Monday, 15 November 2010

Lessons from Literature Part 1 - The Story of Mr Van Der Broek

I have somewhat accidently began a personal study on prayer and so far I feel like I’ve learnt so much and yet I know it’s the very tip of an iceberg.

It all started when I began reading ‘How not to Pray’ By Jeff Lucas again. I’d originally started the book ages ago but then forget about it soon after. My “personal study” has also included listening to the ‘Jesus Calling’ audio-book I’ve had on iTunes for months, watching ‘The Big Silence’ series on the BBC and the rediscovery of my prayer diary.

I really recommend ‘How Not to Pray’ even if all you read is Chapter 8 – the chapter really touched me in 5 specific segments that cover:
Warnings for Prayer ‘intercessors’,
Negative Piety,
Forgiveness,
The Story of Mr Van Der Broek (a perfect example of forgiveness)
and notes on a Brazilian prison called Humaita.


I think the message from each of these segments is so important; I think lots more people would benefit from the message being shared and therefore I plan to include each of them, here, on this blog. Firstly, the heartbreaking story of Van Der Broek:

A frail black woman about seventy years old slowly rises to her feet. Across the room and facing her are several white police officers. One of them is Mr. Van der Broek, who has just been tried and found implicated in the murders of both the woman's son and her husband some years before. Van der Broek had come to the woman's home, taken her son, shot him at point blank range and then set the young man's body on fire while he and his officers partied nearby.
Several years later, Van der Broek and his men had returned for her husband as well. For months she knew nothing of his whereabouts. Then almost two years after her husband's disappearance, Van der Broek came back to fetch the woman herself. How well she remembers the vivid detail that evening, going to a place beside a river where she was shown her husband, bound and beaten, but still strong in spirit, lying on a pile of wood. The last words she heard from his lips as the officers poured gasoline over his body and set him aflame were "Father forgive them..."
Now the woman stands in the courtroom and listens to the confessions offered by Mr. Van der Broek. A member of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission turns to her and asks, "So what do you want? How should justice be done to this man who has so brutally destroyed your family?"
"I want three things," begins the old woman calmly, but confidently. "I want first to be taken to the place where my husband's body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial."
She paused, then continued. "My husband and son were my only family. I want secondly, therefore, for Mr. Van der Broek to become my son. I would like for him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have remaining in me." She also stated that she wanted a third thing. "This is also the wish of my husband. And so, I would kindly ask someone to come to my side and lead me across the courtroom so that I can let him know that he is truly forgiven." As the court assistants came to lead the elderly woman across the room, Mr. Van der Broek, overwhelmed by what he had just heard, fainted. As he did, those in the courtroom, family, friends, neighbours - all victims of decades of oppression and injustice began to sing, softly but assuredly, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me".