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Yet even as Himm was growing in his new life of faith, he still struggled with bitterness and hatred for his family’s killers, in addition to the depression and guilt he privately held on to because of his failure to avenge their deaths. The journey wasn’t easy, but gradually, as he studied God’s Word, passages such as Hebrews 12:15 (“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many,” NIV) helped him realize that his failure to forgive was blinding him from seeing the grace of God in his own life.
As the Holy Spirit healed his deep wounds, Himm gained a revelation of both God’s justice from passages such as Romans 12:17-19 (“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. … ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord”) and God’s forgiving grace (“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more,” Heb. 10:17).
“I had failed to allow God be the righteous judge,” Himm says in his book After the Heavy Rain. “Vengeance is the Lord’s, not mine. … God does not remember my sins anymore. God had cancelled all my sins, but I had failed to let go of the sins of my family’s killers.”
By 1999, Himm felt God calling him back to Cambodia. He returned to lecture on psychology at a Bible college but stayed to plant churches, including one where his family was killed. And while he had already forgiven the killers from abroad, he knew the time had come for him to take the process one step further.
Himm located the man who killed his father and siblings, the man who had clubbed him from behind, and the man who had killed his mother and older sisters. He came prepared.
“I offered each of them a camel scarf as a symbol of my forgiveness,” he says. “I offered my shirt as a symbol of my love for them. And I gave them a Bible as a symbol of my blessing for them.”
As Himm reflects on those powerful encounters, he is reminded of Jesus’ words found in John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
“To say ‘I forgive you’ from Canada to Cambodia was easy,” Himm says. “But to actually travel back and meet those killers and look into their eyes and say, ‘I forgive you,’ that was tremendously difficult. There’s no way in my own humanity I could have done that. It was only the power of the grace of God in my life that gave me the strength to do that. It was only God’s grace that set me free.”
Chad Bonham is a journalist, author and broadcast producer who has worked in mass media for more than 20 years. A regular contributor to Charisma, he recently published Life in the Fairway.
Watch Reaksa Himm tell his story of surviving the “killing fields” of Cambodia at himm.charismamag.com
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