For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.
– 2 Timothy 1:5 (NAU)
On December 20, 1881, Wesley Branch Rickey was born to Jacob and Emily Rickey. Wesley was given his first name after the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. His middle name was taken from Isaiah 11:1, “A shoot will spring up from the stump of Jesse and a ‘branch’ from its roots will bear fruit.”
Wesley owed his spiritual guidance to his mother Emily, who taught him story after story from Scripture before he could read. Emily had an abiding belief that her son was capable of achieving great things for God, not only for himself but also for his community.
Wesley embraced his mother’s faith. As an athlete he refused to play sports and manage his baseball team, the St. Louis Browns, on Sundays. In fact, the Sporting News, a local paper, wrote this about Wesley:
Branch Rickey is a funny cuss
though cussin’ he forbids.
His rules have started quite a fuss,
among his Brownie kids.
When Sunday comes, he leaves his team,
completely in a lurch.
And Jimmy Austin rules supreme,
while Branch bikes off to church.
It is exactly because of Wesley’s faith that Major League Baseball has changed its stance on players of color. He is responsible for Jackie Robinson becoming the first African American to play in the major leagues. Jackie Robinson said, “As I said before, I am not one of the big people in terms of faith. But I would have to be pretty stupid, very unintelligent, and certainly ungrateful not to have some of the faith of my mother and Mr. Rickey rub off on me.”
As an African American who grew up respecting the faith, ability, and endurance of Jackie Robinson, I celebrate what God did through his life. However, there’s more behind the story than just Jackie Robinson. There was another man of faith named, Wesley Branch Rickey, and his mother, Emily, who instilled a strong faith in her son.
Often we wonder if we are making a difference for the Lord. It may not seem like it at the moment. But that is because our impact may not be realized in our generation. What we do today may not have an impact for years. But remain faithful—God is doing a great work in and through you. Just ask Emily Rickey.
This story was taken from “Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography; The faith of a ground breaking hero.” Authors: Michael G. Long and Chris Lamb. WJK Press 2017.