On December 22, 1986, SueZann Bosler and her father, Rev. Billy Bosler, were attacked in the church parsonage by an intruder. Rev. Bosler was stabbed 24 times. SueZann, in an effort to help him, was herself stabbed in the back and head and left for dead. While lying on the floor pretending to be dead, she heard the intruder ransack the house as she watched her father take his last breath.
As a Brethren minister, Rev. Bosler had been an opponent of capital punishment, and had once told SueZann that if he was ever murdered he would not want his killer to receive the death penalty.
On her father's behalf, SueZann worked for 10 1/2 years to spare the life of his murderer, James Bernard Campbell. She voiced her opposition to the death penalty throughout three trials and two sentencings. Her efforts put her at stark odds with Florida prosecutors and judges, who at one point threatened her with contempt of court if she revealed her views to the jury considering Campbell's fate.
"Being able to point to him and express my forgiveness, was like having a weight lifted from my shoulders," she recalls.
SueZann devoted many years to seeking commutation of Campbell's death sentence. On June 13, 1996, her efforts were successful and his sentence was commuted to three consecutive life terms.
I met SueZann when we were guests on the Oprah Winfrey Show. It was a segment called “Forgiving the Unforgivable. We were in the second set and when it opened I was between Oprah and SueZann. Oprah introduced us to the audience and SueZann told her story. I was amazed as she told it, it was extremely powerful. When it was time for me to tell my story, I almost forgot that I had one.
After the program my cousin Judi and I were able to have lunch with SueZann and do a little shopping before she flew back to Florida.
We were reunited on the 1993 Indiana Journey of Hope through the efforts of Bob Gross who organized that inaugural Journey. That is also where she met Marietta Jaeger. In 1994 Marietta’s, SueZann’s and my story were the focus for the Discovery Channel’s documentary "From Fury to Forgiveness" narrated by Susan Sarandon. In 1997 SueZann, Marietta, George White and Sam Reese Sheppard joined me in the founding of Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing as a nonprofit organization.
Not only is SueZann Bosler a Cofounder of the Journey of Hope, but after a short hiatus SueZann returned to the Board of Directors several years ago. SueZann has traveled internationally on behalf of the Journey and is often a guest speaker for the Church of the Brethren's program "On Earth Peace”.
The First United Methodist Church Foundation of Anchorage, Alaska awarded the Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing $2,500 for the 2014 African Journey of Hope. In 2013 the FUMC Foundation gave $1,000 for the Journey’s World Day Against the Death Penalty Tour in Indiana. The Pastor of FUMC, Reverend Ronald Myers is a great personal support, for me and for the vision of the Journey’s mission. He, along with other members of First United Methodist Church, knows the power of the Journey’s message of love and compassion for all of humanity.
Upon hearing the news of the award I told Pastor Ron about SueZann. He has met different people from the Journey but not her. I told him SueZann’s story. Ron has two young daughters not far from SueZann’s age at the time her father, a fellow minister, was murdered. I know he was touched by her story. I told him SueZann wanted to go to Africa and that the award would go for her travel to Kenya and Uganda.
He was touched, and pleased.
SueZann was, and remains elated.
SueZann is the first, of what we hope to be 8 more, to be able to join Curtis, Randy, Babu Bill and yours truly for the Africa Team of 13. George White and I have always called her Little Sister. It has stuck and she will always be our Little Sister. Not sure if she will go along with the Papa Bill tag or not. It might just stay at big brother.
I asked SueZann about her thoughts on going to Africa.
She told me she has been interested in going to Africa, ever since meeting Edward Mpagi and Ronald Katongole on the Indiana Journey of Hope last year. She told me that she had secretly wished that at some point in time she could go to Uganda and be involved in helping in any way she could. She loves the incredible work they are doing. She also recently reviewed some video of our visit to Edwards’s school in 2011 that is provided by Kathy Chism’s Dream One World. http://dreamoneworld.org/ Kathy started the Uganda School Project and helped Edward build his school.
SueZann wrote this:
“The images of those beautiful smiling faces I saw on the video was the final straw.”
“At first I was excited in sharing what I have experienced; my story, a message of forgiveness and my convictions in which have been strengthened by working with other “victim survivors” in addition to what I have learned about life, humanity, compassion and forgiveness. I quickly realized that I would not be just sharing/educating the Ugandans they will be sharing/teaching me about life, humanity, compassion and forgiveness.”
“I not only wantto be there to reunite with old friends/colleagues I am eager to meet new allies. I personally want to be there to expand my inner passion of restoring humanity to those not only on death row, but victims (families & friends) on both sides. To merge worldwide organizations working together (strength sometimes comes in numbers), share our resources, to move toward something we all have in common, Our Universal Goal, to abolish the death penalty, violence, brutality and torture. We are coming closer to renewing life and hope, to those whose souls are being damaged, belief system broken-down, and hope trampled upon, and life taken with a stroke of a pen.”
“I will be taking home a heart full of unconditional love, promise and compassion, with help of the humble spirits of Uganda, who will rejuvenate my faith in humankind.”
“I already want to thank them for giving us the chance to be involved and empowered with Be the Change and Dream One World , we are truly blessed in assisting this to come true. “
“I am so honored that the First United Methodist Church Foundation of Anchorage has awarded this Africa grant to the Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing to help sow the seeds of love and compassion for all of humanity.”
As I stated once before, a friend asked me to write how the African team of 13 came to be. I think this is one that needs no further explanation although there are many more reasons I could give.
SueZann is a hairdresser. If you live in the Fort Lauderdale area contact her through Facebook if you need a do
SueZann is the fifth member of the team to be introduced. Terri Steinberg is next. Then we will be half way there.
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