Forgiveness, whether for a small grievance or a large one, rarely comes easily. Yet it is one of the fundamental actions that allows healing and redemption to take place in our lives. One Twitter user demonstrated an example of incredible forgiveness this week after he asked his followers to join him in praying for the man who murdered his sister 22 years ago.
David A. Smither of Houston recently shared a series of tweets that stunned many of his followers. In the thread, he shared the story of his family’s healing throughout the years that followed his sister’s abduction and death, and the journey of faith that led them to mercy. Now a family man with a child of his own, Smither was just a kid when his sister Laura was abducted and viciously killed, just blocks from their family’s home in Friendswood, Texas.
According to CBS News, Laura Smither disappeared in 1997, at the age of 12, just a few days shy of her 13th birthday. She was a thriving ballet dancer and had recently read that running could help strengthen her skills as a ballerina.
The little girl left for a jog one morning in April and never returned.
Now, nearly three years after William Lewis Reece was finally indicted for Laura’s murder, according to CBS, Smither is traveling to meet his sister’s killer in prison. Prior to his visit, Laura’s brother asked his community for prayers — but not in the way most would expect.
“Dear friends, will you please pray for me?” the writer began his tweet. “In 10 days I am going to try to visit the man who abducted and murdered my sister Laura 22 years ago. Pray that I can show him a reflection of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness, and call him back to the Father’s heart.”
Dear friends, will you please pray for me? In 10 days I am going to try to visit the man who abducted and murdered my sister Laura 22 years ago. Pray that I can show him a reflection of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness, and call him back to the Father’s heart. /1
— David A. Smither (@DavidASmither) August 20, 2019
“The next step, that I feel called to, is to see him face to face, visiting at the prison where he is held, and to tell him in person what I have already told him by writing: that Christ loves him and is calling him home.”
The Texas native went on to share the backstory behind his decision to visit Reece.
“Bill is a serial rapist and murderer,” he wrote. His “crimes are many and heinous. He was a pathological liar for most of his life, never taking responsibility for his crimes until recently. In 2016, he started confessing to 20 year old cold cases, including my sister’s.”
He credited Reece’s confessions in part to Laura’s family’s prayers for her killer.
“The backstory to those confessions is remarkable, but part of it — I believe — is that our family started praying for Bill in 2009, specifically praying that he would have a change of heart, repent, convert, and ultimately be saved by the love of Jesus.”
The backstory to those confessions is remarkable, but part of it—I believe—is that our family started praying for Bill in 2009, specifically praying that he would have a change of heart, repent, convert, and ultimately be saved by the love of Jesus. /3
— David A. Smither (@DavidASmither) August 20, 2019
Smither had decided to write to Reece and see if the man would respond. It was a long shot, but he felt the Lord calling him to reach out. To his surprise, Reece reached back.
“In 2016, I wrote a letter to Bill, expressing forgiveness to him, and calling him to Christ,” Smither continued. “I told him that our family and many more had been praying for him for years. Not long after, he started talking.” The two men have corresponded for the past eight months, according to Smither’s next tweet. Throughout their conversation, Reece has “expressed contrition, asked for and received my forgiveness, and claims to pray daily for our family and those of all of his victims,” he wrote.
Finally, the writer asked that his sister’s killer be given the chance for true redemption that none of us deserves.
“Please pray to bring this soul back to the Lord,” he said. “I have forgiven Bill, but it’s an ongoing journey into the heart of Christ’s love and I am far from finishing this. I am still repenting of my anger, held for too many years.”
“Please pray for me, and please pray for Bill.”
Comments and retweets poured in, as many failed to comprehend how Smither could extend grace to a man who had committed such a heinous act of violence against a member of his own family.
He killed your sister just hold the grudge bro
— not to be truffled with (@jewpreme) August 21, 2019
“He killed your sister,” one user wrote. “Just hold the grudge bro.”
Smither responded to those who questioned his decision, writing of the emptiness that filled him for many years after Laura’s death: “I abandoned my faith for several dark years after my sister was killed,” he said. “I couldn’t reconcile the idea of a good God with what happened. Later, coming home to the Church, I found there are deep answers to such things. Pray, seek, study. Christ loves you and wants you to come home.”
Many others responded with support, however, offering prayers for both men as they prepare to meet.
My friend, you are a better man than I am. I pray that you are able to find what you are looking for with this visit. I’ll pray for you and your family. God Bless.
— Mike Bullard (@bullimusmaximus) August 21, 2019
“You are a better man than I,” one user tweeted, admiring Smither’s faith and promising prayers.
Laura’s family, though eternally devastated by her death, has embraced the truth that Christ calls for forgiveness — even for the crimes that seem unforgivable. One of the most poignant elements of mercy — one that too many of us fail to recognize — is that forgiveness is often just as much of a gift for the forgiver as it is for the one being forgiven, and sometimes even more.
There is no greater freedom than being released from the burden of hatred, once again to walk in love. The courage it takes to step out in faith in such a way has inspired many this week, as they join in prayers for those Laura left behind.
The Western Journal reached out to David Smither for comment but has not yet received a response. We will update this article if and when we do.
“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.'” – Matthew 18:21-22.
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