Mary and Thomas (their names have been changed for security reasons) had been arguing bitterly for months. Both are members of a small community of believers in a predominantly Muslim West African country.
Theirs was a clash of personalities. Mary sees things as right or wrong. She eagerly serves the church, but often feels she does not receive enough recognition.
Meanwhile, Thomas, a recovering alcoholic, struggles to be independent after years of relying on others to care for him.
Things got so bad that the only time Mary and Thomas acknowledged each other was to insult one another.
Their quarrel created tensions within the whole church, says a Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) missionary who works with Mary and Thomas’s church.
Hoping to resolve the quarrel, missionaries and other believers urged Mary and Thomas to talk through their issues, met with them individually, and held several mediation meetings.
Thomas apologized several times, but Mary would not accept his apologies, saying he was only doing it for show.
Then Thomas interrupted devotions at the start of a Monday church council meeting. He told the group that the Holy Spirit had told him to go ask for Mary’s forgiveness.
The CRWM missionary, who had been part of the meeting, replied, “When the Spirit tells you to do something, do it immediately.” They halted the meeting, prayed and headed to Mary’s home.
Unbeknownst to most of them, Mary had had a dream two weeks earlier in which God told her to forgive Thomas and ask for his forgiveness. So when Thomas came to apologize, she listened with tears in her eyes and asked for his forgiveness too.
“The tension that had been affecting the whole church is now miraculously gone,” the missionary says. “The two are demonstrating a true (be it ever so flawed) love and forgiveness for one another. The broken body has been made whole again.”