In 1995 Fernando and Elizabeth Jimenez came to England as Christian missionaries from their native Costa Rica. In 2017 their 24-year-old daughter Maria was killed in a car crash on the A3 dual carriageway near Guildford. The car, which belonged to Maria, was being driven at 100mph by her friend Nick when he lost control. It was in the early hours of the morning, so the road was deserted, no other car was involved. Maria wasn’t wearing a seat belt and died, Nick survived with minor injuries.
The Police called at 6am to tell Fernando his beloved daughter had died. He said, “As a father nothing prepares you for such a situation. In the early days I blamed myself for buying Maria a car. I also blamed Nick. I wanted to kill him. These revenge fantasies initially got me through, but I also knew I didn’t want to end up a bitter man. At first it was very difficult to forgive Nick. Maria was so dear to me. But I knew she would want me to forgive Nick if she was here. I knew I couldn’t blame God or anyone. It was an accident.”
Elizabeth decided to contact Nick. She said, “In those first few moments I remember thinking, if the person behind the wheel had been my own son, or my husband, or myself even, how would I want the world to react? That was my first thought and it saved me. I had no vengeful feelings. Even at the hospital while we were waiting to see Maria’s body, I asked a friend to find out where Nick was. I thought, my daughter is dead, but Nick is alive, so I need to go to him. I called him that night when we got back from the hospital. It was the first time we’d ever spoken. All I remember is that I said, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you’ to him over and over. I needed him to hear me say it. He just cried.”
Two days after Maria’s death, Fernando and Elizabeth decided they wanted Nick to visit them. Elizabeth watched the scared young man walk into living room towards Fernando. Nick hugged him and said, “Please forgive me.” In tears they both collapsed to the ground, all the while Nick repeating his request over and over. Fernando said, “I forgive you son.” That was the moment Fernando felt his anger melt away. He said, “Mercy and compassion just came to me, at that moment I let the blame and bitterness go. If I’d held onto these feelings, they would have destroyed me. Instead, I decided to love him. That’s the moment he became a son to me.” Fernando and Elizabeth took Nick into their home for 6 weeks before the trial.