The blurb on the back says this autobiography will “both shock and inspire you,” and it did. Robert Sadler survived the poverty and brutality of his early life, safely navigated the ugly Jim Crow years, and went on to become a faithful evangelist who ministered to thousands with the Gospel and a helping hand.
Sadler went from being a fearful little boy so terrorized he couldn’t even pronounce his own name, to a truly and completely emancipated man of tremendous faith. Near the end of the book, as a preface for a summary of several of the most amazing experiences of prayers answered and the Spirit’s leading, he paraphrases John 21:25:
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
This is my favorite of the stories Sadler shares: Once, while making a trip Robert sensed the Holy Spirit telling him to exit the highway. He obeyed, but the road came to a dead end at the edge of a swamp and dark woods. His passenger thought he was crazy, but Sadler took off into the woods and went straight to a run-down shack where a poor family was sick and half starved. He stayed with them for a couple of weeks, telling them about Jesus’ love and then demonstrating it by nursing them back to health and sharing the food and supplies they carried in their car (including the first toys the six children had ever seen). In complete humility, Sadler did everything from giving haircuts and clipping toenails to repairing the roof. My faith was strengthened and my soul was stirred to read this and other examples of God’s work in and through Robert Sadler.
The shocking part of this inspiring autobiography is that this evangelist used by God was once a slave—in the 20th century! The naïve idea I had that the war ended the horrors of slavery has now been forever dispelled. Robert Sadler was born in 1911, well after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War, and even Reconstruction. And yet, in 1916, Sadler’s alcoholic father sold him and two of his sisters to a South Carolina planter where they endured all the degradation and abuse of that “peculiar institution,” despite slavery being illegal. And his owner wasn’t the only slaveholder in the area.
Robert Sadler’s autobiography should be read for its uplifting and inspiring message. But it should also be read because the truth should always be told, no matter how painful it is to hear it. Robert Sadler and the other latter day slaves deserve to have the story of their suffering heard.
My friend Dana recommended this book to me when she heard I was doing research on the slave experience for book three in my Time and Again series. I am so glad I took her advice and added it to my stack of resources.
Deborah Heal wrote this review Sunday, September 16, 2012.