The 700 Club with Pat Robertson

Doug Herman
(Baker Books, 2003)

AIDS Widower Finds Strength to Forgive

By Julie Blim
The 700 Club "I'm thinking, We didn't deserve this. We didn't do anything wrong!" Doug Herman explains.

Doug and Evon Herman were young, in love, and thrilled about the birth of their first child. But during the delivery, there was a small complication.

"When she delivered Josh," Doug recalls, "she hemorrhaged a bit. We thought nothing of it, [thought it was] normal. So she got a couple of units of blood. A year and a half later, that's when we found out that one of the two units of blood that she got was infected with HIV.

Evon and Ashli"I remember thinking to myself, 'You must have the wrong family. We're the Herman family…from Hickville, Nebraska! We've never chosen high-risk activity, never been unfaithful in our marriage, never done anything like this, never used drugs. So why? Why us?' And on top of it all, I was Rev. Doug Herman."

In the months after the diagnosis, the Hermans conceived a second child. Within six months of Ashli's birth, she was diagnosed with AIDS, too. Doug shut down.

"I kind of went into a type of denial," he says. "I wish I could say it was faith. It was the type of deal where I didn't want to deal with the reality of what might happen in the future, outside of a miracle from God.

"I remember it was confirmed that Ashli was an AIDS baby. At the same time Evon began to get really sick, my little brother had leukemia. I couldn't believe this was happening. God was not doing His job. I had done everything I could to see miracles take place, healing crusades, and God was not fixing this."

Ashli continued to get sicker, and so did Evon. Doug was exhausted from caring for them both.

Says Doug, "My heart was about to explode, and I finally remembered, Who was it who hung on the cross by three nails? Psalm 22 says, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' Even Jesus asked why. I screamed, 'Why?! Why the hurt? Why the pain? I thought You were my Father. I thought You loved us. Why my daughter? Why my wife?' I heard nothing. I wanted an audible voice -- Job got one.

"In the midst of this," continues Doug, "our church in the Colorado area asked Evon and I to leave because of the HIV infection. They said, 'It would be better for you, Evon, for everybody involved, if you just weren't here.' "

So the family moved on. Evon coped by comforting others. In December 1990, she appeared on The 700 Club.

Terry Meeuwsen asked Evon on that episode of The 700 Club, "Are you not angry? How are you coping with all of this?"

Evon responded, "I'm not angry with God. I guess I have questions, and I have to go to My Heavenly Father as a child and say, 'I don't understand why all of this is happening, but I trust You.' "

But by Christmas of that year, Evon and Ashli were back in the hospital. Then on January 4, 1991, Ashli was dying.

"She was on life support," Doug recalls. "I had to shut the machines off on my little daughter. She was 26 months old."

Knowing that Ashli's death was coming hadn't made it any easier. When Doug returned to his job as a high school coach, the school staff had an idea.

Doug recalls them saying to him, "We would love for you to share with our teenagers your story." So Doug began sharing from his life. "That is when it began -- right here in Littleton, Colorado, the home of the Columbine shootings," he says. "God birthed a new story and a new ministry."

But Doug's dark days were not over yet.

"Eight months later, Evon, now 27 years old, months from turning 28, her body now ravaged with other infections and pneumonia, and I had to shut life support off for her as well," he says.

In the months after his wife's death, Doug bottomed out emotionally and spiritually.

"I was deeply dry, more dry than I had ever been in my life," he says. "I never prayed. I refused to read the Bible."

His only reason to live now was his son, Josh. The turning point in Doug's life came when he took him to the doctor's office for a shot.

"I could see in his eyes the same hurt, fear, disappointment that I had expressed three months earlier. Daddy, why? Why the hurt, the pain? I thought we were going for a ride. I thought you loved me. Why? I didn't do anything wrong. Why are you holding me down? I'm afraid. For the first time in three months God whispered to my heart, 'It's the same with You and me.' "

Doug teachingDoug says it was a full year before he could function normally, and it was two before he felt like himself. He threw himself into his new speaking career, a career that now puts him in front of 250,000 teens and adults each year.

"The sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s offered free love and free sex. But it wasn't free. Somebody had to pay the price, and your generation is having to pay the price," Doug earnestly tells teens.

That passion-turned-career couldn't be more relevant in today's world, Doug says.

"We're talking about the healthiest way to not get an infection, to not get pregnant, to not break up after being sexually involved and then be so depressed you want to kill yourself," he says. "We lost 13 teens here in our neighborhood in Columbine and the world stopped. What about the thousands who are dying every year from STDs?"

Speaking before a crowd of teenage women, Doug tells the awful truth.

"Girls, did you know that if you get chlamydia once, you reduce your chances of having a baby by 25 percent? Two times and you're 50 percent less likely to be a Mom. Three times -- even though you never knew you had it -- and you lose your choice to become a parent."

But as important as Doug's message is to teens, there is an even greater message that God has been speaking directly to Doug.

"God challenged me, 'Doug, I want you to forgive that church. Doug, I want you to forgive that donor.' I didn't want to forgive him! I'm like, 'Why? He's dead. What good's it going to do him?' God revealed to me that forgiveness doesn't help him, and it didn't help that church, but that 'Doug, forgiveness releases you.' "

Doug continues, "There's a reason why He, with, I believe, tears streaming down His face, because He relates to us in our pain, says, 'I am good. I know it doesn't seem like that now, but if you trust Me, you'll see how good I truly am.' "

Has Doug found that reason?

Doug and Stephanie"I think so," he says. "I live in the mystery of God's blessing today. I have remarried -- my wife Stephanie. And we have two kids in this marriage now."

Adds Stephanie, "Doug is who he is and the man that I love because of the experiences he shared with Evon and Ashli and Joshua. I embrace that in him. I don't feel threatened by it."

So can someone fully heal from immeasurable pain? Can someone fully function and love and live again?

"There are still scars inside of my heart, in my soul. They'll always be there," he says. "But I don't mind scars. They only show us where we've been. They don't determine tomorrow. God has healed those, and that's the power of all our stories, that God heals us from our pasts and sets us on a new path."

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