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Covered By His Grace  Helmicks Book On Truth And Reconciliation
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Covered By His Grace Helmicks Book On Truth And Reconciliation


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This paper reviews key concepts found in an excellent book on conflict, truth and reconciliation and how I have applied a number of these core concepts in my own ministry. I share some of the blunders …

This paper reviews key concepts found in an excellent book on conflict, truth and reconciliation and how I have applied a number of these core concepts in my own ministry. I share some of the blunders I have made in cultural "insensitivity."

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  • 1. COVERED BY HIS GRACE by Lisa Anderson-Umana BS Penn State University, 1982 Master in Educational Ministries, Wheaton College Graduate School, 1993 PRE-CLASS ASSIGNMENT—HELMICK AND PETERSEN Submitted to the faculty in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School Deerfield, Illinois December 2007
  • 2. CONTENTS COVERED BY HIS GRACE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Unresolved issues. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 REFERENCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 iii
  • 3. COVERED BY HIS GRACE After my first reading of Forgiveness and reconciliation (Helmick and Petersen, 2001), I had the distinct impression that although I have served overseas for almost twenty-five years, lived in four different countries in Latin America, I felt like my world was so small. Through this book I glimpsed into the world of global conflict. Yet after browsing through my notes on the book I began to identify aspects I could relate to, several of which we were even applying in a very local, ministry and individual specific manner. Rodney L. Petersen’s (chap. 1) use of known examples of forgiveness like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boom and South Africa’s TRC helped me begin to grasp how our common understanding of forgiveness can be applied at a macro, global level. Previous to this reading, my concept of reconciliation was far more slanted toward the individual’s reconciliation with God, himself, others and God’s creation, the four relationships that were broken at the Fall. (The temporary Christian community formed at camp lends itself to promoting reconciliation with all four of these relationships.) My understanding of forgiveness have been both challenged and also reinforced. I have taught that forgiveness is an act of will, a decision to obey God’s command, independent of warm feelings and a desire to do so. I have advocated forgiveness as the best personal choice regardless of whether the offender confesses and repents. Why? So that the wound that has been inflicted on the individual does not become infected with bitterness and resentment which Ellis points out as being destructive (Afterword). In addition, an individual must forgive in order that the violence does not get “stuck” onto him or her thus initiating the vicious cycle toward revenge (Botcharova, chapter 14). 1
  • 4. 2 By cleansing the wound of the pus of bitterness, the individual is free to focus on healing, availing himself of God’s resources to bring about a healing of the memories, a restoration of what was lost and comfort from others and from God for the aches and pain that continue long after the initial wounding. The ministry I serve with is called, Christian Camping International, Latin America (CCI LA). We equip those who shape lives in Christian camping. When we teach camp counselors how to forgive it includes naming the sin or injustice or offense out loud to a trusted other. Botcharova’s seven steps toward reconciliation delineate several aspects I have seen in the practice but was unaware there was a name for, namely “why me?” and “why them?” Six months ago, I was privileged to guide Sarai to forgive both her rapist and her mother for abusive behavior toward her. Three months ago, Sarai approached me and spoke to me of how she had grown in her understanding of why her mother had acted like she did. Her mother had also been raped in addition to suffering maltreatment by her own mother. Sarai had stopped asking “why me?, and had “re-humanized” the “enemy” by seeking to understand what made her mother act the way she did (her former boss, the man who raped her has disappeared). Her mother even called me to thank me for the dramatic change she had witnessed in her daughter. Last weekend, she took a further step by making public (without the specific details) her decision to forgive by sharing during another camp counselor training course. A tremendous sense of empathy was created in the group, like the impact story telling had in Johnson’s (chapter 6) training workshops in the Sudan.
  • 5. 3 By the way, Botcharova’s diagrams reminded me of Kolb’s (1985) ascending spiral of experiential education which makes sense since forgiveness and reconciliation is the supreme act of reflecting on your experience and making good of it. My concept of forgiveness has been challenged by Hicks’ (chapter 7) observation that a disproportionate emphasis on forgiveness without an equal emphasis on the perpetrator’s (high power group) confession and repentance can enable their denial and continuance of violence. That observation coincides with the South African Kairos document. On a macro scale I understand the need for cessation of the violence and identification of the injustices before reconciliation can be had. As an aside, I found Hicks’ use of Piaget’s view of development to be exactly what our ministry needs in our current process to further develop our identity. I have made copies of that chapter to study during our next staff meeting. Helmick and Petersen did such a fine job of compiling a broad spectrum of both Christian (Western) and secular perspectives on reconciliation, including Ganhdi’s Eastern approach (chapter 15) that it made me realize that Christians do not have the lock on all there is to know and understand about conflict, forgiveness, and reconciliation. That simple fact should cause us to soften our tone when we speak about it, to speak with far more humility than we do, and to approach both micro and macro levels of conflict with the wisdom embodied in Lederach’s five qualities of practice for reconciliation (chapter 10). “You are only the second North American I have ever heard ask for forgiveness for cultural blunders”, exclaimed Jorge with surprise written on his face. He is the President of CCI LA/Mexico.
  • 6. 4 I was present during this year’s annual meeting of the Board of Directors for the association I work with, CCI LA. As I gave my annual report I spoke glowingly of the influence Trinity’s classes were having on me. As I looked into the eyes of folks with whom I have worked over the years, I realized each country I have lived in was represented. Fresh on my mind were Dawson’s words about taking personal responsibility for peacemaking (chapter 12) and Elmer’s caution against insisting on there only being one way to resolve conflict and I spontaneously began to ask forgiveness for the sins I had committed in each country. Tears flowed as I asked forgiveness for not having been more aware of the cultural differences, for having been so insistent on things being done “my way” and not conceding that the “Latin way” was just as legitimate, and long before I was finished, I was stopped with the words: “Hey Lisa, we love you. We know you love us and we understand who you are.” “I receive your corporate forgiveness”, I sighed. “I know I have around ten layers of Christ’s blood for all the times I have been forgiven.” “You are covered by God’s grace, Lisa, and we love the fact that you are teachable. Learn all you can at Trinity so you can come back and share it with us.” Indeed, conflict management is more than knowing the right techniques or following the right program; it is about asking for and bestowing forgiveness. Interestingly enough, of those present at the table, Jorge Gomez from Mexico knows me the least. Yet he heard my confession as a gringa asking forgiveness for cultural insensitivities whereas the others heard Lisa Anderson-Umana, a friend asking for forgiveness.
  • 7. 5 Unresolved questions Something in Staub and Pearlman’s chapter 11 prompted me to ask the following question: Did the Israelites in the Old Testament feel bad after practicing genocide on entire villages as ordered by God? After reading Chapman’s chapter 13 on Truth Commissions, I was struck that no Asian country was listed as ever utilizing a TRC. Would that be due to the fact that they are shame based cultures for which the public shame generated by a TRC would be too great and counter productive to the reconciliation process? Ellis’ Afterword made me wonder if the death penalty is revenge, is it analogous with a lack of forgiveness? Is there Biblical support for the death penalty? After all the different approaches implemented in numerous global conflicts, I surmise that the approaches most aligned with the Pilgrim metaphor seem to have the most success: • They consider the people involved as active participants, not passive recipients • The peacemakers walk alongside of (Road to Emmaus style) rather than imposing solutions from the outside • The reconciliation process begins with the conflict from the local perspective, not Top down but bottom up • All five best practices Lederach (chapter 10) identifies perfectly with the tenants of the Pilgrim metaphor.
  • 8. REFERENCES Elmer, Duane. 1993. Cross-cultural conflict: Building relationships for effective ministry. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press. Helmick, Raymond G., and Petersen, Rodney L. 2001. Forgiveness and reconciliation: Religion, public policy, and conflict transformation. Radmor, Pa.: Templeton Foundation Press. Kolb, David. 1985. Experiential Learning. 6