“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).
While vacationing in Michigan with my husband Jeff, we purposely arranged to meet and talk with two amazing men. What makes these men so amazing is their unlikely friendship following some major turn of events in their lives. Here’s their story, as reported by Steve Hartman, CBS News April 15, 2016*.
Andrew Collins, a former Benton Harbor, Michigan police officer falsely arrested Jameel Mcgee in 2005 for dealing drugs. Jameel was sentenced to prison.
*”It was all made up,” said McGee. Of course, a lot of accused men make that claim, but not many arresting officers agree.
Andrew Collins served time for a number of crimes, including framing Jameel McGee for selling drugs
“I falsified the report,” former Benton Harbor police officer Andrew Collins admitted.
“Basically, at the start of that day, I was going to make sure I had another drug arrest.” And in the end, he put an innocent guy in jail.
“I lost everything,” McGeee said. “My only goal was to seek him when I got home and to hurt him.”
Eventually, that crooked cop was caught, and served a year and a half for falsifying many police reports, planting drugs and stealing. Of course McGee was exonerated, but he still spent four years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Today both men are back in Benton Harbor, which is a small town. Maybe a little too small.
Last year, by sheer coincidence, they both ended up at faith-based employment agency Mosaic, where they now work side by side in the same café. And it was in those cramped quarters that the bad cop and the wrongfully accused had no choice but to have it out.
After they both served time, Jameel and Andrew now work side by side in a cafe
“I said, ‘Honestly, I have no explanation, all I can do is say I’m sorry,'” Collins explained.
McGee says that was all it took. “That was pretty much what I needed to hear.”
Today they’re not only cordial, they’re friends. Such close friends, not long ago McGee actually told Collins he loved him.
“And I just started weeping because he doesn’t owe me that. I don’t deserve that,” Collins said.
But he didn’t forgive just for his sake, even for Collins’. “For our sake,” McGee said. “Not just us, but for our sake.”
McGee went on to CBS News about his Christian faith, and his hope for a kinder mankind. He wants to be an example — so now he and Collins give speeches together about the importance of forgiveness and redemption.
And clearly, if these two guys from the coffee shop can set aside their bitter grounds, what’s our excuse?
Jeff and I sat across from Andrew and Jameel in the Mosaic Café as they reiterated their story of forgiveness and redemption.
Andrew shared he had been raised as a Christian but he had not fully trusted his life to Christ until he came to the end of himself through this journey.
Jameel clearly identified the need to “hold onto the hand of Jesus” during his four years behind bars, and now testifies to the power of God’s grace and forgiveness in his own life which ultimately led him to forgive Andrew.
Andrew told us that the Mosaic Café ministry gave him a place to not only earn a paycheck, but more importantly has allowed him to give back to the community where his corrupt lifestyle hurt so many people.
“So how did you two reconcile?” I asked.
Jameel told us that although he was extremely sad that he had missed out on four years of his son’s life while imprisoned, he was sincerely grateful for God’s intervention in his life, which had been heading down a one-way street to destruction.
After returning to Benton Harbor, Jameel was referred to the Mosaic Café ministry and was told that he would be mentored by Andrew Collins. His initial reaction: “What? No way am I going to hook up with this dude…he’s the one who sent me to prison.” But after meeting Andrew face to face, he felt God’s forgiveness fill his heart as they shook hands. Andrew admitted, he hadn’t recognized Jameel’s name when given his new mentorship assignment, but quickly realized this was the man he falsely accused and sent to prison.
Andrew told us that at first he didn’t think this would work out, and wouldn’t blame Jameel for refusing to be paired up with him. I (Charmé) believe the Holy Spirit began His work by softening Jameel’s heart when Andrew asked him “What can I do to make this up to you? I’m so sorry for everything I put you through.” Jameel said “That’s all I need!”
The two men now serve together in the Christian Mosaic Café and bring the light and the love of Jesus to others who walk through the doors of this little town café.
While waiting for Andrew to join us at our table, I overheard Andrew sharing words of hope and encouragement to a man who had just sat down at the counter to order some coffee.
God is opening new doors for Jameel and Andrew to tell their story of forgiveness and redemption to schools, churches, and other organizations across the country.
Holding His Hand
It’s easier said than done…to love our enemies and pray for them. And it’s nearly impossible without first holding the hand of Jesus. Whenever I think of people who have hurt me, and those I have hurt, it helps me to let go of past wounds by recalling these last words of Jesus spoken from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
When we hold onto bitterness toward another person (who was created in the image of God), we soon become imprisoned to our own sin. We forfeit true inner peace with God and with the person we refuse to forgive.
I am thankful to have met Andrew and Jameel, who truly live out the love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus.