Q: Your steadfast faith in Jesus sustained you through the horrific events, the sadness, and the courtroom. But that’s not how your own story began. Tell us about your journey to faith in Christ.
A: I was not raised in a Christian home. My parents divorced when I was a young teenager, and my father eventually left me with my mother so that he could travel the world with his new wife. I loved my mother very much, but I had always been “Daddy’s girl.” I spent a long time trying to fill the void left by my father’s absence with anything that would fulfill me. By this time, I had a good job working in an optometrist’s office. My full-time job and my private life were polar opposites. During the day I was surrounded by wonderful coworkers whose whole lives revolved around Jesus—something that was completely unfamiliar to me. I was drawn to these Christian people, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. However, in the evenings and on the weekends I was surrounded by people who knew nothing about God; their entire existence revolved around partying. It was as if I lived a double life.
I lived with a man 12 years my senior for six years—even after discovering he was married. I searched in vain for fulfillment that would soothe my soul. I began spending more time with Christian friends and my sister, who had become a Christian, as well, but I still wasn’t even sure who the one true God was, so I prayed and asked Him to show me. On the night that yet another man left me, I ended up at a Thanksgiving communion service at my sister’s church. It was there on November 26, 1986 that God answered my prayer. I trusted Jesus for salvation. I experienced His forgiveness, and my life would never be the same.
Q: One of the most unexpected twists in the story was your decision to meet with Donaldson Samuel, one of the men who attacked your parents that night on the boat. Why did you feel drawn to this man? What happened at that fateful meeting?
A: There is only one explanation for why I felt compassion for Donaldson Samuel: God spoke to my heart. Though Donaldson did not pull the trigger, he was the one who bound and gagged my parents, along with everyone else onboard. He made them helpless to escape. He was also the only assailant out of the three who told the truth—in fact, his testimony was key to convicting the two other men who actually carried out the murders. In the beginning, I found myself feeling sorry for him as he was berated by the attorney for the defense. Before long, I knew the Lord was prompting me to tell Donaldson about Jesus, but that was easier said than done. Nobody else was in favor of that idea—not the Scotland Yard detectives, the prosecuting attorneys, Donaldson’s attorney, or even my husband, Donnie. I was told there was no way I could even arrange a visit with Donaldson in prison. There was only one person with the authority to sign off on such a visit—the imposing Superintendent Mac. Everyone assured me he would never consent to a meeting. When I finally met the superintendent and made my request, I discovered he was an ordained minister. He was more than willing to let me come.
I visited Donaldson after his sentencing hearing. I told him about Jesus, about my parents promise and how I had come to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I didn’t go there to forgive him; I went only to tell him about Jesus. Forgiving him happened as a result of my obedience to God by going to see Donaldson and telling him about Jesus. I forgave Donaldson and told him that God would forgive him too. I took his hands as he prayed to receive Christ and as unnatural as it would seem, I gave him a hug before I left. He asked if he could write to me and if I would write him back. Then he asked if I would come back and visit him. “Donaldson, I never thought in a million years I would ever be here in the first place,” I responded, “but if you pray and I pray, one day maybe I’ll return.”
Q: Did you ever see Donaldson Samuel again? How did the friendship you shared affect the people on the islands of Antigua and Barbuda?
A: Very unexpectedly, I was able to visit him again one year after he received Christ. I think he was less surprised than I was that I returned so soon. “Bonnie, I pray for you come back,” was the first he said when he saw me. We continued our relationship and wrote one another for five years and then one day without explanation, his letters stopped. There was a ten year period when all communication went dark. Donnie and I made a trip to Antigua to find try and find him. To find out why his letters stopped and what had become of him. With the help of John Fuller, Antigua’s prosecuting attorney, I found him. He had served his 15-year sentence and was back on Barbuda. When we were reunited he introduced me all around the island as “his family.” I saw that even though he was a believer and I had forgiven him, he was still somewhat of an outcast because of the crimes he had committed. The people on Antigua and his home island of Barbuda simply could not believe that my forgiveness would lead me to come and visit him again and become adopted as family. All of Antigua and Barbuda was amazed by our story.
By Bonnie Floyd
Creative Enterprises Studio, Publisher