By Paige K Slighter
“Over the past year, my wife and I have been incredibly blessed by watching the Woodland Hills Sunday podcasts.”
Rob is a podrishioner from the UK. He got connected to Woodland a few years ago when a friend suggested listening to our messages online. More recently, he was particularly touched by Greg’s lament at the beginning of our friendship sermon series, remembering the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Greg reminded us that marking the tragedy of that day includes remembering and mourning the young men who committed the atrocities and grieving the fact that they were deceived into believing in the lie of such terrible violence. But Rob’s connection to the anniversary was very personal: his dad was one of the 67 British people killed in the events of that day.
On September 11, 2001, Rob’s dad was working on the 99th floor of the World Trade Center in the south tower. Rob was working in HR for a large pharmaceutical company in the UK, and he said, “We were kind of cocooned in our office, so we didn’t know what was going on in the outside world.” Rob didn’t find out about the attacks until his brother called and asked if he’d seen what was happening in America. Rob left work immediately and ran across the street to a department store full of TVs. He got there just in time to see the south tower fall. He said, “Like so many people that day, we didn’t know if dad was in the office or if he’d gotten out safely. There was a lot of confusion, and it was all pretty surreal.” Eventually, Rob received the heartbreaking news that his father had been killed.
The next day, Rob needed some space to process, so he visited a cathedral nearby. During the Second World War, Coventry Cathedral was destroyed by bombs. Rob said, “All that’s left now is the shell with a spire, standing next to a new building. It’s a special place, a center of reconciliation. At the front of the ruins is a cross made of burnt roof timbers that the provost set up after the bombing. Behind the cross are the words ‘Father Forgive.’”
When Rob saw these words, he thought, “Really? You want me to forgive?” He said, “As a Christian, it’s sometimes so easy to trip on things like forgive your enemies, pray for your persecutors, turn the other cheek. When the rubber hits the road, how do I deal with that?”
At that point, Rob had been a Christian for around ten years and was a leader in his church. He wondered, “Do I really believe this stuff? Do I believe that God’s love is bigger than the mess, the pain, the hatred, the darkness, the evil that we see in the world?” But, somehow, deep down, he knew he still had faith.
A few months later, he quit his job and decided to make a difference with music. He said, “I decided that music was the one thing I had that I could use to make a difference in this horrific story.” Songwriting and performance had previously been a hobby for him. He’d learned to play guitar at a young age when a car accident left him in the hospital for six months. From there, he’d been involved in the music scene at church, formed several bands with friends and recorded various albums. But now, he wanted it to be more than that. He recognized the power of connection through songwriting and storytelling, so he decided that would be his vehicle to show that God’s love is bigger than tragedy. He used the themes of reconciliation and forgiveness to engage with listeners.
In 2004, when a huge tsunami hit Southeast Asia, Rob used his music to help raise funds for the victims. From there, he got involved with Global Care, a charity that works with vulnerable children across the world. He said, “I’ve been to Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Syria to learn these children’s stories and speak out for the ones who have no voice.”
Overall, Rob wanted to share his story with us as a source of encouragement. He said, “What WH stands for – the Kingdom, loving one another, demonstrating that love and vastness of God’s heart to the world around you – is so incredibly important. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the mountain of evil, but love is bigger.”
We are greatly encouraged by Rob’s testimony and blessed to have him and his wife in our podrishioner community. God’s love is absolutely bigger than the evil of this world, and forgiveness is central to his character!