Joyce started the Center in 2001 less than a year after her son, Charles Jr., was murdered by two men in Little Rock. Its mission is to help victims of crime, but part of its purpose was to help Joyce heal. The wounds were so deep that she found it hard to get out of bed, but with God’s help, she forgave the men who did it.
As part of her ministry, Joyce started teaching life skills to inmates. One day at Tucker Max, one of her son’s killers, Christopher Bush, was there. Already warned that this would happen, she was prepared to see his face for the first time since he was sentenced to 40 years in prison eight years earlier.
Before starting the class, Joyce told the rest of the inmates that she couldn’t talk about forgiveness and reconciliation without practicing them herself. She approached Bush.
“Mr. Bush, today is, I guess, our day of reconciliation,” she said. “I understand that you have something that you want to say to me. Guess what? This is your time.”
He asked for permission to stand and apologized for what he had done to her family.
“What did you do?”
“For killing your son.”
“My son has a name, Mr. Bush.” She reminded the rest of the class that they always included the names of their victims in their discussions.
“I’m sorry for killing Charles Raynor Jr., that everyone called Chuck,” he said.
She told him she appreciated it and that she already had forgiven him, but if he was being insincere, that was between him and God.
For more, check out my column this week for the Arkansas News Bureau.