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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation

Journey of Hope
Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation
October 1-16, 1994

The Journey of Hope was a two-week public education tour of fifteen Midwestern cities, carried out by Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation.  MVFR is an organization of persons who have lost a family member to murder and who oppose the death penalty.  MVFR members chose this way of reaching the public with their message.
The importance and impact of this kind of event is difficult to capture in a statistical report, but the facts and figures are an important indicator of the success of the Journey of Hope.
15    Cities and towns in four state were major tour stops
10    Additional towns hosted one or more MVFR speakers
10    Trees were planted as gifts to communities we visited, and as living symbols of hope and life
175    Speaking events were held (programs, rallies, classes, talk shows, churches, or scheduled interviews). MVFR members were speakers on almost every occasion.
3,000 +    People heard MVFR speakers in person in large and small group settings.
4    City mayors made formal declarations in support of the Journey and/or MVFR.
25    Groups hosted Journey participants for meals.
120    People traveled with the Journey for longer or shorter times, 25% of them were family members of murder victims. This figure does not include the approximately 200 other individuals who participated in Journey marches, doorbelling, and other activities.
7    International visitors took part; six from England and one from Sweden.
200    Press packets were sent to local and national media.
60+     Newspaper articles about MVFR and the Journey appeared in Midwestern papers, many of them front-page features.  Probably an equal number appeared in local and national newsletters and church publications.
25+    Television stations covered Journey events.
30+    Radio and TV talk shows or interviews featured MVFR. One hour of NPR”s “Talk of the Nation” dealt with the issue and featured MVFR board member Marietta Jaeger as a guest.
?,000,000    People read about the Journey in their newspaper or heard about it on the TV or radio news. This number is impossible to calculate but, for example, the pre-Journey article in the Indianapolis Star appeared on the front page of an issue with paid circulation of over 430,000.

A man made a special trip to find the “Journey” group when we were in North Bend – he came to tell us about his conversion after attending a couple of earlier “Journey” activities.
He had gone to a “Journey” concert and service – not by choice, but because he was providing transportation to a friend.  He had gone believing that the death penalty was a fair punishment for murder.
Then he heard Suezann Bosler, a young woman from Florida, tell about the brutal murder of her father in an attack at the parsonage where the family lived.  She was not only present, but barely survived herself.  When this man learned that she had fought against the death penalty for the murderer – who to that day had shown no signs of remorse – he had to rethink his position.  It touched him to the degree that it revived a nightmare of his days in Vietnam where he had killed an enemy soldier at close range.
So, several days later, he drove from Gary, Ind. To North Bend.  He didn’t know where the “Journey” group would be, but he happened to run into some leaf letters in town.  He told them he wanted to let members of the group know of their impact on him.  There was not one dry eye in the room and many of us realized that we were all on our own personal journeys of hope as well.
One-on-one dialogue may be one of our most powerful tools in this struggle.  After all, we all want the same things, peace and justice.  My convictions about abolition and my faith in people were strengthened by this journey, and I would not hesitate to go on the next one.
-Leslie Lethridge