Grandfather says God’s ‘quiet voice’ compels him to forgive FedEx ‘psycho’ accused of killing 7-year-old girl

In an emotional testament speaking to the power of faith, the grandfather of murdered seven-year-old Athena Strand contrasted what he would do given “5 minutes alone” with the suspect to what God’s “gentle voice” continues to tell him.

After reportedly going missing Wednesday afternoon, the girl’s body was located about 10 miles away from her Paradise, Texas home northwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Investigators believe that FedEx contract driver Tanner Horner had abducted the child from her driveway and have since arrested the man and charged him with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping.

Reacting to the news, the victim’s grandfather, Mark Strand, took to Facebook Saturday to write at length about forgiveness for the suspect that would not be possible save for God speaking to him since the tragedy occurred.

“I can’t quiet my mind and I have to share this,” the grandfather began his post. “A friend just asked me the other day if I believe God speaks to people? I happen to know He does, as He is speaking to me now.”

“This flesh, this man that I am, is angry and I want 5 minutes alone in a cell with the psycho that took our Athena away from us,” Strand continued, “but there’s a soft gentle voice in the back of my head telling me I need to forgive him.”

“This flesh man, wants that psycho to burn in hell for all eternity, yet that gentle voice continues to tell me, I need to forgive him. This flesh man hopes he remains blind and deaf to the message of salvation and never sets foot in the same heaven that I know in my heart my darling Athena resides in now and yet, that gentle voice persists,” he went on.

“Why you ask?”

“Because Hate is a powerful force that will take root in your soul. God wants to protect us all from that hate,” the grieving man testified. “Hate is a gateway for the Evil we see growing in the world today.”

Since his Saturday afternoon post, Strand’s words have been directly shared more than 25,000 times with others copy-and-pasting the message to their own timelines. Likewise, thousands offered prayers and praise for the man standing as a beacon of light through such a dark time.

“I don’t know you, but I pray that God gives you and your family strength, grace, and love!!” one person wrote while another said, “Tears in my eyes, I am so thankful to have read this. May God bless you during this difficult time and continue to give you and your family strength and peace. Love to you all and you will continue to be in our prayers.”

“I don’t know if I would have as much faith as you do in this circumstance. Praise God for the strength he has given you in this truly terrible time of need,” someone else commented.

Strand admitted that without God he would not have the strength to restrain himself when he continued his post, “If you stood that man before me right now, because of the hate that’s trying to root itself in my mind, I would probably kill him. Then that hate would root itself in my heart and I would be destroyed. That gentle voice is the Holy Spirit of God speaking to me right now. He’s reminding me that my savior Jesus, willing laid Himself on a cross and died in my place to reconcile me to God the Father, but also that He did that for All of Us, even this man that my flesh so Hates at this very moment.”

“I am a sinful man,” the grandfather confessed, “yet I’ve heard this voice before and I miss hearing this voice. If I allow this hate to consume me, that voice will fade and eventually be silenced. Then that ugly spirit of hate will have succeeded and that’s why this gentle voice persists to tell me I need to forgive this man. It’s for my protection and my peace. It’s to set me free from this hate and allow me to continue to hear God’s gentle voice.”

“There’s not one ounce of my flesh that wants to do this or say this,” he further declared, “but my spirit has heard God’s voice and right now, while tears flood my eyes, I declare publicly that I forgive this man!”

So powerful was the message of forgiveness offered by Strand that during Sunday’s service at nearby First Baptist Church of Cottondale, Pastor Charles Pugh used the grandfather’s words in his sermon.

“In our state with our sorrow, my sorrow was not for Athena,” Pugh said. “What she went through for a little while, that bothers me, but not right now. She’s in heaven before Lord. Now there’s intense overwhelming sorrow for the family and those are left behind last. That is where the hurt is.”

“Hate,” Strand concluded, “will not win. I hope my family will understand that I don’t do this for the sake of this man. I do this for the sake of my family and myself and to Honor the voice of God who is giving me the strength to say this. I do this to honor our precious Athena who knew no hate. This man won’t be allowed any real estate to live in my brain, he belongs to God and God’s justice will done. Love Conquers All and Forgives Today, I choose Love and hate loses.”

Kevin Haggerty


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