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God redeemed the tragic events of
my life, author tells audience
Story and Photo By Duane Good, Editor

Marie Monville and her husband Dan greet audience members and sign books after her presentation.

At its core, the story of Easter is one in which divine intervention transforms a seemingly bad situation to make it a source of hope for the future.

It’s a story that Marie Monville no doubt can relate to very well.

The Lancaster County resident has lived through the horror of knowing her husband was responsible for the killing of five children at the West Nickel Mines Amish school near Strasburg before taking his own life in 2006.

And yet, as she told an audience at Millersburg Area High School earlier this month, she believes God has taken that – as well as other tragedies in her life – and redeemed them into something positive and inspirational.

Now remarried (her husband Dan accompanied her to Millersburg), Monville frequently shares her story throughout Pennsylvania and other states. She also has authored a book, ‘‘One Light Still Shines,’’ about her life before and after the Nickel Mines tragedy.

‘‘I knew He was going to work in the situation.’’ Growing up, Monville said her two main goals in life were to be a wife and a mother. She reached the first milestone soon after she graduated high school, when she married Charles Carl ‘‘Charlie’’ Roberts IV. She lost her first two children before eventually bearing a daughter and two sons to Roberts.

‘‘I was living the dream I had. And I was also finding God taking me through the broken places in our lives,’’ she said.

Though she and Roberts attended church and raised their children in their Christian faith, Monville said Roberts remained troubled about losing the earlier children but would not seek outside help.

‘‘I could see Charlie was not on the same path I had found, but no one saw anything that could have foretold what would happen,’’ she said.

What happened, of course, was that on the morning of Oct. 2, 2006, Roberts entered the Amish school and took 10 students, all females, hostage. When the tragedy ended, five of the girls were dead,  five more were injured and Roberts had killed himself.

That morning, he had left a note to Monville which included the words, ‘‘I’m not coming home.’’

‘‘When I started to hear the police and ambulance sirens, I knew it had to be related (to Roberts), but I didn’t know beforehand how it would all unfold,” Monville said April 4.

‘‘When I got the details of what had happened, I was at a complete loss; I didn’t even know how to pray or what to say to God,’’ she added. ‘‘Somehow, I just knew He was going to work in the situation.”

Monville said of the many things she had to do following the tragedy, the hardest was telling her daughter Abigail and sons Bryce and Carson what had happened to their father.

‘‘I told them that their dad had made very bad choices and that people died as a result,’’ she recalled.

She later said that she makes sure she tells her children about positive aspects of her marriage to Roberts and that she stays in touch with his family.

‘‘I don’t know why God allowed this to happen. People make choices and those choices can affect the lives of those around them,’’ Monville said. ‘‘It doesn’t mean that God isn’t there. Our circumstances don’t prove or disprove God’s love. I know He is walking with us.’’

‘Doorways of hope.’ According to Monville, not long after the tragedy she prayed and believed God was telling her, ‘‘I’m not going to fix the situation, but I am going to redeem it.’’

In the ensuing days and weeks, she said she and the children experienced God doing just that.

One of the earliest experiences was the response of the Amish community – many of whom she and Charlie knew personally.

‘‘They let me know that they had forgiven Charlie and that they extended grace to us. That was a huge weight off my shoulders, especially in giving an explanation to the children about (Roberts’) choices,’’ Monville said to her audience, which included a strong delegation of Amish men, women and children.

Another came in the form of the countless letters the family received from strangers, saying that Monville and the children were in their prayers. An additional theme, she said, was the Bible verse about God having plans not to harm them, but to give them hope for the future.

‘‘While we all experience pain and brokenness, they are not the story of our lives,’’ she told her audience at the April 4 gathering.

Referencing the Old Testament book of Hosea, Monville said, ‘‘God was able to take my ‘places of trouble’ and turn them into ‘doorways of hope’ for me as well as for others.’’

Monville said late last week that she received a positive response from the audience and hopes people who heard her speak, or read her book, grasp how they are loved deeply by God – that he loves them enough to walk with them as they journey through the pain and into the future he has planned for them.

The event was co-sponsored by Free Grace Brethren in Christ Church and by Millersburg Area High School’s Campus Club (Sentinel, March 25 issue). Club adviser Ted Book said many people facing life struggles received encouragement from her presentation.

‘‘This was a timely event for many people,’’ Book said. “We were very fortunate to have her come and share her life with us.’’

Monville again will speak locally Friday, July 11 during the 2014 Lykens Valley Campmeeting in Elizabethville.


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