*WARNING: This story contains disturbing details that may be hard for some to read.
A Winnipeg man is forgiving his attackers after being brutally stabbed two months ago.
"Over the years I've had some difficulties in my life with alcohol and drugs," says Dennis Williams, one of the staff at Union Gospel Mission (UGM) in downtown Winnipeg. "I went from alcohol, to crack cocaine, to meth, which was my last fight. It was four years ago I got into meth and roughly two years ago I came into treatment at Union Gospel. It's not really what I wanted but it was what I needed because it's faith-based."
Williams says that while he's been a believer in Jesus for a long time, his pride got in the way of surrending his life to God.
"Once I let go and knew that I was not in charge because of the mess that I had made, it's been a lot easier."
On February 3, 2023, Williams had just finished a shift at UGM where they help feed and clothe the most vulnerable population in the city. He took the bus to his stop at Main Street and Henry Avenue.
"I was getting off the bus and I saw these three young guys and I said to myself, 'I hope I don't have problems with them.' I started walking down my regular route and I heard, 'Hey you!' I looked over and saw a young fellow with a hatchet so I started handing over my wallet."
Williams goes on to share that he was attacked and blacked out for a minute or two.
"The next thing I remember was rolling around, fighting with some young guy with a knife that had stabbed me a couple times. His buddy called him off. The guy with the hatchet was tapping his hand and I told them a bit of my story. Thank Christ he didn't attack me because it would have been a lot worse, as bad as it was. The next thing I know the guy with the knife lunged at me, I put up my knee, he slashed my legs a few times and then fell on me. Stabbed me a few more times before taking my wallet. Then they fled."
At that moment Williams thought he was going to die. He explains that a handful of men have died in that back lane. There was a video recording of the attack so after someone phoned the police, the three men were arrested shortly after.
"Convinced I was going to bleed out, I remember speaking to an officer. When I said, 'I'm going to die,' he said, 'Dennis, you're not going to die!' I didn't remember giving him my name. When I was looking at this officer, there was like a white glow around his body."
Recovery and Forgiveness
Williams spent the following month in the hospital recovering.
"My first few days in there, I wasn't really angry. I'd been in this situation before and survived. This time I truly feel like I was saved because I was able to forgive these young men for what they had done to me. The old Dennis would have wanted revenge but that is not going to do me any good. It feels so much better not to have this burden of anger on me."
The physical recovery has been a slow process, but initially, the doctors thought Williams wouldn't ever walk without assistance and yet he's already there.
"I enjoy helping people, giving them lunch and some clothes [at UGM]. If I were to walk away and leave, they win, he wins. Now I know what Christ wants from me. He wants me to give something back after being given so much. Here's my mission that he's put in front of me. If God's going to forgive me, why not you."
Williams' lawyer and even a few members of his family found it hard to accept that he forgave the men who violently attacked him.
"I could have easily become that person. By the grace of God, he has saved me again and again and again. These men don't exactly know what is right and wrong because the life they've grown up in. [In their minds, I imagine] there's nothing wrong with assaulting someone to get their money because of what they've seen all their life. I look at it that way. I'm no better than them by any means."
While Williams says he's a 'baby' in his faith walk, the Development Manager at UGM, Martin Chidwick, shares how much the rest of the staff have been greatly impacted by Williams's testimony of forgiveness.
"When we first went to the hospital to visit him, Dennis was on morphine, talking about how he was holding his intestines in [after the attack]," says Chidwick. "In answer to 'How are you doing?', he said, 'I'm fine, I still have Jesus.' This man is a hero to us. We love him and we're so blessed that he has this positive reaction to this. I stand in the presence of a giant."
Williams shares that UGM has 'given me a hand up rather than a handout.'
"I can't dance and run anymore, but I'll get there," says Willaims. "I got rid of the brace and I'm able to walk around, I'm mobile and none of this would be possible without Christ. Hopefully, my story can help someone along the way."