Two men demonstrate forgiveness, reconciliation, and second chances.
Bill Maxwell and Mitch Green are from California's Central Valley. They both served time in Iraq with the armed forces. And they both worked as first responders after returning home from service.
But they're linked in an even more profound way.
In 2010, Mitch caused a drunk-driving accident that killed Bill's aunt. The crash severely injured Mitch. He spent seven years in prison for his crime.
A CHANCE ENCOUNTER
Bill currently works as a field director with Prison Fellowship®. Two years ago, he was attending a prayer breakfast when he ran into Debbie Ormonde, a volunteer he worked with inside prisons. Debbie told Bill about a guy she'd met who had done time, that God transformed the man, and now he publicly shares his story. Bill was curious, so Debbie shared more about the man's background.
Bill suddenly stepped back. "What’s wrong?" Debbie asked.
"The person you're talking about is the one who hit my aunt," Bill muttered.
Debbie had indeed been describing Mitch. She and Bill had many follow-up conversations before Debbie eventually asked Bill if he'd like to meet Mitch. Some victims choose to talk, directly or indirectly, with those who commit crime about the harm it caused. It's a difficult and personal choice, and no one should pressure a victim to do so.
Bill weighed having the conversation. After much discernment and prayer, he said yes.
'IT WAS PINS AND NEEDLES FOR ME'
Mitch got out of prison three years ago. He began sharing his story so that, "I could hopefully get somebody else to listen and not make the same choice that I made."
"Right as soon as I went into prison," Mitch recalls, "I was told that there's a different way. So the whole time I was in prison, I lived as a Christian man," he says.
Debbie arranged for Mitch and Bill's families to meet at a local Mexican restaurant. Bill remembers being nervous. "It was pins and needles for me. ... you just never know what's going to happen."
The men's wives began making small talk to break the ice. Bill and Mitch were just starting to talk when the accident came up. They each shared what the experience was like from their perspective. "And after a bit of us talking," Bill says, "I was like, 'You know what? I don't hold anything against you for what happened.'"
Mitch says, "I guess I believed that people could forgive, but being that person that needs to be forgiven—and not for something minor—that was really impactful for me. Until somebody shows you that forgiveness is possible, you don't grasp it."
The two became friends in the weeks after, linked by their past but rooted in the forgiveness they both found in Christ.
RECONCILIATION IN ACTION
In March, Bill began leading an online study using Outrageous Justice®, Prison Fellowship's free small-group curriculum designed to awaken Christians to the need for justice that restores. Bill asked Mitch to join the group.
Together, they shared their story—a real-life demonstration of the forgiveness, reconciliation, and second chances the curriculum describes.
"I think a lot of times we judge people off their past and not what they're doing currently. But I don't sit there and look at Mitch as the person that he was," Bill says. "I look at him as my brother in Christ. I'm sitting there going, 'Hey, brother, we can change lives right now.'"
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