Esther’s testimony actually begins with the work of her great-great-grandfather. He was a servant to English missionaries in India at the beginning of the movement for Indian self-rule. The missionaries soon decided to relocate to South Africa and they took Esther’s great-great-grandfather with them. When the missionaries finally returned to England, he stayed in South Africa to earn the money for a return trip to India for him and his family. He built a Christian school for the Zulu children while working on a return trip to India. Since then, it had been tradition for all of the children in her family to go to the school. Esther’s father had gone to the school, and Esther moved from New York to South Africa at the age of 5 to attend the school that her great-great-grandfather had started.
Esther lived in a South African village of about 250 people, mostly white people of Dutch descent. Apartheid had ended in 1994, but there was still a lot of racial tension where she lived. Esther was raised by her nanny, a black South African whose family had worked for Esther’s for many generations. Esther got a call from her parents every night while she was in South Africa. She had exciting adventures and remembered being chased by a rhinoceros and having a chimpanzee throw rocks at her and her nanny while they were covering a neighbor’s house in large leaves (the South African equivalent of toilet-papering).
One night, Esther and her nanny had already gone to bed when they heard three sharp raps on the door. Her nanny told her to stay in bed as she began to open the door. The door was thrown open the rest of the way and five white men stormed the house armed with guns and torches. They dragged Esther from her bed and tied her to one of the pillars in her house. One man looked her straight in the eye and told her that she was ugly and didn’t have the right to even exist. The men, belonging to a white supremacy group, had attacked the house because they thought that Esther was the illegitimate child of her black nanny and a white man. Esther, being Indian in appearance, knew that the attacks were senseless and fueled by hatred and racism. The men dragged her nanny to the other room, where they attacked and raped her.
Esther could hear her nanny screaming “Have faith, Esther, God loves you!” over and over again from the other room. Even while her nanny was suffering, Esther remembers that her nanny only wanted to ensure that Esther was okay and that she knew that she was protected by God. Her nanny spoke in Telugu, an Indian language that Esther’s father had taught her, which only made the men hit her more and yell for her to be quiet because they couldn’t understand what she was saying.
The men began to light the house on fire when the gardener returned to the house to reclaim some tools that he had left there that afternoon. Seeing the men, he shot his rifle in the air and they scattered. Esther realizes now that it was a miracle from God that sent the gardener to their house in the middle of the night. The gardener untied Esther and was able to get both Esther and her nanny to safety.
After three days, they were able to get ahold of Esther’s father. There had been a bad earthquake in California and her parents had been unable to call as they usually did. Esther’s father flew out to South Africa immediately. All five men were arrested because it was commonly known in such a small village who was responsible. Esther’s father was given permission by the judge to punish the men and had even suggested that he turn the men over to the Zulu tribe to be tortured and killed. The Zulu tribe in the area knew her father from his work with the school and would have gladly dealt with the attackers of his little girl. Knowing that this could be their fate, three of the men killed themselves in prison. Esther’s father took the remaining two out to tea.
As nearly everyone in the village waited outside, Esther’s father explained that they had acted out of evil and that they were no better than animals. In fact, he had once killed a lion with only a stone and he could easily do that to the people who had hurt his little girl. He said that if they had killed Esther, they would have killed a piece of him as well. He had brought his rifle and laid it on the table. The men were sheet-white and Esther’s nanny could not make eye contact with them. Esther couldn’t look away.
Her father explained that he had only seen a small window of the wickedness that these men had committed. However, he was completely privy to all the wickedness in his own heart. He explained that if anyone deserved to die today, then it was him. With this, he took the safety off the gun and slid it across the table. He explained that Christ had died to cover his sins and that they could also share in Christ’s sacrifice to be cleansed of their sins. Esther’s father spared her attackers, set them free, and watched as they accepted Christ as their savior.
Esther didn’t understand this action. She was angry that no one had asked what she and her nanny wanted. After all, they were the victims. She was angry that her father hadn’t been there for her during and after the attacks. She felt that he shouldn’t have been allowed to pardon them. She returned to the United States and continued in school. Her father tried to get her involved in the community, but she was still very angry about what had happened. She says that she didn’t respect white men and that she saw them as cut from the same cloth as her attackers. She was only 13 and had already seen so much hatred and racism.
Esther’s father pulled her aside one day to discuss how she was treating people. He explained that sparing those men was the hardest thing that he had ever done, but that he wasn’t the one who could judge their souls. He hated to see the toll that it was taking on her and he asked her to give it over to God. Esther’s father went into his study and locked the door, then cried for over two hours. Esther remembers that it was the first time she realized just how much the experience had affected him and that he was crying because he wanted her to be right with God.
It was at 16 years old that Esther began to walk with Christ. She had been raised with Christian beliefs, but hadn’t embraced Christ as her savior until she realized the significance of her experience. She realized God’s hand in the experience: the gardener who returned that night, the two men who were saved, her father sparing their lives. Through her experience, she was able to gain a closer walk with God.
Esther now sees God’s image in other people and knows that God is looking out for her. She is attending Biola University (Bible Institute of Los Angeles) and says that she wouldn’t be there without everything that God has taught her about loving others. Her father still keeps in contact with the two men in South Africa, one is now a pastor. Esther’s nanny is married and living in the Netherlands. Esther’s experiences have enabled her to understand God’s grace for her and brought her into a close walk with God.