For Wilma Derksen, forgiveness is a mountain she and her family have been climbing for the past three decades.
In November 1984, Wilma and Cliff Derksen’s 13-year-old daughter, Candace, went missing on her way home from school in Winnipeg.
For six and a half weeks, no one knew what had happened to Candace. Then, her body was found in a shack not far from the family home – her hands and feet had been tied. Someone had forced her there and the family would live with the mystery of not knowing who had done this for the next 22 years.
The day her body was found, a stranger came to the Derksen home and said, “I’m the parent of a murdered child too.” And for the next two hours he told the Derksens in vivid detail everything he had lost – his health, his relationships, his concentration, his ability to work. He’d even lost all memory of his daughter because now he could only think of the murder, the trauma and the hate that followed.
Horrified by the graphic picture this man had painted, and reeling from the loss of their daughter, the Derksens were afraid of the prospect they might lose everything else.
So, that night, Wilma and Cliff Derksen made a decision they would respond differently, and instead would choose the path of forgiveness.
That choice was validated the next day when a reporter asked the Derksens what they thought of the offender. Their reply was that their intention was to forgive.
“I chose the word forgiveness thirty years ago when our daughter, Candace, was murdered,” explains Wilma Derksen. “Even though we might not have completely understood the magnitude of that choice back then, we as a family have certainly benefited from making forgiveness a goal.”
Wilma Derksen says she knew they had to say no to anger and obsession, determined to resist anything that would keep her family in a state of emotional bondage.
But forgiveness would haunt the Derksens for the next 30 years, as they rode an emotional roller coaster that would test the family’s resolve.
In 2007, Mark Grant was charged with Candace’s murder. The Derksens, who had come to accept their daughter’s killer may never be caught, were now thrust back to the beginning – gripped by all the old emotions of fear, anger and grief.
Even though Grant received a 25 year sentence without parole, the case would eventually be appealed and is now before the Supreme Court of Canada.
Now, these questions will be explored closely in a unique ten session course open to the public and led by several facilitators including Wilma Derksen and her husband Cliff, and their son.
“This course is unique in that the Derksens are professionals using their skills to help others strengthen the number one skill required for all healthy relationships – forgiveness, ” says author Joanne Klassen who will be leading one of the sessions on writing.
“The powerful piece of the story for me is their integrity in doing so after the well-publicized abduction, violation, and murder of their daughter and sister, Candace, and the legal trials that followed,” explains Klassen.
“To bring hope is no small gift,” she says. “This course offers proven strategies that have enabled people to understand forgiveness and experience the peace and freedom that forgiving enables.”
The course’s $25 registration covers refreshments and handouts over 10 weeks. Any number of people can register, as a large and flexible Winnipeg venue has been chosen – Soul Sanctuary at 2050 Chevrier Blvd.
- Definitions – What is Forgiveness?
- Left brain, Right Brain Forgiveness – Speaker: Cliff Derksen
- What does the Bible say? Speaker: Dr. Gerry Michalski
- Mind Mapping the Forgiveness story – Speaker: Author Joanne Klassen
- Psychological Trauma and Benefits of Forgiveness. Speaker: Dr. Syras Derksen
- The protocol of forgiveness: Importance of Processes: Autonomous Forgiveness
- Importance of Processes: Relational Forgiveness
- Importance of Processes: Lifestyle Forgiveness
- Importance of Processes: Spiritual Forgiveness
Compiled with content from The Forgiveness Project