Gwydyr Rd, Crieff, UK, PH7 4BS

Dear Friends

The Forgiveness Project exhibition at Crieff church closed two days ago and I cannot but comment on a couple of the powerful encounters and lessons I experienced.

Firstly – I joined Ginn Fourie and Letlapa Mphahlele on a visit to Glenochil Prison where we met with around eight inmates – some of them ‘lifers’. Ginn and Letlapa told their story and then invited discussion. All of the men were clearly moved with two struggling to hide their tears. I wondered what they were feeling. Was it anger toward Letlapa? [At one of the visits to a school some of the children had wanted him punished!]. Was it compassion toward Ginn? Ginn asked “How are you feeling?” Their eyes expressed awe of Ginn and envy of Letlapa. Then each individually responded in their own words – some were surprisingly articulate others stumbled – but each said they wished they could receive the gift of forgiveness. I asked myself – how deeply do I value the gift of forgiveness I have received?

Secondly – a conversation with a couple who came to see the exhibition. They had both been born into Catholic homes but hadn’t been to church for a very long time. Lapsed church-goers he described themselves as, and to have got them into church by this Forgiveness Exhibition was a feat in itself. [He wasn’t the only one who expressed this. One person told us that our having got her dad into our church was incredible.] We chatted for a little then he asked “So tell me in only one sentence – not more – what do Adventists believe?”

I fumbled something about the return of Jesus and offered a tract on Adventists which he refused. Then he and his girlfriend and son were gone.

I wrestled with my one sentence answer to his question for some time afterwards. Was that it? Jesus is coming back – is that the core of Adventism? Should I have made the answer a paragraph long and got in the Sabbath, state of the dead, Sanctuary, and salvation doctrines as well? I have concluded that correct as the list of doctrines are they do not constitute the essential core of Adventism; nor are they what the heart of prisoners of sin long to hear. Rather it is grace – expressed as forgiveness, reconciliation, acceptance, unconditional love, etc – whatever terms one wishes to use.

So what would I answer given the question again? I would say “Adventists are a community wrestling with the implications of the discovery that the God of Heaven is a God of unconditional grace.”

Llewellyn Edwards