Weeding Out the Roots of Resentment
PF Liberia's Executive Director discovers true freedom when he learns to forgive on a personal level.
Liberia’s brutal civil war ended more than 15 years ago, but for Francis Kollie, PF Liberia Executive Director, the struggles and the consequences from it are still very much a part of the present. The devastating war that lasted from 1989 until 1996 claimed an estimated 200,000 lives and displaced millions to refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
Francis need only think of the weakness in his leg or the pain and loss of vision in his right eye to be reminded of the harm that the war inflicted on him. During the war, Rebel forces captured Francis because of his role as pastor to a local church. They held him in a trench where they brutally beat and interrogated him for three weeks. The beatings left him with a severely fractured leg, painful swelling in his head and a loss of vision and movement in his eye, which developed cataracts and glaucoma from the trauma.
Then, since he refused to take up arms for the rebel government, they held him in a dilapidated prison for five months.
Although the consequences of his injuries did not end with the war, Francis immediately turned his attention to others in need. Through his work with Prison Fellowship Liberia, he brings essential healthcare to the prisons with PFI Global Assistance Projects and the establishment of prison clinics with student nurses, drastically cutting down on disease within the filthy, septic prisons. While his country is slowly recovering from the devastating effects of the war, Francis makes sure that help is also available for the thousands of inmates suffering in extremely overcrowded prisons with a lack of sufficient food, beds, blankets and other essentials.
Despite Francis’ training as a pastor and his concern for prisoners, the chronic pain and physical limitations of his injuries left him with feelings of resentment and anger. “For years I have carried bitterness in my heart for the rebel commander who caused these injuries and disabilities, while he is perfect physically and looks healthy,” he confesses. “I have wanted to get revenge.”
He also wanted healing, and continued to pray for it. So when he took part in PFI’s Odyssey programme--an extensive leadership training course developed by PFI’s Institute for Leadership Formation--his fellow students and faculty joined him in a prayer for healing. During this prayer, Francis sensed a revelation from the Holy Spirit. “I knew I had not totally forgiven that man from my heart because of the pain I continue experiencing, even after 15 years,” he says. He immediately took some time alone in prayer, asking God to forgive him for his own lack of forgiveness these past 15 years. Now he could truly forgive. “I told God ‘because you said I should forgive him, I forgive the brother from my heart.’ At that moment, I felt very light, like a weight had been taken from me,” Francis recalls.
While in Singapore for the Odyssey, Francis had set up appointments with an eye surgeon for consultation on his injured eye, though he didn’t have the money for eye surgery. When he went for his second appointment, the surgeon and the anaesthesiologist told him they would waive their fees for his surgery, cutting the price by two-thirds of the original cost. “This was confirmation of God’s healing—spiritually, emotionally and now physically,” exclaims Francis.
Francis’ recovery from the surgery has been slow and somewhat painful, but he is hopeful that vision will be restored in his eye, just as his spiritual vision has been sharpened. Regardless of the extent of his physical healing, Francis says he is most grateful that the burden of bitterness has at last been lifted from his heart. “Thank God that I am free,” he exclaims, “free indeed!”