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Walking The Road To Forgiveness

January 22, 2014, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Walking The Road To Forgiveness
BRITTON, SD -

It's a story covering frustration, forgiveness and plenty in between.

More than four years ago a driver hit David Christenson as he was walking on a Britton street. That driver drove away and still hasn't come forward to claim responsibility for Christenson's injuries.

"It's still a matter of disappointment that it all happened and nobody's come forward," Christenson said.

Unanswered questions still linger, but Christenson doesn't want his mind stuck on the hit-and-run forever.

"Every day is a challenge just like for anybody else but sometimes you just have to recognize the fact that you need to move forward," Christenson said.

For Christenson that means moving forward from November 2009 when he finished dining out with family and started walking home. Close to a half hour later, a passerby reported a man lying in the street.

Investigators say a vehicle hit Christenson from behind. The driver didn't stop to help. Instead it may have been more than 20 minutes before someone found him.

Christenson's family didn't know whether he'd survive as emergency responders rushed him to the local emergency room and then to a Fargo hospital.

His recovery since that night has been gradual. We spoke with him and his wife Gretchen a year after the crash. Christenson was back to work by then. Some breaks and fractures had healed. But he'll tell you now, he still needed to work through a lot of things.

"It was something that took a long time and I was unable to do it on my own," Christenson said.

A little less than a year ago, more than three years after the hit-and-run, Christenson was at a weekly Bible study with Pastor Kevin Koop and others. He brought a folder with pictures of himself lying on the street after he’d been hit, but he left the folder in his vehicle.

The group started discussing the topic of forgiveness and Koop says Christenson left the room and came back with a folder.

“It was really a powerful moment when he opened it up and said, ‘You know I've been holding onto this for a few years now, these pictures. And they're pictures of me after the accident where I'm laying in a pool of blood,'" Koop said.

"I told them, ‘I am failing at being able to move forward, to forgive,’ and I was asking for their help. So all of us there that morning, we prayed together and it was a very powerful moment," Christenson said.

It was also an important moment for Christenson, who says bitterness and holding a grudge would only have caused more harm to him.

He wants others to learn through his experiences.

As he recovered from the hit-and-run, he marked the stages of his recovery on Facebook. After family and friends encouraged him to write a book, he decided to compile the notes he'd written over four years and publish them.

He says you'll find spelling errors and improper grammar in the book because he took the posts from Facebook exactly as he had written them when he was recovering from his head injury.

"I started making notes to change that. Then I realized- ‘no, I want people to realize how I was functioning through the whole process,’" Christenson said.

He also wants people to know what it took to get from where he was, to where he is today. He says family, friends and faith were key factors in his road to forgiveness. He also hopes his book will challenge readers.

"I want to make them think about anything and everything. Whether it's their faith, how they're dealing with their friends and neighbors or people they don't really care for, don't like, I want to make them think," Christenson said.

The book takes readers back to a Britton street in 2009, but Christenson says it's important for him to move beyond it.

Christenson says he's very appreciative of the emergency responders who helped save his life after the crash. He's donating a portion of the book's proceeds to a campaign which will fund a new ambulance garage.

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