NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. (BP) – The admission would shock many, and even more so coming from a pastor. However, it’s part of Terry Dorsett’s testimony from what he calls “a dark period” in his life that ultimately shows the power of forgiveness as delivered only through Christ.
“Twenty-five years ago my family was hit by a drunk driver,” said Dorsett, executive director for Baptist Churches of New England (BCNE) whose 33-year ministry includes three decades in that part of the country. “My youngest son’s back was broken, and he nearly died. My right leg was pretty mangled, and they thought they would have to amputate it.”
The drunk driver, it turned out, wasn’t a stranger. Her name was Barbara, and she worked at the store across the street from the Dorsett home.
Surgery and nine months of therapy saved Dorsett’s leg, but the minister walked a rough road in terms of forgiveness.
“I was furious at her and prayed she would get drunk again and drive into a tree and die,” he told BP.
Eventually, his faith brought healing.
“God was gracious to me,” Dorsett said. “I learned to forgive Barbara. I led her to faith in Christ and baptized her. She remained a member of the church in Vermont where I was pastor until she died last month.
“Learning to forgive was hard, but it was also life-changing. It set the route of much of my future ministry.”
Responses, in time
Preaching throughout BCNE churches has brought Dorsett face to face with the crippling guilt and bitterness many feel and the need for forgiveness.
“We live in a world filled with hurting people,” he said. “Sadly, those people hurt other people. Hurt is like a cancer; it grows and spreads until it destroys everything. Forgiveness breaks the cycle and changes hurt into healing.”
Dorsett wrote Breaking Free from the Spirit of Offense for those wanting to move on from painful experiences. It is available on Kindle for $2.99, $5.99 in paperback or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
“I preach on 1 Samuel 25 and the subject of forgiveness often in New England churches,” he said.
One of those sermons came in April at First Baptist in Marlborough, Mass., where Dorsett is a member. On Sept. 15 – four months later – the church phone received a message from a woman who had heard the sermon and wanted to talk to Dorsett about it.
The two met, and Dorsett shared the Gospel. Three weeks later the woman prayed alongside First Baptist pastor Logan Loveday to accept Christ as her Savior. She joined a new members class with 10 others and was baptized at the beginning of November.
“She has a lot of challenges to work through, but now has the Holy Spirit to help her in those struggles,” Dorsett said.
It’s not his first experience of a message bringing fruit, albeit on a longer timeline.
“I’ve seen it many times. I once preached the Gospel at a funeral, and one year later to the day the lady’s grandson showed up at church,” Dorsett said. “He told me he hadn’t been able to get that message out of his head and wanted to know how he could be saved. I baptized him in a cold Vermont river.
“It’s just one of many stories of God’s grace in New England,” he said of the area where Southern Baptist churches are most likely to grow.
“We tend to want instant results,” Dorsett said. “But that’s just not how God works. He calls us to be faithful witnesses of the Gospel, not matter how long it takes.”