Dollar Photo ForgiveWhat happens when you don’t forgive? Do you want to know a few things that could possibly happen if don’t eventually come to a place where you are able to release the hurt you are feeling and forgive? Below are a few points you might want to prayerfully consider on this painful journey:

Not forgiving interferes with the effectiveness of your prayer life.

(See: Mark 11:25.) That means your prayers don’t get answered. That means you can’t experience the full benefits of God’s forgiveness if you are not forgiving others —especially your spouse. It means God puts your blessings on hold and waits until you take care of that unfinished business.

Not forgiving evaporates your joy. When you don’t forgive, it brings up a barrier to the joy God has for you. No one is ever truly happy if they have unforgiveness in their heart.

Not forgiving weakens your body. It eats away at you and eventually takes over and destroys your life from the inside. It makes you physically sick as well as spiritually crippled. When you forgive you release it into God’s hand and healing comes for your body as well as your soul.

Not forgiving opens the door for the enemy to work in your life. We have to forgive “lest Satan should take advantage of us” (2 Corinthians 2:11). We invite the enemy in if we harbor unforgiveness. And when you treat your spouse as if he (she) is the enemy —or your spouse acts as if you are —you align yourselves with your true enemy and his plans for your future.

Not forgiving pollutes your soul. The Bible says, “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?” (James 3:11). If you have unforgiveness, the water in your soul will become bitter.

Seven More Things to Remember About Not Forgiving

1. Not forgiving will torture you.

“‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you? And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:33-35).

2. Not forgiving causes you to entertain thoughts of revenge.

“Do not say, ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work'” (Proverbs 24:29).

3. Not forgiving means you won’t be forgiven by God.

“But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15).

4. Not forgiving delays the answers to your prayers.

“Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).

5. Not forgiving means you see the failures of others, but not your own.

“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye?” (Matthew 7:3-5).

6. Not forgiving means you are walking in darkness.

“He who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes (1 John 2:11).

7. Not forgiving means you are not pursuing what is best for your marriage.

“See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

…I know that the last thing you may feel like doing is praying for your spouse if he (she) has hurt you, but that is what God wants you to do. In the process He will heal your pain because He is the God who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

God will help you forgive so completely that you really don’t think about those hurtful things anymore. As you pray, God will give you His heart of love. You always grow to love the person you pray for. Try it; you’ll see. God wants you to live “not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

Keep in Mind

God isn’t calling you to forgive so He can rub your nose in what offended or hurt you. He is asking you to forgive because when you do, you will inherit all that he has for you.

This article is adapted from the excellent book, Praying Through the Deeper Issues of Marriage: Protecting Your Relationship So It Will Last a Lifetime by Stormie Omartian, published by Harvest House Publishers. There is a lot more information to the above article that comes from the chapter on “If Forgiveness Doesn’t Come Easy” that you may find helpful in reading.

In addition, you will find that there are other helpful chapters you can read on anger, rudeness, and abuse. There are also chapters on communication break downs, depression, negative emotions, having children dominate your marriage, addictions and other destructive behaviors. Each chapter also has Scripture Truths to Stand on as well as Prayers for Protection on those particular subjects. Plus, there are Prayer Breakthroughs for you and also for your spouse. This is an excellent book that we highly recommend!

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Filed under: Bitterness and Forgiveness

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  1. (ZIMBABWE) Forgiveness is very essential especially in marriages, but I have a question. Is it possible to forgive someone who doesn’t want to admit the hurt he/she has caused you? You may know the truth but the offender does not want to prove the truth and admit to it. I’m facing such a problem and I want my heart clean, what do I do?

    1. (KENYA)  Forgive just as Jesus forgave you. He (JESUS) did not wait for His crucifiers to say, We are sorry, forgive us; rather, He asked God to forgive them for they did not know what they were doing. 1 John 2:6. Besides, if we confess, we can forgive as He did, then we are feeding and empowering our faith to work. Many times we wait to feel like we can forgive, but if we go about creating our feelings to forgive by simply saying, We can forgive because we are in Him. Sooner or later it will work through us and God will be glorified, who has made us to be partners of His nature.

      1. (PHILIPPINES)  This very heart warming advice. I’m so touched and I can relate on this. I hope to recieve more Christian enlightening advice about forgiveness, true call of love, and how can I raise a better son and a family. I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you.

      2. (UNITED STATES) What you have written is speaking VOLUMES to my situation that I am dealing with! Thank you for being obedient and letting the Lord use you!

    2. (USA)  Zimbabwe, The forgiveness is between you and God only… Forgiving has nothing to do with the other person… You are to forgive because it pleases God. You must ask God to give you the power and discernment to know that He is the only just judge and he will work accordingly on this persons life… No sin goes unpunished. If this person has sinned against you, God is the only just judge not you!

      Make a decision to let this go and give it to God… Forgiveness is a process and you may need ask God daily to help you let this go… Trust Him and you will soon be free from this burden… Grace and peace my sister, and may our Heavenly Father grant you with the gift of forgiveness.

      1. Nigeria Li, thank you for this great advice. This has answered the question I have been asking for years. My husband is unfaithful, abusive and not even sorry for that.

    3. (USA)  I am struggling with the same type of situation myself. I have been married for almost 4 years now and within the 7 years that I have been with my husband, there has been so much hurt and pain associated with our relationship that has been caused 90% by him.

      We talk and talk and I can never seem to get him to understand the amount of hurt that he has caused me and he feels as if I am over reacting and I’m blowing the issue up to make it more than what it is. I have realized that I can talk to him and cry in his face and tell him how much he has truly hurt me over the years but if he is not truly ready to accept responsibilty for his actions and sincerely apologize for what he has done, then it’s extremely hard to find closure. All I can say is continue to pray about the situation.

      1. Toni, I don’t know if it will help, but it’s possible that your husband doesn’t understand how to apologize, nor the importance of NOT minimizing your feelings and also owning up to the hurt he has caused you. There seems to be a disconnect here. Unfortunately, many people are that way. I have to be honest, years ago, I didn’t get it. I thought some people over-reacted and caused too much drama that was unnecessary. It’s not that I didn’t care, because I did. However, I didn’t “get it” as far as the importance of truly owning the depth of pain I caused and learning how to apologize so that the person I offended didn’t continue to carry the hurt I caused, because I didn’t do my part in easing the burden.

        I don’t know if this is the same with your husband. Some people are able to compartmentalize certain incidences and not understand their impact on their spouse, as they should. I also don’t know if it will make a difference, but in the Bitterness and Forgiveness topic, there is an article titled, “Apologies That Make a Difference.” I encourage you to talk to your husband at a time when it isn’t a H.A.L.T. time — which would be a time when either of you is Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Stay away from one of those times. Tell him of your feelings (not in accusatory tones… but how you feel over certain things that have happened), and ask him to please read the article (and the articles linked into it) and then to talk again about all of this either at that time or another, you’ve both agreed on). Perhaps when he reads more, he will be more compassionate and grow, as a result. I hope so, at least. It’s sure worth a try. I hope the best for you.

      2. (UNITED STATES) What happens when the husband does recognize all his faults and has changed his heart? I am guilt stricken. I repent. I regret dearly. I seek redemption. I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I have cried for over a year. The nicer, kind, thoughtful and more loving I am, the uglier she becomes –the more wicked her tongue becomes. Someone please give me a word of encouragement.

        1. (UK) Have you ever heard of “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” ? I feel sorry for you Oscar, but as a woman who faces a husband like what you are going through, only time can heal the wounds now. Sometimes I feel like letting my guard down again with my husband but the pain he caused is way too much. It makes me angrier when he starts acting nicer just because I went crazy over his actions. Do I have to go crazy to make an impact on my man to see how stupid his actions are? These are probably some things you may want to get out of your wife and understand from a woman’s perspective. Keep praying though…

    4. It is essential that we forgive all that has offended us whether they seek our forgiveness or not. A wise man said that if we do not forgive those that have offended us, then the greater fault remains in us. I know that God will have to forgive me when I stand before him, and I also know that Jesus said that if we do not forgive others, then God will not forgive us. Harbouring grudges is letting a cancer grow in our hearts that will kill our capacity to give place to the Holy Spirit and eventually will make us turn from God. When that happens, it is ‘amen’ to our salvation.

    5. So to destroy anyone, just steal from them, and when they struggle to forgive you win both ways and destroy them with your theft. What? Can’t God do all this for you instead of putting the burden on the victim? I see no repayment for all the issues I suffered from people AND the government.

  2. (SA) My husband has just caught me cheating for the 3rd time. Cheating has really taken its toll on me. Emotionally I am torn. Torn by thinking that all my problem will be resolved by just finding another man. I have closed every door that was open for my relationship with my husband to grow. I have hurt him and the hurt will be revealed in my children’s faces. My husband is one person who has loved me and I didn’t see it. I need God to help me sort myself out and to allow my husband to find happiness and a true loving person who will respect him.

    1. (KENYA)  I believe God loves you very much. Please read Isaiah 57:14-15. God will revive your marriage. Mine too was like yours. Now my wife and I are back again. Sex life was hard but now it has been restored again. May God help you and remember to help others like God has helped you. Keep this vision until you experience IT!

  3. Hi Cynthia, I’m so sorry for the pain you are experiencing. My heart goes out to you. It’s so difficult to deal with those who hurt us and then distort the truth of the situation. Please know that we grieve with you.

    As far as your question, I believe it would be helpful for you to read more of the articles as well as the quotes we have posted in this section of the web site, particularly the article “Are There Times We Shouldn’t Forgive.” From what I read in the scriptures, God wants us to forgive no matter what the offense is, and regardless of the conditions. He paved the way for forgiveness when we were yet sinners and from what I perceive, He expects us to forgive without conditions attached. Reconciling takes both parties, but releasing ourselves from the entrapment of unforgiveness is for us to give regardless.

    I believe it is because God cares so much for us. Bitterness and unforgiveness, once it starts to take root, continues to grow and tightens the grip it has on us until it invades our very being and every aspect of who we are and who we will become. It blinds us to reality and negatively changes how we interact with others and how we approach life. But as we work with the Lord (and keep working with Him) to break free from this insidious enemy of our soul, we will be free to approach life, the situation, and the person (or people) who hurt us, with God-given maturity. Forgiving others also hands them over to God to ultimately deal with them.

    I pray the Lord helps you to sort this situation out in Truth and gives you the strength to forgive as God has forgiven you. May God bless you in your journey.

  4. (USA) Hi Patricia and Cynthia, I wanted to say to Cynthia that the Bible says to forgive no matter what. See Matt. 18:21-22 (but read to the end of the chapter as well because it has some useful spiritual advice, like all of the Bible, of course).

    However your question is certainly valid and worth asking. My personal experience (with an abusive husband) is that despite my forgiveness toward him (as I’m commanded to), he may not always (and does not) apologize or even be repentful.

    So….my answer is yes, you must forgive, but it’s good to recognize, from the Holy Spirit, that someone hasn’t repented. This does not make you a sinner to see that. If you start judging him, from the flesh, because of that knowledge, then that is a sin. But just discerning unrepentance on the part of someone else is not a sin or being judgmental, nor does it nullify your forgiveness of that person.

    My suggestion would be, if you have the kind of relationship where you can gently and calmly tell the person who has offended you, go ahead. Something as simple as, "That offended me. It would make me feel better if you apologized." I’ve done that before with my husband but he has to be in a certain mood for that to happen and with him, it doesn’t happen much. Only you know your relationship with the person who hurt you well enough to know if they would be open to hearing you about that, without being rude to you for it.

    Hope this helps. Obviously, follow what the Holy Spirit is telling you before you do what I or anyone else tells you.

    To Patricia, I’m sorry for what is happening to your family but I applaud your courage at recognizing sin in yourself and wanting to do something about it. There are a few resources on this site that will help you further in your particular situation.

    Please see the following article. The article is helpful, as well as all the comments. If you look at the comments for the last 3 months or so, you will find a lot of women there struggling with the exact same type of situation you are in as well as how they are handling it. There are a lot of comments there so you can just read them at your own pace but I would recommend it (and the article, too).


    I would also suggest looking at the resources on the following page. They have to do with emotional infidelity. Whether your affairs crossed the line into the physical or not, for women particularly, the desire for affair always starts in the heart, anyway. From an emotional need so these articles should definitely help open your eyes to why the temptation is there. I struggled with this myself (emotional neediness and unfulfillment) for years and they really helped me.


    With love to both of you and God bless you and keep you.

  5. (USA)  My my wife and I have been married for 4 years. In the beginning, my wife knew I wanted a child and she said she wanted one, too. After we got married, she reversed her agreement. I’m trying to totally forgive her but it’s so difficult. Can I receive some suggestion on how?! Help! Maurice

    1. Just bite the bullet and forgive her in your heart, then show forth an increase of love towards her. It’s not our place to punish our spouses or children by withholding love from them. That is the Dark One’s way, but God is LOVE. May God bless you.

  6. (KENYA)  Prayer changes things; God can change ALL things. He can turn bad into good. You can try to understand why she does not want any children because under normal circumstances, every woman has maternal instincts and they are supposed to start kicking in by 26. If she has no interest, then you may first try to talk to her about what made her not want any children. It could be a traumatic experience, or she just needs your assurance that you will make the experience easier, that even if she grows fat, you’ll still love her. Most of all Pray. It has moved mountains. I wish you God’s favor and blessings for you and your wife. I am praying for you both.

  7. (USA) Yes, we are to forgive (and pray). That however, does not mean we have to stay in an abusive relationship. The spouse that keeps on cheating, drinking is verbally abusive. Sure God hates divorce. He also hates liars… He forgives murderers. Look at the apostle Paul in the New Testament. There are consequences, regardless if we are forgiven. The cheating spouse that infects his wife with HIV…

    And nowhere does it state in the Bible that the offender has to apologize. We are to forgive. It’s that simple. There will be still consequences. Forgive, move on. Press forward. Stay in the present. Quit rehearsing your hurts. I believe I must have confessed at least 500 times a day at the beginning that I forgave my husband and asked God to bless him. Within months it was less and less that I had to do that. Now maybe once every few weeks. God is my provider, my refuge, my healer – my comfort.

  8. (SOUTH AFRICA)  I have been suffering of depression, and the emotional absence of my husband in our relationship made it worse. I found myself in a very dark place and I tried to commit suicide. A month after the the event my husband and I had an altercation, with the exchange of words he screamed at me and told me he wish I had died. He said sorry, but it is eating at me. Although he said it to me in anger I know he meant every word, I saw it in his eyes and his entire body language. He also never said he did not mean what he said, he only said he was sorry for saying it.

    We have faced many difficulties in our marriage but I always had hope that things would change and get better. But after this incident I have lost my hope and I don’t know how to deal with being married to him knowing that he does not love me and despises me so much. I am at my wit’s end and feel that devorce would be the best for us. Everyday I pray, but as each day goes by I feel the anger, bitterness and resentment between us growing stronger and stronger. We have reached a piont of no return. Please help!

  9. (BOTSWANA)  When the affair was revealed I automatically forgave, but now I feel like I can’t forgive. It’s consuming me and I don’t know how to stop. I want to inflict pain back on them. Please help. I don’t want to hate and walk in unforgiveness.

  10. (NEW ZEALAND)  I have been married for 8 years to a man who I had an affair with. I was a very broken person all those years ago and after having one failed marriage, I never felt that I was going to be good enough for anyone else so when he pursued me and told me I was his soul mate and he had undying love for me, even though I knew it was wrong, I was somehow convinced that this would be okay. Oh how wrong I was.

    After I paid off all his debt when we got together (40,000 NZD) he continued to spend up on a credit card for his ex-wife and children of which I also paid off $10K. He told me he would never do it again. Then he bought them a car on Hire purchase without my knowledge and we lost a futher $9K. I found this out the day of our wedding and he said he would never do anything again without my knowledge. Systematically he has made financial decisions independent of me that has left us only just hanging on with bankruptcy being a real threat now and a couple of law suits that we need to defend because of other bad deals he has done. When we got together I had worked for 15 years and had saved $450K and that is all gone along with $200K that my mother loaned us to get us out of a tight spot when my husband bought a house that we couldn’t settle on.

    It gets worse and worse and I could tell you so many incidents when my husband has done crazy deals in the hope that he will make millions and prove to me that he can make money. He can’t make money and he violates all financial principles and refuses to work with me to set budgets and lives his life by how he feels. On top of this he is a compulsive liar and I basically can’t trust him after so many lies and he twists things around so that I look bad rather than owning his stuff. He is very manipulative and extremely good with words and passive aggression is his specialty.

    I have become very angry and agressive toward him and while I have worked on forgiving him, I find it just about impossible to know what this looks like when my husband never says sorry and just tells me that I need to forgive him. He basically does no work around the house and I do everything including the lawns, gardens, cleaning and any maintenance I have to arrange. He will do the occasional job but only if I ask him but if he doesn’t want to do it, he simply won’t and then he tells me that it is not important and I want to destoy our marriage over a chore. He thinks we should pay people to do the work but we don’t have funds to do that and so I end up doing everything resentfully and I don’t have the energy to ask him to do jobs when he might say yes and not do it or give me a reason why he won’t.

    Also I want to be married to an adult and not a child who I need to instruct to do obvious jobs. How can he even live and breath watching me work so hard after all that has happened. So basically the picture here is of me who is honest and responsible and will do what it takes and him who admits no wrong but tells me that I need to forgive meanwhile continuing to lie to me about all manner of things. I am going crazy. He is a crazy-maker. I know that what is going on is crazy but I also know that I am so very hurt and angry now that his behaviour sparks me off into fits of rage and outbursts that I know to be wrong and yes I am unforgiving too.

    But how does one deal with this? When there is no platform for trust and such a shaky foundation with the financial pressure all of the time. I want to leave but I don’t have any money and we have huge mortgages on properties that can’t be sold in this very bad market. There is no easy exit and while I would like my marriage to work, after everything that has happened and the issues that my husband has but won’t address, I just don’t even think it will ever go anywhere.

    I have stuck it out and believed lies so many times that I think I am an idiot to do so any longer. I am living with a person who continually focuses on my unforgiveness as being the issue. I think this is intolerable cruelty. Where to from here? Is it the old saying, “you made your bed, you lie in it?” That’s what I think some would say but at the end of the day, we all make mistakes and I should never have got involved but I did. However I never expected to end up with a compulsive liar and a thief. And then the issue of forgiveness comes up and I know I need to forgive whether I leave or stay. I just have no idea what that looks like in either scenario with the amount of nonsense that has gone down and continues to go down. What a life – I want a reset button!

  11. (USA)  LADIES: I need spiritual guidance. I wasn’t the greatest fiance to Gabe. I verbally abused him and he decided to leave me while I was 3 months pregnant. I was so angry, then I prayed for him to come back. God answered my prayers 6 months later and I forgave him for leaving and he forgave me for the abuse. The problem is that I found out that the whole year we were together he was emotionally cheating on me with a good friend of his. He brought her to my house so I could see it was innocent.

    Loe and behold, she threw him under the bus. She said he just told her he was in love with her a few weeks before we got back together. Then she said he bought her gifts and took her on my trip (he was to take me on, but he broke up with me). She then carried on by saying that I could have him now, that she caught all she wanted from him. I was so upset!

    Now I am back to being angry and hurt. I don’t trust him. He is a good father to all the children; he supports us financially; he’s always home, but I feel broken. What if he does love her even though he says he doesn’t? What if she returns and he falls for her fake friendship? I have lost all faith in God, value in marriage, and in truly being able to love him.

  12. (ZIMBABWE)  Forgiving is much to the advantage of the one who is forgiving… the one being forgiven will realise it later but to you the forgiver, you get spiritual upliftment the very moment you decide to do so.. Praise be to God that we are able to forgive each other just as Jesus taught us to.

  13. (SOUTH AFRICA)  I am currently engaged and considering marriage. My fiance has personal issues with my cousin who I love and want to invite to my wedding. He is making it completly difficult for me and throws his toys out the cot about her. She has said horrible things about his mom and has apologised but he refuses to forgive. It hurts me so much because I love both my cousin and my fiance. Please help with advise or biblical scriptures I can use to soften his heart.

    I am very sad that if he can’t forgive my cousin it will potentially hurt the family but he does not see it as that. He also shuts me down about it all the time. We have big fights and have not been able to just get over it. I have not set a date for get married because I wish for these issues to be resolved before we get married.

    How do I get him to realise that by him not forgiving, it is affecting our lives and hurting me in the process. PLEASE HELP.

    1. (USA) Jade, You are wise not to marry this man until and unless you are able to build relationship bridges in dealing with family members. It would be good for both of you to read through the articles we have posted on this web site on dealing with “In Laws” and also “Dealing with Parents.” Even though this is not a parental divide between you, there are territorial in law issues you need to realize and establish. When you marry, IF you marry, he is to be your primary earthly relationship you are to cleave to and support. All others stand behind. The same is true for him… you are to be his first earthly relationship that he is to cleave to and support. The topics I suggest you read through sets this in better perspective.

      Your cousin, though you love her, will probably be a huge sore spot in your relationship with this man, if he becomes your husband. She needs to be set straight by YOU! She needs to know that if she pulls anymore of this kind of divisive behavior again, SHE will be on the outs, and you will be the one to make sure of it. She will make that choice with her behavior. This is not about forgiveness, this is about reconciliation. You can forgive someone, but if they are unsafe, you don’t have to reconcile with that person because of the toxicity they throw into the mix when you are with them. I would establish CLEAR LINES of communication on this. If your fiance gives her another chance (which I hope he can), let her know this is her one and only chance. If she causes trouble again, SHE is out — not your husband (if you marry this man). And I would let my fiance know this.

      Also, from what I read in your comment, I don’t get the impression that the “big fights” are being handled in healthy ways. Please recognize that if he shuts you down about this “all the time” … that is a pattern that you will have to deal with after marriage, as well, concerning other matters. And that will be troublesome, to say the least. You both need to learn how to argue and work out your differences in respectful ways, BEFORE you marry. This particular problem may be a red flag warning to work on these issues (in law, plus conflict resolution) NOW before you make your vows. If you don’t, I believe you will GREATLY regret it. Trust me on this. I hope you will seriously consider what I am saying here. I only want the best for you.

  14. (USA)  Hi, I am so deep in sin and bitterness. My husband and I hate each other. I am very serious. I don’t know what can be done about our deep wounds and hurt that we have caused one another. We share two children and we are both believers in Christ Jesus. My husband’s drug abuse has led him away from the Lord and I have tolerated it but now the bitterness and anger and unforgiveness has harden my heart very much.

    I do know I care about him and want him to be safe. I love my girls and want them to enjoy their father as much as possible… which is why I won’t divorce him. But we have both spoken very hurtful and terrible things to one another daily! It has grown to disgust and hate that we feel for one another. Please help!!! I can’t take this much longer! I don’t want to die or live my life as a wicked person who holds bitterness and hate in my heart!!

    1. (USA) Tasha, we HIGHLY recommend that you go into the “Save My Marriage” topic and go into the Links part of it and check out Retrouvaille. We have ONLY heard good things about how much they can help restore relationships. Don’t worry about what the denomination is, which may be hosting a retreat near you. That’s not as important as putting your relationship on better footing. It’s not about religion, but about relationship.

      Be persistent in seeking help. The enemy of our faith is GREATLY entertained when bitterness and woundedness is going on. Please consider going to a Retrouvaille event. Urge your husband with everything you can. We know a lot of people who have been helped in amazing ways through their ministry. We pray the best for you.