As a devout Christian Mary Johnson had heard a lot about forgiveness, and how followers of Jesus were called to “forgive as they had been forgiven.”
And then in February of 1993, her only child was murdered…shot dead at a party. He was 20, his killer was 16.
The day of the sentencing, Mary was in the courtroom, and she did a remarkable thing. She hugged her son’s murderer, Oshea Israel, and told him she forgave him. She knew it was the Christian thing to do. And then she went home. And slowly the waves of sorrow, and loss, and anger swept over her. She couldn’t let go. She knew she had to do more if she truly wanted to break free.
So Mary Johnson contacted the warden at the prison where Oshea Israel was incarcerated, and set up a face-to-face meeting with her son’s killer. And the two met. And they continued to meet.
Not only did a bond develop between Mary and Oshea, but when the young man was released after serving 17 years, Mary gave him a homecoming party. Then she introduced him to her landlord, and even recommended him as a tenant. Unbelievably, the apartment next to hers was vacant, and with Mary’s blessing, the man who murdered her only child became her next door neighbor.
Today, Mary and Oshea travel to prisons, schools, and churches to speak together on the power of forgiveness.
Mary Johnson came to realize that forgiveness is about setting a prisoner free, and then realizing the prisoner was you.
She is a hero you should know. And I'm Dr. Ross Porter.