“At the early age of eight . . . I was sexually molested.”
These are the words of Adventist pastor Junior Sulusi, whose story of forgiveness was recently shared as a video on Facebook by the South Pacific Division’s Health Ministries team.
It’s a shocking way to begin a testimony. The rest of the video is just as confronting, with the New Zealand-born Junior sharing how he immersed himself in “hard-core crimes” as a teenager in San Francisco to numb the pain of abuse and abandonment. His actions ultimately landed him in prison for 14 years, after which he was deported back to New Zealand.
As far as stories go, this one is heavy—heavy and hard-hitting enough for the video to reach more than 2.4 million people on Facebook since it was posted online on April 18.
The numbers don’t end there. The eight-minute story has generated more than 303,000 views, 8500 reactions, 6000 shares and 800 comments from people around the world.
It’s not often you hear about an Adventist video going viral. The success of the video is a testament to Junior’s story and the power of forgiveness.
“I wouldn’t be here had I not forgiven,” says Junior in the video. He now serves as a pastor in the Blue Mountains (NSW). “One of the things that I understand about the love of Jesus is that He forgave me as a sinner. And if I am to move forward in His work I am also to forgive.”
Junior’s video is part of the new Forgive to Live ministry developed by the Health Ministries team of the South Pacific Division (SPD). Based on Adventist psychotherapist Dr Dick Tibbits’ book by the same title, the campaign provides resources to those wanting to “learn how forgiveness can change your story and save your life”.
Among the resources available are the “10th Anniversary Edition” of the Forgive to Live book, a six-part DVD series and a corresponding workbook. These resources were launched during the Complete Health Improvement Program summits in Australia and New Zealand in February, with Dr Tibbits on hand to train people on how to facilitate Forgive to Live seminars and workshops.
“Forgiveness is not forgetting,” said Dr Tibbits, from Florida in the United States, to those attending. “It’s remembering things in a different way.”
An excerpt from his book further demonstrates the healing that comes through forgiving: “The bottom line of the forgiveness study is this: people’s health and lives were measurably improved when they practised forgiveness.”
Dr Paul Rankin, who drove the development of the Forgive to Live resources and establishment of the ministry in Australia and New Zealand, says the six-part program is a great way for Adventist churches to make a difference in their local communities.
After all, as he says, “every one of us needs to forgive as we have all been hurt”.
“One of the things that I understand about the love of Jesus is that He forgave me as a sinner. And if I am to move forward in His work I am also to forgive.”
The DVD resource, which includes Junior’s testimony, was filmed at Adventist Media in Wahroonga (NSW). An online course has also been developed for people wanting to explore the journey of forgiveness further. A print version of the course will be available soon.
“The reaction to the video on Facebook demonstrates this is an issue that is very relevant, deeply personal and desired by everyone,” says Hope Channel South Pacific director Pastor Wayne Boehm. “The new course allows us to journey with people through difficult experiences, and allow those seeking reconciliation and forgiveness to connect with the local church and experience the fullness of the forgiveness story as we find it in Jesus.”
Forgive to Live resources, including the 10th Anniversary Edition of Forgive to Live and the DVD series, are available for purchase at www.forgivetolive.org.au. To view Junior’s story, and other forgiveness testimonies, visit www.facebook.com/SPDhealth.