Summary: A look at the events of the past week in a small Amish community; lessons on Christlike love and forgiveness

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Chalkboards & Pine Boxes

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Ro. 12:21

It started out an ordinary day. Parents woke their families up at dawn. Work was to begin soon in the fields and at home. Children were sent off to school. Even the school day began routine with studies in reading, writing and arithmetic. But at this school, a devotion time was also held, teaching the way God would like each of us to live our lives. At recess, the children ran, played and laughed like always.

But suddenly, their ordinary day was interrupted by the visit of a man they all knew-an English friend. This visitor was the milkman who daily visited their homes, chatting with parents as he delivered milk. Often he teased the children, calling some of them by name. He did not share in their faith, but yet he shared in the friendship of these families each and every week.

But on this day, there would be no teasing or chatting. The man brought guns. He ordered the boys and the adults out. He kept inside the one-room school 10 young girls, age 6-13. He lined them up at the chalkboard, where he bound them. The boys fled, gathering at the outhouses to pray. The intruder told the young girls he was going to kill them. Thirteen-year-old Marian Fisher asked to be shot first.” Shoot me and leave the others alone.” she said. Her sister, 12-year-old Barbie, echoed the request. These two young girls, even in the midst of terror, were thinking of others first. What a lesson for you and I! We are not willing to give up our space in line at the grocery store for someone with fewer items. We push our way in line on the Interstates if a lane is closed for construction or because of a wreck during the rush hour. How many times during a day, we think only of ourselves and not of others. Yet these two young girls were willing to give up their lives for others.

In a matter of moments, the milkman shot them all execution-style; then he killed himself. Days later, five young girls were buried in simple pine box coffins, while 5 others fought for their lives in nearby hospitals.

How would you feel if it had been your children or grandchildren killed that day? How would you react if it was your family going through the pain of grief due to such a loss? Would you be angry and bitter? Probably so. Would you show love and forgiveness if it were your family? No doubt, most of us would not. We can not control the way others act, but we can control the way we react to others actions. often, someone steps on our toes, says something to offend us or wrongs us in some small way-perhaps even hurts us deeply- and we react with anger, bitterness, & unforgiving hearts. Yet these families suffered a great loss at the hands of another and showed no resentment or bitterness. These Amish families felt deep grief like you and I would feel if it were our families killed that day. We would wonder how something like this could have happened to our children, our families, or our neighborhood. I am sure they wondered the same things. I imagine they had the same questions each of us would have. But despite their grief and pain, they reached out to the family of the man who killed their own children with hugs, comfort and support.

Reuben Fisher, the grandfather of the two children who had offered to die first, knew deep grief. Barbie lay wounded in a hospital, and brave Marian had not survived the tragedy. Reuben spent the day starring at the body of his granddaughter lying in a pine coffin at her home. He spent the night, just hours after shooting, at the home of the one who had killed her. He offered love, support and words of comfort to that hurting family; He showed Christ-like forgiveness. The killer’s wife was invited to the funerals of the girls. A few days later, a funeral was held for Mr. Roberts. Of the 75 attending the funeral for this killer, over half were Amish families. At the request of Amish leaders, a charity fund has been set up for the killer’s widow and his three children.

What a sad tragedy! Yet it would be even a sadder tragedy if we do not learn lessons from the events of this past week. From the chalkboards, these children taught us about sacrificial love and sacrificial giving. At the Amish homes, around the small pine boxes and among the grieving are lessons we all need to learn. From the Amish families of the deceased come lessons on turning the other cheek, on forgiveness and love. What amazing, immediate, unquestioning forgiveness was shown by these families. A news reporter asked “How can the notion of forgiveness be considered?” while viewing news photos of body bags being carried out of the one-room Amish schoolhouse.

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