunned to consider that just a few feet away from me, history had been altered. Judge Horton proved for generations that the pen was clearly mightier than the sword. When he stood outside atop the courthouse stairs to deliver his decision to the citizens of Athens and Limestone County, one of the most important legal decisions in American history powerfully rolled down the staircase and out around the world.

Horton’s family was on hand for the dedication of the statue, as they were in June of 2016 when we celebrated Judge Horton Day, and the fundraising project was kicked off. The kids and grandkids told happy tales about His Honor, a consummate gentleman and storyteller who effectively reinvented himself. It is said that Judge Horton never had to struggle for a moment with his decision; it was a clear case of right and wrong. He had the integrity to do right and suffer the consequences, when lynching would have been considered just.

Overturning the wrongful conviction of Haywood Patterson was the end of Horton’s judicial career, and undeterred, he literally picked up his antebellum house which was then located on what is the current site of the Athens City Hall, dismantled it, moved it to Greenbrier, put the house back together, and raised cattle. The house is still standing, the effect of his life is still being felt, and now when visitors to Athens point to the statue and ask, “Who was this guy?” we can all, young and old, black, white, brown, red, yellow, male and female proudly say, “Well, once upon a time there was a man named Judge James Horton…”

My deep thanks to Judge Jimmy Woodruff, Archivist Rebecca Davis, and all who gave in any way to bring us this day. I will never forget it.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
As we were staring down the deadline for this edition of Athens Now, I was in a quandary about what to do for Publisher’s Point. The news crawlers were running non-stop with regard to the Las Vegas massacre, as well they should. The expected gun-control arguments were being trotted out once again by those who appeared to have never handled a weapon, the President and the First Lady had just landed in Las Vegas, and while I had much to say about all of it, none of it worked. Then I found the following story, and I knew that in this time of appropriate national mourning and hopefully, repentance, we needed a tale of pure and powerful David-and-Jonathan type love, and here it is.

The United States Air Force became its own separate branch of service in 1947, and in 1948 President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which was the official death knell of racial discrimination in the armed services. Just nine years later, two poor kids, one white and one black, became Airmen as well as best friends. They met at Tachikawa Airfield in Tokyo. They and their families did everything together, including going to the movies, and they didn’t care whether anyone approved. Many didn’t, and were peevish in their prejudice. Ray and Roy didn’t care because they were best buds.

Then, through a fluke, the two whose full names are Ray Cahoon and Roy Salmon, lost track of each other; Cahoon being transferred out while Salmon was in the States at a USAF track meet. They didn’t speak for decades, but they carried each other in their hearts. Salmon had tried to find Cahoon through the Air Force, and finally succeeded in tracking him down through the help of the editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Salmon had been diagnosed with cancer, knew he was running out of time, and wanted to be re-united with his friend before he passed.

Last week the reunion finally happened, and I have no more need to say a word, due to the power of the picture. Ray and Roy are honored warriors-of-the-sky in failing bodies, with tears of joy and the hugs that come from what we have come to call the band of brothers, an inexplicable bond of which I have had the deepest honor to taste; all of it was a feast for the onlookers. To be accurate, they had already exchanged letters and phone calls, but it was the face-to-face that said it all.
They were not only service members who deserved honor from all of us, they were pioneers. They proved that in all ways that are holy as well as whole, “Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. It is the flashing fire of Yah…” Rotherham translation

When Ray Cahoon finally saw his friend Roy Salmon, he laughed and said, “But Roy, you never told me you were black!” Through tears, Roy managed to choke out his appreciation for his friend and his friend’s family:
“These folks, I was a human being, and they treated me like I was…”
“Family,” said Roy. And this, dear readers is the true tale of Ray and Roy’s Excellent Adventure. Let’s write our own.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Four years ago, at the National Religious Broadcasters’ Convention in Nashville, I had the great privilege of interviewing Joseph Farah, who, with his wife Elizabeth, founded World Net Daily in 1997. WND is one of the largest Internet-based news and commentary sources on the planet, and has gone on to become a force to be reckoned with as the culture wars in our nation heat up.

Three years ago, I went to Israel on a tour that was headed up by Joseph and Elizabeth, who also happened to be on our particular bus. It was there that I got to know the man and his familyas can only happen while travelling under unusual circumstances; and on several occasions, I felt I was given a glimpse of his heart. Like me, once upon a time he had been a radical socialist, and like me, he had become a Christian. Unlike me, he was an Arab by blood. As followers of Messiah, he and I had come to love the people and land of Israel. Over a hotel supper table in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,our conversations about the grace of God and overcoming our wacky pasts are treasured memories I consider to be one of the highlights of my life-changing trip.

Joseph and his crew have produced best-selling books and movies, and one film was nominated for an Academy Award. And now, they are bringing to the screen the story of a young half-Jewish girl who survived the Holocaust, and for reasons that defy logical explanation, she experienced Messiah’s love in the middle of it all.

The woman’s name is Anita Dittman, and she is a spry 90 years old. The name of the film that tells the story of her life is entitled, Trapped In Hitler’s Hell; and if you want to, you can help it get made and distributed to theatres. More on that in a minute.
WND film producer George Escobar, whom I also met while in Israel, had this to say about Anita:

“Anita Dittman is the only person I’ve ever met who survived the Holocaust. She was barely 18 when she escaped her second Nazi prison camp in 1945.

Abandoned as a child by her Aryan father eight years earlier, Anita was determined to reunite with her Jewish mother held at a death camp 200 miles away in Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia.

By the time I came to know Anita in 2014, she had just turned 87. I was interviewing her for a documentary about her life, based on the book Trapped in Hitler’s Hell: A Young Jewish Girl Discovers the Messiah’s Faithfulness in the Midst of the Holocaust,which she had co-written with Jan Markell nearly 20 years earlier.

I didn’t expect to become a close friend of Anita’s following that meeting. Or fall in love with her story.

By the conclusion of World War II, Anita had nearly exhausted her reserve of courage and compassion. In our journey with Anita, shewill have successfully drawn us personally through an age of darkness. Nonetheless, her resilience and liberating faith will shine like a beam of light through which we can find God’s glory, forgiveness and love.”

Now this leads to my question: Do yawanna help make a movie? Through the wonders of technology it is now possible for average people to help be a part of redemptive media, and WND has set up a GoFundMe account in case you want to get in on it. There are people, and not just a few, who try to convince the masses that the Holocaust never happened, let alone that a Jewish girl could come to a transformational relationship with Yeshua the Messiah. In an era when “snowflakes” are melting down over someone wearing a T-shirt that says, “Make America Great Again,” it is refreshing to hear the taleof someone who triumphed in every regard over the hideous hate of Nazi Germany.

George is hoping that WND readers will consider donating $5 to $10, the price of a designer coffee or lunch in order to help get the tale told. If you are interested in being a part of such a worthy endeavor, please go to https://www.gofundme.com/make-a-hit-movie-with-wnd.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
In 1994, a man named Jerome who was a member of our church in Seattle, was in Rwanda during the horrific genocide of Tutsis by the Hutus. He had been in many dangerous situations before, but nothing like this. Jerome was one of the last Westerners to get out safely, but not before he captured photos of the carnage. I will never forget looking in numbed disbelief at the stacks of skulls, skeletons and bodies, trying to get my head around the evil that had occurred there. Then when I was in Iraq, I had to face it again as young members of the Iraqi Special Forces were betrayed and beheaded through an inside job that originated on our base; the head of one young husband having been sent in a box to his widow. Later, when only a few miles away from us Al-Qaeda literally roasted a nine year old child in an oven and then invited the child’s parents “over for dinner,” the commandment to “love your enemies” was tested in a whole new way in my heart. I came back to the States not long after.

It was then, in 2007 that I became aware once again of the power of forgiveness as the media launch of the book, Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst The Rwandan Holocaust occurred, and for me, the timing was perfect. Left To Tell is the story of a young Catholic Tutsi woman by the name of Immaculée Ilibagiza, who was hidden by a Hutu minister in the tiny, rarely used 3’x4’ bathroom in their basement. That would have been enough of a tale if she were by herself, but Immaculée was crammed in the bathroom with seven other women for 91 days. A lithe 5’9”, she went into hiding weighing 115 pounds, and came out weighing 65 pounds. The Hutu pastor who hid her and the rest of the women even hid them from his own family by moving an armoire over the door so the marauding Hutus couldn’t find them. He would sneak whatever food he could to them when he could, they flushed the toilet only when a toilet upstairs was being flushed, and they did not bathe for the entire time. Once a refugee camp was set up by the French, he snuck them out in the middle of the night to freedom.

Immaculée’s courage in forgiving the Hutu who killed her family, in tapping into a love that can only be explained as divine, and overcoming the most hideous, debilitating terror imagineable has given her a platform that is global, and just this past weekend touched the life of my trusty copy editor, Yvonne Dempsey. Yvonne came home from a conference where Immaculée was the keynote speaker, and to say that she was inspired is an understatement. I will let her tell it in her own words:

I felt a new awakening during my retreat. There were several prayerful moments during which I felt a release of bitterness, anger, resentment that I did not know resided in me. I realized that I needed to dig deep into my soul and cultivate my small seed of faith so that it would grow beyond me and spread its love to everyone. I knew I could be a better, more loving and forgiving person. After all, I am a child of God and I want to please Him in all my thoughts, words, and actions.

Listening to Immaculée tell her story, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between what happened there and some of the recent events in our country. In her book Led By Faith, Immaculée says, “The story of Rwanda is one that belongs to us all … Hatred, anger, mistrust, and fear enter our lives every day in a thousand different ways. We’re all wounded by these evils, but we can all be healed through the power of love and forgiveness – a power readily available to us when we have faith.” Today Immaculée visits Rwanda frequently. She says, “The power of God’s forgiveness has taken root in my country: faith is flourishing where once there was only hatred and death. God’s love is truly working a miracle in Rwanda.” Immaculée’s words give us hope – hope for our lives and hope for our country. And if God can work miracles in Rwanda, we must have faith that He can work miracles in our lives and in our country.”

Since 2007, Immaculée has gone on to publish another excellent book entitled Led By Faith: Rising From The Ashes Of The Rwandan Genocide, and several others geared more specifically toward Catholics. She has been featured on numerous Christian as well as other TV stations including Al-Jazeera. A major movie about her life is in production and is slated to be released in 2018. Also, her house in Rwanda has been re-built by the donations of people whose life she has impacted; she has become a naturalized citizen of the US, and is now the mother of two children.

In an era when people are getting a lot of traction out of being “offended” over statues, monuments, flags, old drinking fountains, and things that happened centuries ago, it is refreshing to know that the age-old promise of healing to the broken-hearted, recovery of sight to the blind, and setting at liberty them that are bruised still works without hindrance or hesitation if you let it. Just ask Immaculée.