Nov 3, 2009
Parent honored for Christ-like forgiveness
by Melinda Zosh
“If gold is purest when tried by fire, then my mother is far purer than the most precious of gold.”
Junior Taylor Thompson, a biblical studies major, read those words from his winning essay at the parents dinner with Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. Oct. 30. Out of 135 essays, four out of five judges, including Director of Parent and Family Connections Theresa Dunbar and Vice President of Student Services Mark Hine, were most moved by Taylor’s words.
A few paragraphs into the essay, he mentioned his dad — a man he barely had the opportunity to know.
“My dad was well known in our community as a good pastor and great father to me and my six older brothers and sisters,” Taylor read. “Sadly, then came the day that changed the lives of my mother and our family forever.”
Taylor described that he was only three years old April 4, 1992, when a stranger murdered his father. His dad, a 1974 Liberty alumnus, took a walk alone to clear his mind before the sermon he would deliver the next day at the church he founded, First Baptist Church in Easton, Pa. He would never have the chance to deliver that sermon.
“My family was now left without a father and my mother was alone without a husband with the responsibility of raising seven children,” Taylor read. “It is in these times we must be most dependant on the Lord our God … my mother allowed God to use her even in the darkest time of her life.”
Just one day after the funeral, Taylor’s mother, Terrie Thompson, was packing for her husband’s second funeral in his Tennessee hometown when she received an unexpected phone call. The murderer’s brother was on the other line. The murderer’s brother and his wife arrived at the Thompsons’ home that day. His wife, a believer, told Terrie Thompson that the murderer’s brother did not know the Lord.
“I said, ‘My husband’s in heaven, at least I will see him again,’” Terrie said. “I said, ‘Your husband needs the Lord, doesn’t he?’ And she said, ‘Yes he does.’”
Terrie shared the plan of salvation with the brother of the man who murdered her husband. She asked him where he would spend eternity if his life ended, and he said, “Hell.” She then shared the Gospel with him. He accepted the Lord immediately.
“It was like picking ripe fruit from a tree. I didn’t pick it. It just fell. He was ready,” Terrie said.
By the end of the night, the murderer’s brother knew that he would not go to hell anymore.
“I knew it was God,” Terrie said. “When we got done praying I said, ‘Where would you spend eternity?’ He said, ‘Heaven, because whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved and I just asked God to save me. I called on the name of Jesus.’”
Since then, the murderer’s brother has led his sister and other family members to Christ, according to Terrie. The family members attend the same church that the Thompson family attends.
“Instead of being angry and spiteful in this situation, my mother took the opportunity to teach this man about true forgiveness,” Taylor read.
But the murderer is still unsaved. Two years ago, he sent a handmade card to Terrie.
“He doesn’t understand how I could forgive him when he didn’t ask for forgiveness,” Terrie said. “My impression is he still doesn’t understand the love of God and the forgiveness of God. I want to see him saved for his family’s sake.”
Despite hardships, Terrie said she knew God had a greater purpose, and He doesn’t “promise us a long life without troubles.”
“God and his mercy have brought us through and at least every kid, every child has kept their faith and their relationship with the Lord,” Terrie said. “They had sense enough to realize that God is real through life or through death.”
Dunbar said that the family turned around their devastating circumstances and “made it better, not bitter.”
“What brought it home for me was the fact that his dad was a pastor who had gone to Liberty, and his mom was a strong Christian woman with seven children on her own,” Dunbar said. “Look at her family now, they’re all rising up to serve the Lord, several of them here at Liberty.”
Terrie said her biggest struggle was not accepting why God had taken her husband, but living life without him.
“The Lord had his days numbered and they were up so why do I fight against that,” Terrie said. “I was never bitter about the Lord taking him home or even about how it happened. The struggle was the circumstances that followed.”
Seventeen years have passed since Terrie lost her husband and Taylor lost his father, but her visit to Liberty and her stay in the Carter Glass Mansion as part of the Outstanding Parent Award, was more than a special event.
“I felt like I was surrounded in legacy of love of God and history with people that love God and respect Jerry Falwell,” Terrie said. “I felt like a queen.”
Contact Melinda Zosh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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