The family and congregation of a Minnesota pastor killed in a car crash by a drunk driver have extended forgiveness to the driver after he was sentenced to almost three years in prison.
In November 2020, Pastor Verlyn Strenge of First Baptist Church in Clearbrook had his jeep rear-ended by David Nelson, who was driving a pickup truck. Nelson was going close to 70mph in a 30mph zone and had a blood alcohol content of .267.
Strenge died in the crash, and his wife was left in critical condition.
In a court hearing on Nov 14, Nelson was sentenced to nearly three years in prison for vehicular homicide. According to WDAY, Strenge’s family and congregation told Nelson that they forgave him for his actions.
“We have been forgiven so much; how could we not forgive you,” church member Rick Moore said.
“We forgive you, Mr. Nelson. As hard as it was at first, we want you to know that we have been praying for you for the past year because we know your life has been impacted by the biggest mistake of your life,” Jayme Nelson, Strenge’s daughter, said.
Judge Eric Schieferdecker was taken aback by the gracious response as it was something he had never seen before. Meanwhile, County Attorney Katy Lorsbach was left in tears.
Nelson also apologized for his actions, saying, “I very much appreciate the forgiveness aspect of what they brought up. I decided today I was not going to ask for it.”
“He read through the Bible at least six times every single year and committed many verses to memory. His love of Christ helped lift up countless communities and people in need,” the obituary reads. “Verlyn made numerous trips to Ukraine to help with youth day camps at a fellow sister church. His strong faith and love of travel led him and his wife to Jordan and Israel in 2020. This trip was a treasured highlight in Verlyn’s life.”
After the court hearing, Strenge’s widow, daughter, and son hugged Nelson and forgave him. They also told him that they would be keeping him and his family in prayer and that he needed to forgive himself.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.