Vera’s Story

Last spring Vera's husband picked up a knife and tried to kill her. Police arrested Vera's husband and the courts sent him to prison. But six months later 61-year-old Vera was still paralyzed by fear and depression. She had no job and didn't even know how to drive a car. But Vera's story has a happy ending. She was put in touch with Neighbors Who Care, a Prison Fellowship ministry that helps meet the practical, emotional, and spiritual needs of crime victims. Neighbors Who Care volunteers offered Vera comfort and encouragement. They invited her to their homes for dinner. They gave Vera rides to church and helped her find a job. "Neighbors Who Care has been a blessing to me," Vera says. "In my hour of need, God did not forsake me." Vera's story underscores an aspect of crime our criminal justice system often overlooks: the needs of innocent victims. True justice, you see, goes beyond catching and punishing criminals. It involves restoring innocent victims to a state of wholeness. It's a concept that Prison Fellowship calls restorative justice, and it echoes the biblical model of justice. In Old Testament times when a crime was committed, the law called for restoring the peace--the shalom--of the community. For example, when a thief was caught stealing, he didn't sit passively in jail. Instead, he had to work to pay back what he had stolen. He had to restore his victim. But that system was abandoned in the Middle Ages. Then, the definition of crime was changed from an offense against the victim to an offense against the king. Instead of paying restitution to the victim, the criminal had to pay fines to the state. The state represented the victim in an abstract sense. But crime is not only a violation of the state's laws, it is also an assault upon a person. Even when a criminal is sent to prison, the shalom of the community still needs to be restored. Under restorative justice, the entire community is considered to bear some responsibility for all its members, including the victim and the offender. The community is responsible for seeing that the offender makes amends to the victim. But restorative justice also calls for the community to play an active role in restoring the victim. That's what Neighbors Who Care does. While the state carries out the job of prosecuting criminals, Neighbors Who Care mobilizes the community to heal the victim's violation. And in the process volunteers share the love of Christ. The concept of restorative justice is catching on all over the country through laws and proposals that make criminals directly accountable to the victims. But there are some things no government can mandate or provide for: Comfort. Sympathy. Support. You may wish you could do something about the plague of crime. Well, you can. Call us here at BreakPoint, and we'll send you information about how you can become a Neighbors Who Care volunteer--someone who comforts the afflicted and shares the healing power of Christ. Someone like Vera may be waiting for your help.


Chuck Colson


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