It seemed like a silly thing to fight over, and 12-year-old Ava Rosenberg didn’t want to fight. But another 12-year-old girl at school kept insisting that Ava had stolen her pen.
“She claimed my pen was hers and that I had taken it,” Ava explains. “I think she was trying to start a fight. What scared me was when, a few days later, her older sister got involved.”
The two sisters were from a dysfunctional home. Their mother would take off periodically and leave the children in care of their alcoholic father, who also left them alone a lot. The older sister, age 15, was a gang member with a long criminal record. She threatened to harm Ava.
For two weeks the threats continued. One day Ava, concerned for her safety, asked for permission to stay in the classroom during lunch. That isn’t normally allowed, but the teacher made an exception.
“After a while, I asked if I could go to the drinking fountain,” Ava says. “As soon as I left the classroom, I saw a lot of people coming. They were saying, ‘She’s the girl!’ I tried to walk away from it, but the next thing I knew, I got kicked in the stomach and punched in the jaw. I fell down, and this girl was beating my head into the ground.”
Ava’s mother had come to the school to discuss the threats against her daughter. When she arrived, she found Ava in the office in a terrible state of shock—her face discolored, swollen, and bleeding, her jaw severely dislocated.
“We spent many hours at the hospital,” Sister Rosenberg says. “What followed was a nightmare of unsuccessful operations, culminating eventually in Ava receiving a bone graft from her lower jaw to her upper jaw, secured by a titanium plate and screws. As a result, her face was severely traumatized and she was in a great deal of pain.”
Ava finally came out of the hospital on a Saturday. The next day was fast Sunday, and during testimony meeting, Ava stood to speak. It was physically difficult to form the words, and tears filled her eyes. But Ava had something important to say. She asked the congregation to fast and pray—that the Lord would bless the girl who had done this to her.
“The scars from my injuries will heal,” Ava said. “But the girl who attacked me has deeper scars inside. I have a loving family and the gospel to get me through. She has neither. Pray for her. Pray that the missionaries can find her and teach her, so that she can turn from hate to love.”
Many in the congregation were moved by Ava’s example of forgiveness. To her, however, it was simply a matter of doing what the Savior taught. “We’re supposed to love our enemies,” she says matter-of-factly. “When I was in the hospital, I couldn’t speak because I was in so much pain. But I could think, and I remember thinking to myself, What would the Savior do?”
The attack on Ava took place in Darwin, Northern Territory, in June of 1991. The legal system is still dealing with the attacker. But since then, despite a lengthy time when Ava wasn’t allowed to go outside the house without an escort, despite continued gang threats against her family’s home and property, despite having to repeatedly fly more than 3,000 kilometers each way to Adelaide for surgeries, and despite lingering pain and a sometimes discouraging recovery, those who know Ava have never heard her say a single word against the girl who beat her.
The Rosenbergs now live in Kirwan, Queensland, where Ava is a happy, active Mia Maid in the Townsville Branch. “I will probably have a plate in my jaw all my life,” she says. “But it doesn’t matter because I know I will be healed in the celestial kingdom. I just hope and pray that my assailant will be healed too.”