....Their distance became physical as the sisters married and moved to different locations around the United States and world.

Yet, eventually, each woman began to let out the darkness that had enveloped their lives. In the journey from violence to healing, one of those steps is telling your story and not having secrets.

“We are only as sick as our darkest secret,” Klassen-Landis said, “and we had despair and fear and grief tucked away in every nook and cranny.”

Klassen-Landis and Klassen only began to share their story when their sister Ruth Andrews, who became involved with Journey of Hope in 1993, encouraged them to join.

Their ability to reconcile anger and pain became stronger the more they had to tell their story. They discovered ties between their experience and those of other murder victim family members whose relationships became restorative.

“The beauty of love is the healing that happens through it,” Klassen-Landis said. “Forgiveness is a way of life that sets us all free.”

....[Pelke] grandmother, Ruth Pelke, was 78 when she invited four teenage girls into her home, under the impression they wanted her to teach them a Bible lesson.

Pelke’s father found Ruth’s body the next day.

Paula Cooper was 15 when she stabbed Ruth Pelke 33 times, and a year later became the youngest female on death row in America.

At first Pelke supported Cooper’s sentence. But he struggled with whether Cooper should die.

Pelke began questioning God. Three things he meditated on changed his perspective. The first was Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Second, Pelke remembered Matthew 18 when Peter asked Jesus how often to forgive a sin, seven times? Jesus replied by saying 70 times seven. Last, he envisioned Jesus’ words at the crucifixion: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

At that point, he remembered Cooper’s grandfather yelling at the sentencing, “You’re going to kill my baby!” He saw the tears on her prison uniform and knew that if he didn’t try to forgive, he would feel guilty whenever he thought about his grandmother.

After forgiving Cooper, Pelke went on a mission to have her life spared. Through his work, she was taken off of death row and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

“Revenge is not the answer. It’s never the answer,” Pelke said. “The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity.”

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