Would it be possible for me to have a word with the accused?” That was the bold question
Roy Comrie, a retired SIM Canada missionary from Abbotsford, B.C., asked a
South African detective chief inspector
just minutes before the trial of his sister’s
murderer was to begin.
The question would set off a ripple that
would build into a powerful wave washing
through Comrie’s family and an African
jail full of hardened criminals.
To most people Comrie’s request might
seem foolish. His sister Sheila was brutally
raped and murdered in 2008 in her South
African home. The evidence was stacked
sky-high against the accused, Chris Mnguni, who sat in a section of a prison where
even chaplains are not permitted to enter.
“When the young man was caught by
the police, then we began to pray for him.
Our prayer was actually, ‘Lord, send somebody else to see him.’ We were in Canada,
he was in Africa,” explains Comrie.
But later Comrie realized a speaking
engagement would bring him within ten
minutes of the prison where his sister’s
murderer had recently been transported.
“We realized no one had been able to see
him. We put him on our calendar. We were
just saying we were available to the Lord.”
Asking to sit in a room with his sister’s
murderer was “a stupid question,” Comrie
admits. And the initial response – “
Impossible!” – should have come as no surprise.
After all, to allow time for the meeting
the defence lawyer would have to agree,
the prisoner would have to agree, every
word would have to be recorded and the
judge would have to be late.
But, amazingly, Comrie was granted
He asked because he wanted to tell
Chris Mnguni, “I forgive you.” And to
share a story he believed could change
Thirty years earlier Comrie had been
an SIM missionary in Zimbabwe. He and
his wife had walked the deepest valleys of
horror – and climbed through the rocky
terrain of forgiveness – after nine missionary friends and their four children were
brutally murdered. The victims, including
a three-week-old baby, had lived a mere ten
kilometres down the road from the Comries.
What imprinted on Comrie, as deeply
as the sight of the murder scene he remem-
bers clearly to this day, was the forgiveness
and grace offered to the head of the gang
who was captured – by one of the victim’s
She stayed with the Comries and told
them, “I feel I am the most privileged mother in the world to have been called to give
my daughter as a martyr for Jesus Christ.”
The gang leader Gary Hove became a
Christian through that gift of forgiveness
and is now in full-time Christian service. He
pledged to seek out his old gang members
and share the gospel with them. He did,
and eight of them became Christians. Seven
have joined him in full-time mission work.
Comrie had lived this story, participated
forgiveness for Murder
An Abbotsford man unleashed a wave of
change by forgiving his sister’s murderer.
By Karen Stiller
roy comrie with his sister Sheila.