“What he did best was to beat me and my mother and drink all the time.”
Erden* addressed the room with little hesitation and a heavy dose of anger. The other young men all listened attentively as he spoke about his father—as he spoke about many fathers in their community. With the sudden change in the country’s political landscape a few decades ago, many men became unemployed and turned to heavy drinking. Many young people grew up in homes with negligent and abusive fathers.
The Student-Led Movement leaders had just screened the short film Venia for Erden and several others. The movie explores a young man’s heartbreaking relationship with his father. The father looks on from behind a glass wall in prison as the son presents his accusations on a series of notecards.“
You neglected me,” reads the first card the son shows through the glass. “You rejected me,” says the next one. Card after card, both the father and son well up with emotion. But it’s the last card that proves their breaking point:
“Father I forgive you.”
At the end of the film, the ministry leaders talked about the love of the Heavenly Father and how His forgiveness is available. They began a prayer time, asking for people to pray for the young men in the room.
That’s when Erden stood up.
He told the group about his relationship with his father—how the man failed to be there for him when he needed him, about the years of abuse he’d suffered at his father’s hand and about his hatred for him. He’d never be like his father, Erden vowed.
He looked around the room at his peers. “It’s [the] same [for] most of my friends. We hang out many nights partying and make trouble since our fathers did not pay attention to us.
”But then Erden’s tone changed. “I was very certain the boy would write, ‘I will kill you, father’ in the film,” he said. His voice was tinged with surprise.
A quote at the end of the video reads, “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” Erden wondered if forgiveness was truly possible. Could God love him as he was?
“I did receive Him and asked forgiveness,” Erden finally admitted to the group. “I need love; I need to be loved.”
Erden was one of 24 young men who became sons of their Heavenly Father that day.
Many young men in East Asia need to experience the love and forgiveness of God. Through Jesus Film Project® resources, students are discovering new life in Christ, even in the midst of difficult relationships with their fathers.
*Some identifying details may have been changed for confidentiality.
Originally published January 2020. Written by JFP writer Jeannette Melvin.