March 2018 | By Asha Madhukar
I have heard the phrase “forgiveness and grace” in church, at Vacation Bible School, and even when my parents yell at me to make good with my little sister. I was under the impression that I understood what it meant to forgive someone and to exhibit grace. However, this concept was positively challenged during my time in Uganda.
Uganda was extraordinary in every sense of the word. Perhaps the most impactful part of the trip was our time spent at Jinga Prison implementing plea bargaining training to Ugandan lawyers and students. As we received each case file, my heart dropped reading the individuals’ stories. Aggravated robbery, murder, defilement — a far cry from the entertainment deals I am used to sorting through in Los Angeles.
My emotions ran wild as each accused person met with us. Some individuals expressed remorse, while some seemed like they could care less about their past actions. I worked with my team to spot mitigating factors in hopes of lowering each of our client’s sentence while also shamefully, secretly wondering if there was a possibility to keep this person in jail forever.
An honest thought. A terrible thought. God heard me. And He humbled me.
James 2:10 – For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
In other words, no sin is greater than the other, and absolutely no one but God is perfect. I had walked into the day with an idle heart, inactive of emotion. But as we interviewed clients and listened to each person explain their regrets, my static muscles of forgiveness began to stretch. Who am I to judge God’s own? My duty was to advocate for the voiceless.
Next, I was called to exercise these feelings of forgiveness into action. I felt a physical manifestation of grace come upon me as my teammates and I negotiated for lower sentences before the Judiciary. It was my mission to help wipe their slate clean the way I personally have asked God to do for me so many times before. The whole process was emotionally and mentally challenging. However, the results were second chances and playing a small part in helping to rehabilitate this society. For me, it was a moment God took to tangibly exercise these principles of forgiveness and grace that I had unknowingly been training for.