John Rowland was born in a small town in Denbigh, North Wales in 1841. He was the firstborn of an immature eighteen-year-old barmaid, whose name was Elisabeth Parry. She deserted him when he was still an infant because of her inability to care for a baby. She would go on to have five more children between two, or some say three men. All but the last one was born out of wedlock. John never knew his father, whose identity remains uncertain. He was said to be a local solicitor or perhaps a farm laborer but was known to be an alcoholic.

John was brought up by his maternal grandfather, a retired butcher, who had a fatal heart attack when John was five, so, again John was left orphaned. John boarded with various people, whoever could afford him or wanted him. It was decided by those who had cared for him, that the best place for the eight-year-old was a workhouse named St. Asaph. During the eight-mile walk to the workhouse, John was told that he was going to live with an aunt, whom he had never met. When they arrived at the door of the workhouse, the bell was rung for admittance and an assistant came to the door. John was told that the one who had brought him disappeared because he had gone to buy some bread so he could eat. It was not until then that John recognized that he had been betrayed. He wrote later that he learned early in life that no one could be trusted.

John Rowland led a very interesting life. When he was 15, he was asked to leave the workhouse. He worked at various jobs, including load freight on a ship headed for America. It was then that he decided to be a stowaway on a ship headed for New Orleans. In New Orleans, he got a job for a man named Henry Stanley. Stanley went out of business, so John again was left to make his own way. He was recruited into the Civil War and when asked to give his name, he stole the name of the man he had worked for in New Orleans, Henry Morton Stanley.

Stanley became a very interesting man. He loved to travel. He traveled through Turkey, the Arabic states, and Africa. He connected with The New York Herald, where he sold the articles he had written about his travels.

It was at this time that David Livingstone had taken his last trip into the interior of Africa. Stanley proposed to The New York Herald that they sponsor him to travel interior Africa to find Livingstone. Livingstone had been gone for 4 and a half years and no one knew if the brave missionary/ explorer was dead or alive. Thus, John Rowland, alias Henry Morton Stanley, found himself in Zanzibar, ready to go to the interior to find the missionary. He got to Lake Tanganyika and was told there was a European at Ujji on the shore of the lake. Thus, the orphan, John Rowland: neglected, betrayed, and totally left alone to live or die, becomes the Henry Morton Stanley who finds Livingstone and says to him “Doctor Livingstone I presume?”

Betrayal. John Rowland, betrayed by a friend who told him he was going to an aunt to live, finds himself destitute at a workhouse, not knowing his mother or father.

The first person in the Bible that comes to my mind is Judas. His betrayal of Jesus, into the hands of the Jewish and Roman authorities who will kill him, is unprecedented. I can understand why after this dastardly deed, Judas hangs himself. It is hard for the betrayer to live with his own conscience, knowing that they just drove a sword into the heart of someone who had trusted him. I ponder over what went through Judas’ mind when he took the 30 pieces of silver back to the High Priest and says, “I have just betrayed an innocent man” and throws the coins and they roll across the floor.

In the Old Testament, the story of Joseph comes to mind. He innocently is taking lunch to his brothers, but as they see the younger “kid” coming, they ponder death. They debate how this will be done. They finally settle for money from a traveling Caravan and Joseph is betrayed by his own brothers to a life of slavery in a foreign country. Yet, he so gracefully forgives them later when he says, “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

We have all read the history of Benedict Arnold. Arnold led the West Point Military Academy. A fellow officer was promoted over him, and it became an issue he could not get over. He would get even by betraying secret American information to the British. He was apprehended in New York City. The information was found in the heel of his left boot, information that would betray America to the British.

There are many people whom we meet in our journey through life who have suffered the consequences of betrayal. Perhaps by a parent, a mate, a business partner. Perhaps money was involved, or personal information not meant for all people was used against you by other people. Betrayal is hard to overcome. The weakness that you held secretly in your life but dared trust to a friend, is now seen and criticized by people who do not even know you. Betrayal brings shame, or anger and affects my self-confidence. Now look into the eyes of people and ask, “how much about me do you know?”

Can we understand that Jesus understands this issue more than anyone else? Jesus was betrayed. He was betrayed by a very close friend, who had been with Him for years. How could he do this? Jealousy? Anger? The betrayer suffered to the point of death.

Forgiveness. How do I forgive someone who has betrayed me? John Rowland, alias Henry Morton Stanley, said that his betrayal affected him for the rest of his life. Rather than live with this emotion, let Jesus into this area of your life and allow his love and the security he gives, to bring trust and security back into your life.

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