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Posted: Monday, July 03, 2017 11:22 AM

Updated: Monday, July 03, 2017 11:22 AM

EAST TN TIMES: Letter Regarding Gatlinburg Fires Speaks To Forgiveness Amidst A Great Tragedy

EAST TN TIMES EXCLUSIVE : The following is a letter the East Tennessee Times heard was on Facebook page that was shared by one of our followers. We will have an exclusive more in depth story soon on this tremendous act of faith and forgiveness on the part of someone who was close the Gatlinburg Fires of November 23-28, 2016. 

We pray this encourages you to look inside your heart as you read this letter.

From: MICHAEL REED, Pigeon Forge, Tn.

My friends,

Yesterday was very difficult for me. Just before the story broke about
charges being dropped against the two boys, the news called me to
prepare me for what was coming. As she told me the charges were being
dropped, I cried. And I couldn't stop.


These two boys never intended for all of this to happen. We all know
that. And as I said months ago, Nicholas and I, as well as Constance and
the girls, forgive them. When I wrote my letter of forgiveness, I
intentionally left out one sentence. I didn't want the message to be
clouded by that one sentence. That sentence is as follows:

Forgiveness does not replace justice.

I fully believe in the arm of the law. I fully believed that whatever
justice needed to be served would be served. My family forgiving these
boys had nothing to do with holding them accountable for their actions.

And then they were free.

Yesterday evening I did what I did seven months ago when I wrote the
forgiveness letter: I looked at my son. If my son had been charged with
this horrible tragedy I would be so thankful he was finally home. I
would have believed that justice was served. So on one side of the
fence, two families believe justice system worked, and their sons are
free. On the other side of the fence is a community that believes
justice was not served and are angry.

So what am I supposed to do now?

I was advised a long time ago to keep my mouth shut about the lack of
evacuations and the horrible lack of communication from officials
regarding what was coming that night. Today, I will continue to honor
that request. But all we want, as survivors of this tragedy, is answers.
Answers to questions we all deserve to know the answers to. Yesterday
was an immediate kick in the gut to everyone involved in this, and I
completely understand everyone's anger and pain.

But yesterday doesn't change anything. These two boys will spend the
rest of their lives with this hanging over their heads. These two boys
will be persecuted and pointed at every day. For whatever reason, that
is the justice God wanted them to have.

We have to have faith. We have to have hope. And most importantly, we
have to love. We have to love our neighbor as God loves us. We have to
continue to help those in need. We have to work every day to make
something positive out of this nightmare. We have to lift each other up
when we are down. We have to be stewards. We have to inspire. We have to
rise above the ashes and do all we can to make the world a better place.

So today I call for prayer. Pray for everyone involved. Pray for the two
boys and their family members. Pray for each other. Pray for yourself.
Pray for those who have hurt you just as much as you would pray for the
ones you love most.

The most important verse in the Bible (to me) is 1 Corinthians 13:13...

Faith. Hope. Love. But the greatest of these is love.

Do it for Constance.
Do it for Chloe.
Do it for Lily.
Do it for yourself.

And all His people said....










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