Tennessee Pastor Teaches Congregation a Lesson in Forgiveness

In November 1986, Phillip Robinson was working in his father’s store while Wayne Robinson went to the bank. He had no idea that he would never see his father alive again.

Someone came in the store and said a shooting had taken place.

“I was so wrapped up in my own world … and figured nothing like that would affect me, so I continued to work,” Phillip Robinson recalled.

Then it struck him he’d better check out the scene. He walked out the door and saw his father on the ground.

A jury would later convict Ron Hammer and Steve Kyger in the murder of Wayne Robinson. Ten years later, Hammer found grace in admitting the truth about his crime.

“I was praying and asking God, ‘How come I can’t feel you?’ … I heard him speak and he said, ‘You haven’t told the Robinson family you’re sorry,'” said Hammer, who was paroled in April 2015 and now lives in Virginia. “Not only did I hear him whisper, but I felt his touch on my shoulder.

“My whole soul just felt like I had passed on to another world. Maybe it was the sins holding me down and they just left me.”

Hammer wrote a letter to the Robinsons. In it, Hammer confessed something he had never admitted in court. He was the trigger man.

What happened next is the most unlikely of scenarios.

Wayne Robinson’s son, Phillip, wrote back.

He’d forgiven his father’s killer already, he said.

Phillip Robinson is now a pastor at New Vision Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and on June 14, he spoke with Hammer in front of his congregation as part of a message about forgiveness.

Robinson said it took more than a half-dozen years after his daughter’s birth before he could let go of the hatred he had for his father’s killers. On his daughter’s seventh birthday, he woke up and thought of her first.

Twenty-three years later, that same daughter gave birth to a daughter on that same day — Nov. 14, 2010.

“That’s how God told me he was redeeming the story,” Robinson said.

Last fall Robinson and his mother attended Hammer’s parole hearing to support him. Hammer was granted parole earlier this year.

“The forgiveness the Robinsons gave me changed my whole life. Even after I gave my life to God, I never forgave myself. … Forgiveness and love are so powerful,” Hammer said. “But I still live with Wayne Robinson every day I wake up.”