REAL LIFE FORGIVENESS


STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM

REAL LIFE FORGIVENESS
=====================
“Do not judge, and you will not be
judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be
condemned. Forgive, and you will
be forgiven. Luke 6:37

Alexander Puerta has seen more than his share of
tragedy. Raised on a small
farm in Urabá region of northern Colombia, he was
17 when his father was
murdered by an angry neighbor.

At 19, Alex
nearly died of malaria. He called on a Christian evangelist to
pray for him
and experienced a miraculous recovery. That convinced him to
accept Christ.
He soon became a fervent evangelist himself and took a job at
the Rancho
Amelia banana plantation in Urabá.

A guerrilla army operating in the area
mistakenly believed Rancho Amelia
harbored a paramilitary squad. One morning
in September 1995, they ambushed a
bus carrying plantation employees, tied
them up and threw them face down into
a gully. The guerrillas then opened
fire with machine guns on the helpless
workers.

In the midst of the
shooting, a bullet struck Alex Puerta at the base of his
left eye, fractured
his skull from the inside and exited, destroying his right
eye and cheekbone.
Amazingly, Alex did not lose consciousness, despite the
excruciating pain and
nearly suffocating in his own blood.

“The guerrillas came down the rows
to find those who were still moving,
finishing them off with a machete blow
to the neck,” he recalls. “They reached
me and I told them that Christ loved
them. ‘This one’s alive!’ they said, and
hit me twice very hard. They broke
two teeth and cut off an ear lobe, but the
machete did not penetrate my neck.
Then they left.

“At that moment I heard a voice say, ‘Fight for your
life.’ I felt such a
strength and vitality that I succeeded in breaking my
bonds. It hurt, but God
gave me strength. When help arrived, they found me
sitting up.” Alex was the
only victim to survive the massacre. Twenty-five of
his Rancho Amelia
co-workers, including several women, lay dead in the
gully.

Survival has been difficult. Alex underwent five surgeries to
rebuild his
shattered face. Doctors told him that he would never see again.
He remembers
the long months of convalescence with nothing to do but sit at
home with only
the family dog.

Today Alex serves as a voluntary
chaplain of Prison Fellowship, preaching in
chapel services at the Bellavista
National Penitentiary and counseling
inmates. Some of the prisoners with whom
he has shared the gospel are former
guerrillas. At least one, he has learned,
was involved in the massacre at
Rancho Amelia.

Alex let it be known
that he has forgiven each of the assailants who blinded
him and killed his
friends. “If one decides to follow Jesus, the foundation is
forgiveness,” he
says. “Without it, there is no real Christian life.”

Recently, Alex
accepted an invitation from Open Doors to become a regular
trainer for
Standing Strong Through the Storm seminars offered throughout
Colombia.
Feedback from seminar participants indicates that Alex is
particularly
effective in teaching about forgiveness.

RESPONSE: Today I will obey the
Lord and forgive everyone who has hurt me.

PRAYER: Pray for Alex as he
teaches SSTS seminars in Colombia. Pray his
students will also forgive.

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