In 1884, Henry Navarro owned 520 acres of prime farmland in Atascosa County, south of San Antonio. The census reported that Henry was the head of a 10-member household that included his wife, five children, a housekeeper with two children, cattle, hogs, oxen and a large amount of farming equipment.
It may surprise you to know that only 19 years earlier, Henry owned nothing! Henry was born and raised as a common slave, had no last name, and was illiterate. When Texas slaves were emancipated in 1865, Henry was suddenly on his own. While many of his peers fled to the refuge of big cities, Henry acquired 160 acres of land through a federal preemption grant. Through hard work and wise business dealings, Henry more than tripled his land holdings and increased his wealth.
You may have correctly assumed that Henry was a former slave of wealthy Texan José Antonio Navarro. José was one of the first signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, in early March, 1836, at Washington-on-the-Brazos. Later, he also signed the Constitution of the Republic of Texas.
When Henry was set free, Jose allowed him to use the Navarro name. Further, Jose and his wife Margarita de la Garza, served as godparents to Henry’s children. While the Navarro name may have provided an introduction, Henry had to earn everything that came his way.
Then, in 1884, Henry and his wife Patsy made a huge decision. As he entered his twentieth year of freedom. Henry donated an acre of good land to the Methodist Episcopal Church in Atascosa County. The land was to be used for a church, school, and cemetery.
If anyone knew the potential of a good acre of land, Henry did. He probably knew the exact size of crop an acre would yield. However, instead of more profit for his family, it was in his heart to honor God. Henry fulfilled Deuteronomy 15:10, “Give generously to Him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this, the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.”
Henry employed three key Biblical principles to accomplish his dreams. First, he made God the priority in his life. Psalm 127:1, “If the Lord does not build a house, they labor in vain.”
Second, he worked hard. Proverbs 13:4, “Lazy people always want things but never get them. Those who work hard get plenty.”
Third, he was a giver. Proverbs 11:24, “Some people give freely and gain more; others refuse to give and end up with less.”
Henry transformed from a slave into a servant of the most high God. When he died in July 1904, he left behind a powerful declaration of human ingenuity and esteemed industriousness. But more than that, Henry honored God with his life.
Will this be said of you?