‘I forgive this man’: Athena Strand’s grandfather writes heart-wrenching Facebook post

The grandfather of Athena Strand’s heart-wrenching Facebook post on forgiving the FedEx contract driver accused of kidnapping and killing the 7-year-old has gone viral with words of support from around the nation.

“There’s not one ounce of my flesh that wants to do this or say this, but my spirit has heard God’s voice and right now, while tears flood my eyes, I declare publicly that I forgive this man!” Mark Strand wrote over the weekend. “Hate will not win. I hope my family will understand that I don’t do this for the sake of this man. I do this for the sake of my family and myself and to Honor the voice of God who is giving me the strength to say this. I do this to honor our precious Athena who knew no hate.”

He continued: “This man won’t be allowed any real estate to live in my brain. He belongs to God and God’s justice will done. Love Conquers All and Forgives. Today, I choose Love and hate loses.”

Athena’s murder Wednesday has shaken this rural community northwest of Fort Worth. More than $46,000 has been raised so far on one GoFundMe set up for her family. School children returning to class today are wearing pink in Athena’s honor. And a candlelight memorial service is Tuesday at 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church Cottondale in Paradise.

On Sunday, the pastor at Cottondale used Strand’s words as part of his sermon.

Mark Strand’s emotional post on Facebook talks about the horrendous difficulty he and his family have faced in coming to terms with Athena’s murder.

“This flesh, this man that I am, is angry and I want 5 minutes alone in a cell with the psycho that took our Athena away from us, but there’s a soft gentle voice in the back of my head telling me I need to forgive him,” he wrote. “This flesh man hopes he remains blind and deaf to the message of salvation and never sets foot in the same heaven that I know in my heart my darling Athena resides in now and yet, that gentle voice persists.

“Why you ask? Because Hate is a powerful force that will take root in your soul. God wants to protect us all from that hate. Hate is the gateway for the Evil we see growing in the world today.”

His post has been shared more than 24,000 times and generated more than 5,000 comments from around the country.

“You are one strong man,” one person responded. “I dont know if I would have as much faith as you do in this circumstance. Praise God for the strength he has given you in this truly terrible time of need.”

“I don’t know you, but I pray that God gives you and your family strength, grace, and love!!” another wrote.

Said another comment: “Tears in my eyes, I am so thankful to have read this. May God bless you during this difficult time and continue to give you and your family strength and peace. Love to you all and you will continue to be in our prayers.”