Romans 5:4 – And endurance produces character, and character produces hope (NRSV)
I recently learned how the spectacular Newfoundland fjord, Bay d'Espoir — once pronounced Bay Despair — was named in the 1600s by French fishermen, Bay of Hope.
As I researched the history of this beautiful region, I discovered that a relative, Joseph Pitts had sailed nearby. In the fall of 1678 at the age of fifteen, Joseph was captured by Algerian pirates along with his crew of English fishermen off Newfoundland and was sold into slavery in North Africa, eventually escaping fifteen years later. The story of his slavery (a practice which affected thousands of Europeans in Algeria) and his 700-mile winter walk to freedom through Germany was published in 1703, and retold in 1908 by Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, the writer who composed the words of Onward! Christian Soldiers.
Through the Daily devotional, I learn that much reconciliation is going on between peoples affected by slavery on both sides of the Atlantic. Within my family, my nieces, who enjoy the freedom of Canada, are related to Joseph Pitts, the English slave in Africa, and to Africans kidnapped and forced into slavery in Jamaica, an oppression that affected millions of human beings. Somehow despite the horrific indignity and injustice endured on opposite sides of the Atlantic, those individuals — like Paul writing to the Romans — learned that endurance produces character, and character produces hope. We are all the product of the hope that through the Holy Spirit refuses to surrender to injustice, that knows the true meaning of the Bay of Hope.
How precious our freedom is when we realize what others have achieved to gain that freedom. Today, less obvious forces of oppression are still at work. We are called to be diligent in our efforts to free the slaves of all injustice wherever they are, to use the strength we receive as a gift of God to gain their freedom.
Prayer: Lord, we give thanks for the freedom, strength and hope we find in your Holy Spirit. Use our lives to reconcile past hurt that we and others may bear, and to actively resist the injustices that deprive individuals of freedom. Make us one in hope. Amen.