In the United States of America, the month of February is Black History Month. It is a time to remember the achievements of men and women of color made throughout the history of this country. From a time of slavery to a time of freedom that did not really feel all that free, to a movement that would change the nation forever, men and women of color have played key roles in making a better quality of life for all mankind.
In 1797, in Ulster County, New York, Isabella Baumfree was born to Elizabeth and James Baumfree, slaves to Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh. Isabella was one of 13 children. Isabella grew up speaking only Dutch until the age of nine, when she was sold to a new master, John Neely. John and his family only spoke English and frequently beat Isabella because of miscommunications. It was during her time with John that Isabella began her spiritual journey. Religion turned into her refuge. Isabella would have conversations with God in the woods and took to praying aloud during times of hardship. Isabella was sold twice more, eventually ending up as a slave to John Dumont of West Park, New York.
Isabella would later describe her treatment at the hands of John Dumont as “cruel and harsh.” No reason is given for this description, leading many historians to believe that she was sexually abused and harassed. In 1815, Isabella fell in love with a slave from another farm named Robert. The two had a daughter together, however, Robert’s master forbade the relationship and the two never saw each other again. Dumont then forced Isabella to marry an older slave named Thomas. Together, they had four children, one of which died.
In 1799, New York began negotiations to abolish slavery. The emancipation date was set for July 4, 1827. Dumont made a deal with Isabella; “if she would do well and be faithful,” he would release her one year before emancipation went into effect. Dumont did not hold up his end of the deal, claiming a hand injury made Isabella unproductive. Isabella continued working for him until she felt she had satisfied her obligation to him, at which point she left with her infant daughter. She explained, “I did not run off, for I thought that wicked, but I walked off, believing that to be all right.”
Life remained hard for Isabella. She was given refuge at the house of Isaac and Maria Van Wagenen, who defended her from Dumont when he tried to bring her back. Shortly thereafter, Isabella learned that her five-year-old son, Peter, had been illegally sold to a farmer in Alabama. With the help of Quaker activists, Isabella was able to go to court and have Peter returned to her. This was one of the first times in which a black woman successfully challenged a white man in a United States court.
What does receiving a personal letter mean to you? How does it make you feel? When we look at a return address and realize that the letter is from a friend, we feel loved. We cannot wait cherish every word in the message held inside! In today’s fast-paced world, letter writing is quickly becoming a thing of the past, yet for some, the men and women on death row, it is the only way they can communicate with the world. Since March 8, 2005, The Forgiveness Foundation Christian Ministries has strived to give the over 3,000 men and women on death row the same feeling that you have when you receive a letter; loved. Our letters carry more than just the love of every member of The Forgiveness Foundation Christian Ministries’ team, which include the individuals (like you!) who help finance the letter writing ministry. Our letters also, and more importantly, carry the love of Jesus Christ! In each letter, we share how much Jesus loves them. He has already paid the debt of their sin, the debt of the murders for which they are convicted. We share with them that Jesus has freely paid that price, and that they are forgiven! They must only accept Jesus Christ’s forgiveness, making Him Lord of their lives! The Forgiveness Foundation Christian Ministries works toward honoring the “Great Commission,” with our mail ministry to the men and women on death row. View our donations page to discover how you can help The Forgiveness Foundation Christian Ministries minister to the men and women on death row.
Did Abraham always know he was going to father a nation? Did David always know he was going to be king? Did Jonah always know he was going to be a prophet for the Lord? Did Esther know that her being queen was going to save the Jews from extinction? God had plans for each of their lives - and yours! Like Abraham, David, Jonah, Esther, we may not know the plans the Lord has for us, but He has one!
In the Old Testament, God spoke to reveal His word and His plans to His chosen. How does God speak to us today? From the scriptures! We can only learn to hear Him through study of His word! Let us help you in your study! Every year, we at The Forgiveness Foundation Christian Ministries, invite you to participate in our “52 Week Bible Reading Plan” (available here). By using this plan, you will, within one year, have completely read through the entire Bible! No matter if this is your first time - or one-hundredth time! - reading through the Bible, a daily study is the only way to hear God’s word!
Diligent study of God’s word does not end upon reading the Bible. As with any subject of study, once you have grasped the basics, you dig deeper and increase your learning! In addition to a brief commentary on each day’s reading, we also provide focus verses for each day. After reading the through the day’s passages, go back and re-read the focus verses. Contemplate on the questions asked. What questions does the text pose for you? Check back to our website, www.theforgivenessfoundation.org, for each day’s reading. If you miss a day, past commentary can be found under our “Scriptures” tab.
Additional, we provide a weekly verse or verses for study. Consider this passage each day as well. Pray, meditate, and reflect each day on the weekly verse or verses.
Our 2017 plan began on January 1, 2017, but it is never too late to join! The Bible is not a book to be read once, but a book to be read again and again (and again and again) - learning something new and gaining deeper understanding each time it is read! Join in our Bible study at any time and discover God’s plan for you!
In the United States of America, the month of February is Black History Month. It is a time to remember the achievements of men and women of color made throughout the history of this country. From a time of slavery to a time of freedom that did not really fell all that free, to a movement that would change the nation forever, men and women of color have played key roles in making a better quality of life for all mankind.
On February 14, 1790, a slave was born to Benjamin Chew, who was a wealthy merchant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The child, named Richard, and his family, were then sold to Stokeley Sturgis, a plantation owner in Delaware. The family was divided up when Sturgis faced monetary problems. Richard remained with Sturgis, along with an older brother and a sister. They continued to serve Sturgis, but also began attending meetings of the local Methodist Society, which welcomed all blacks, slaves and free men. Richard attended classes every week and taught himself to read and write. In 1782, Richard became licensed to preach.
Sturgis, who was a nonbeliever, encouraged Richard's and his family's attendance. Richard said he and his brother decided to "attend more faithfully to our master's business, so that it should not be said that religion made us worse servants." Sturgis, proud of his slaves, would boast to others "that religion made slaves better not worse." He also told Richard to "ask the preachers to come and preach at his house." During that meeting, the white preacher said that slave-owners were "weighed in the balance, and...found wanting." It was a life changing message.
Sturgis, after converting, "believed himself to be one of that number and, after that, he could not be satisfied to hold slaves, believing it wrong." In January of 1780, Sturgis told Richard that he could purchase his freedom for $2,000. Richard set out to earn the money. He worked for the Revolutionary forces to secure the money for his freedom, eventually taking the surname Allen to signify his status as a free man.
In 1786, Richard was finally able to purchase his freedom. After gaining his freedom, he began preaching to blacks and whites in Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Richard would travel, working only when he needed money. "My usual method was, when I would get bare of clothes, to stop travelling and go to work. My hands administered to my necessities," he explained. He would often work as a sawyer and a wagon driver. Richard said that he walked so many miles that his "feet became so sore and painful that I could scarcely be able to put them on the floor."
One day, while preaching near Philadelphia, Richard was approached by a Methodist elder to preach to the blacks who attended St. George's Methodist Church. The service took place at 5:00 am, so it would not interfere with the whites' service. Richard agreed and moved to Philadelphia, where he met his wife, Sarah, who was also born a slave, but had since been freed.
Updated: Monday, February 13, 2017 12:18 pm EST
Rolando Ruiz, Jr., is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CST, on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Forty-four-year-old Rolando is convicted of murdering 29-year-old Theresa Rodriguez on July 14, 1992, in San Antonio, Texas. Rolando has spent the last 21 years of his life on Texas’ death row.
As a child, Rolando was allegedly abused, which led him to be addicted to drugs and alcohol. Rolando also claims that because of his excessive use of drugs and alcohol, he has difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality. Rolando dropped out of school following the 10th grade. He worked as a laborer prior to his arrest. Rolando has previously been arrested and served time for assaulting his ex-girlfriend and stealing her vehicle. While in prison, he assaulted a jailer.
In 1992, Rolando Ruiz was hired by Michael and Mark Rodriguez to kill Michael’s wife, Theresa. Michael agreed to pay Ruiz $1,000 up front, with an additional $1,000 being paid once the job was completed. Prior to the hiring of Ruiz, Michael took out a $150,000 life insurance policy on his wife and himself, in addition to the $250,000 policy he already had.
Michael planned for Ruiz to rob and murder Theresa on July 10, 1992, when she arrived for work at a restaurant. Ruiz called off the attack when he spotted a security guard. Michael then asked Ruiz to kill Theresa when they were leaving the movies later that night. Michael and Theresa never showed up at the movies.
February 14, 2017
James Eugene Bigby is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm CDT, on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Sixty-one-year-old James is convicted of the murder of 26-year-old Michael Trekell, Michael’s 4-month-old son Jayson Kehler, Calvin Wesley Crane, and Frank “Bubba” Johnson, on December 23-24, 1987, in Tarrant County, Texas. James has spent the last 25 years of his life on Texas’ death row
James had a difficult upbringing. His mother allegedly drank while pregnant with him and breastfed him until the age of seven. James’ mother also gave away his siblings to be raised by other relatives. He grew up fearing that his mother would abandon him, as his father had. Additionally, his mother and siblings all suffer from mental health issues and have struggled to live successful lives. James had previously been hospitalized multiple times for schizo-affective disorder and depression. He had also received electroshock therapy during one of his stays. James had previously been arrested and served time for various robberies and a sexual assault charge. James dropped out of school following the ninth grade and worked at Frito-Lay prior to his arrest as an auto mechanic.
In late December 1987, James Bigby had a pending worker’s compensation claim against his employer, Frito-Lay. Bigby was paranoid that several of his friends were conspiring against him to thwart his claim. On December 23, 1987, Bigby bought two steaks and took them to the home of his friend, Michael Trekell, who also had a four-month-old son, Jayson, in Fort Worth, Texas. While Michael prepared the steaks, Bigby shot and killed him. Bigby then drowned Jayson in the sink.