Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart
by Edward Hersh
William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania and Delaware, wrote these words as he pondered the great possibilities of creating a “fresh start” in the Americas:
“There may yet be room for such a Holy Experiment. For the Nations want a precedent and my God will make it a Seed of a Nation, that an example may be set up to the Nations. That we may do the thing that is wise and just.”
His “Holy Experiment” would establish a place where people could worship God and honor Christ without fear of persecution. Penn invited Anabaptists, Quakers and other persecution-weary peoples to live in the Americas, offering them a promise of religious freedom and a new beginning. This holy seed of freedom to worship God together was to serve as an example of true justice and wisdom to all the nations. His vision was to create a government of the people that reflected the Kingdom of God whose foundations are justice and righteousness. Isaiah 9 was a favored passage of his, especially that portion stating that the “government shall be upon His shoulders.”
The Kingdom of God was to be reflected in the society of Pennsylvania. In Luke 9 and 10, this is revealed to be peace, healing, deliverance and new life. In addition to religious and political liberty Philadelphia was also the site of the first institutions of healing in the New World. The first hospital, medical school, pharmacy school, mental hospital, nursing school, osteopathic institute and other medical centers were developed in southeast Pennsylvania as the first of their kind in the United States. Therefore, it could also be expected that healing ministry and practical new models of Christian medical care should be a fruit of the historical blessing of our region. This pioneering of medical services in Philadelphia suggests that physical and emotional healing were also to be a “first fruit” of William Penn’s Kingdom vision.
Penn also pioneered a new model for criminal justice. The development of the first penitentiary in the world occurred in Philadelphia. Instead of harsh corporal punishment common in England and the rest of the world in that time period, he created an institution with an atmosphere and structure that encouraged repentance, transformation and redemption of those incarcerated.
In the generation that followed his experiment, including the leadership provided by his own sons, these principles upon which he founded the Commonwealth were eroded. Greed for land and prosperity, among other factors, led to broken covenants and bloodshed in the region. Today much of what Penn dreamed has been buried and replaced. However, “our God is able to make all grace abound to” us (1 Cor. 9:8) such that we can believe for the restoring of many of the principles upon which this “Keystone” state was formed. It is time to believe again that we shall become “an example to the nations, a holy experiment.” Let us re-dig our father’s wells as Isaac did. As the people of God in this region, let us seize an opportunity to do “that which is wise and just”; to bring a restorative justice model to the state prison system.
All journeys begin the same—that is, with the first step. In 2002, a team of professionals and paraprofessionals working together initiated a Faith Enhanced Support (FES) program in the Lancaster County Prison (LCP). The FES program addressed mental health and addiction problems from a spiritual perspective in addition to the traditional medical treatment. Although the FES program ended at LCP in 2007, the numbers support a dramatic success for the initiative. Data gathered over the years during the FES program operation reveals a remarkable decrease in the amount of psychotropic medication prescriptions, mental health related commitments to hospitals and the overall cost of mental health services. The inmates’ lives were impacted through development of meaningful relationships and successful endeavors upon their release from prison. The Faith-Enhanced Support program at the LCP made a significant difference in the community.
In 2008, a similar model of care called the Refuge of Healing and Hope (RHH) was initiated at the Water Street Medical Clinic in Lancaster, PA. RHH is a project of Light of Hope CSO, and is a collaboration of individuals, churches, and ministries who work together to provide treatment to the whole person including spiritual, emotional and physical needs based in the belief that true healing comes through Jesus Christ. RHH seeks to integrate professional and paraprofessional services to form a team approach to treating medical and mental health needs with spiritual care and faith-based services.
Medical conditions are often related to a person’s spiritual health. Research has shown that physical problems are commonly rooted in emotional and mental health concerns. Examining how the spirit, mind, body, and soul function together to make a whole person, can significantly enhance a patient’s recovery and overall health. In addition to the traditional treatment medical science provides, helping participants discover and remove the blockages keeping them from experiencing God as their healer, is the mission of the Refuge of Healing and Hope.
Ed Hersh carries this vision and mission close to his heart. He has been an integral part of the work of Refuge of Healing and Hope, helping us expand our efforts from the prison setting to a medical clinic and family medical practice in the community near Lancaster. In authoring Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart, he outlines key principles for being set free from spiritual bondage. He addresses vital areas of heart transformation and reveals necessary elements in conflict resolution and reconciliation in relationships.
In addition to the fruit of many lives positively touched by the healing power of God, the efforts of RHH and groups with like-minded vision, are transforming the spiritual atmosphere of our region. As we join together as medical professionals, business leaders, a criminal justice system, government leaders, churches and human service communities, we believe to see a renewing of the hope and dream of our founding fathers. We invite you to join with us in this journey of “back to the future.” As we look back we may actually move the “Seed of the Nation” from hibernation to life. Hebrews 11:39-40 summarizes this thought; “And all these (ancestors), having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”
Robert Doe, MD
Executive Director, Light of Hope Community Service Organization
For more information about how to receive help through a Refuge Clinic (if you live in the Lancaster, PA area), click on this link: