Today, I was looking for something out of the ordinary to do and I ended up traveling to Harriet Tubman’s Home in Auburn, NY. It was a perfect weekend for it, with Juneteenth approaching. I knew from school that she had been involved in the Underground Railroad, but I didn’t really know much about her. I definitely gained new respect for her, and the Underground Railroad.
I learned that she was born as a slave in Maryland where she saw 3 of her sisters sold to the cotton plantations in the south when she was young and never saw them again. She worked hard as a slave, even working extra in her “free time” to save enough to buy her freedom. Unfortunately, when she had almost saved enough money her owner died. The new owner was going to sell her south, away from her family, at which point she decided to escape. She did, and as soon as she was relatively safe she began making plans return for her family.
This is the part that I had not really considered. As a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad she trekked hundreds of miles with nearly no resources. She escorted the young and old, men and women all to safety. She was a great navigator, traveling mostly by night. She actually preferred to travel in the winter, when days were shorter, so they could travel longer each night. I’m a fair weather hiker, I definitely wouldn’t choose to hike across Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York through the snow and cold of winter. The farthest I have ever hiked is 100 miles on the Appalachian Trail. It was a set trail with shelters along the way, and I had plenty of food to eat. I had very little fear of people, animals, or the elements. My trip was only a week long adventure and in that short time I was ready to be out of the woods. I can’t imagine what it was like for Harriet and the people she was leading. They were traveling for months, dealing with cold, limited food, limited water, and fear of capture. She made 13 trips, each time risking her life as she traveled through the wilderness. There is documentation of her rescuing over 70 people, but the true total number is probably in the hundreds.
Beyond this, Mrs. Tubman also served in the Union Army during the Civil War as a cook, nurse, scout, and spy. She even used her great navigational skills to lead a raid that freed more than 700 slaves. After the war and the emancipation she cared for the needy and started a “Home for the Aged”. She saw that many former slaves were getting old and had no one and no means to be cared for. Throughout her life she was continually giving of herself to serve those around her.
After visiting the Tubman home I traveled over to the Seneca Falls to learn about women’s rights and happened on a documentary about Josiah Henson. Mr. Henson was the inspiration Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Josiah also has a story of seeing and experiencing terrible atrocities but lived as a man of moral character. He actually transported a group of slaves from Maryland to Kentucky, passing through Cincinnati, which was free. He later said it was his biggest mistake, but he kept his promise and they finished the journey to Kentucky. He only considered running away after his owner almost sold him south and lied about the price to buy his freedom. When he escaped, he took his family with him, carrying his two youngest children on his back. Just like Harriett Tubman, Josiah risked his life making multiple return trips back to lead more slaves to freedom. Both of these individuals lived with impeccable morals and selflessness through deeply unfair situations. And both relied heavily on their Christian faith.
All of this led my thoughts back to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. If you have not read it, it is an excellent book that I highly recommend. When you read it, really think about what life was like for the slaves as well as the way the Bible was being miss interpreted. In the book I was amazed by the faith of the slaves and how they relied on God through all of the suffering and atrocities. I was even more amazed by how the slave owners used the Bible to justify their position. I can’t image the political uproar that this book created when it was published. This booked countered everything that was generally culturally accepted in the country.
The day has left me thinking about my faith and my political views. I wonder how I am miss interpreting the Bible due to our current cultural norms. Things are changing so much in our country and strong opinions are everywhere these days. I find myself trying to test these topics against the Bible to determine where I stand. I’m not going to get political here because that’s not my purpose, instead I want to leave you with this thought. Jesus’s most basic teaching is to love our neighbors and our neighbors are everyone. I encourage you to test your views against the Bible and do your best to love your neighbors.
Luke 10:25-37 (NIV)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”