Nelson Vargas’ father was an abusive man. He beat Nelson and his seven brothers and sisters. When Nelson was 13 years old, his father threw him out on the street.
The young teenager slept in cars and wherever he could find a place. The need to have a family led him into gangs and eventually into selling drugs. He ended up in prison for 7 years, but that didn’t keep him clean. When he got out, he picked up where he left off.
One night he met a girl in a club — the daughter of a strong Christian woman. When he went to meet his new girlfriend’s mother at her church, he also met Jesus. Years later, he would lean hard on the Lord when his son was killed, praying for his son’s killer to meet the Lord, too. That prayer was answered — with an unusual request.
Carlos Colon was raised in Chicago, along with two half-brothers, by a single mom. Like Nelson, he was involved in a gang and drugs, which eventually led to prison for him as well. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a gang retaliation murder.
Ten years into his sentence, he found Jesus. “After I turned my life over to the Lord, I prayed on it, and I said, ‘Lord, I would love for you to restore that which the enemy has broken,’” said Carlos. “I wanted forgiveness.” He began to pray for an opportunity to meet the family of the man he killed so he could ask for their forgiveness.
“Of course, I had a big example of what it was to be forgiven because of what Christ did for us. I know my sins placed Him on the cross. And yet, I was still asking God, ‘I would love to reach out, I would love for You to make this possible where I could meet [the victim’s family].’”
Radical Time Out (RTO)
Shortly after leaving prison, Carlos began attending RTO, or Radical Time Out, a group that ministers to people who have been in prison and their families. He’d heard about a man who had given his testimony and asked about him. “Is his name Nelson Vargas?” He asked a friend. “Yes,” said the friend. “How did you know?” Carlos knew then that the man who gave the testimony was the father of the man he’d killed.
Carlos asked the ministry coordinator for RTO, Nephtali Matta, to set up a meeting between the men. Nephtali suggested that he and Carlos approach Nelson carefully. “He said … ‘Let’s see what God does. I’m going to set up a meeting with him and if the Lord wills it, I will ask him. I will mention you to him and tell him that you’re a part of RTO.’”
Who Am I Not to Forgive?
It wasn’t easy for Nelson. But after he thought about it, he explained to his wife that “’I’m coming from the same lifestyle, the same environment, and God forgave me. And I said then, ‘Who am I not to forgive?’”
The day the two men met Nelson was shaking and sweaty, the reality of meeting the man who killed his son hit him hard. Carlos drove around the church, scared of meeting Nelson, too. But they met in a small room upstairs. Nelson’s wife embraced Carlos, who cried and asked for her forgiveness. Then Nelson’s oldest son hugged Carlos. When Carlos asked Nelson for a hug, Nelson embraced him, telling Carlos that the man who killed his son was now his own son.
But the miracle of forgiveness didn’t stop there. Nelson began praying for Carlos and asked God to bless Carlos’ family, marriage and his children. Then Nelson put his hand on Carlos’ shoulder and began to pray over him. When finished, he blessed him, saying “May the peace of God be upon you, and His face … shine upon you in the name of Jesus Christ … and I accept your apology.”
The men shared hugs and tears. Their meeting in itself a testament to the power of God in the lives of His children. Watch the video of the meeting below.
(For more from the author of “Former Prisoner Now Pastor Forgives and Asks God to Bless His Son’s Killer” please click HERE)