As Christians, we tend to think that those who give their lives for the sake of missions are extraordinary individuals. We should not minimize their efforts, but we should recognize that those men and women are simply following Jesus’s words in Matthew 28:19 to “go and make disciples…” Before we go any further, let’s define the word missions. Missions is the intentional advancement of the gospel across cultural lines. Crossing those lines naturally happens when you go to a different country, but it can also happen in your neighborhood or city.
Through a series of “Missionary Spotlights,” we’ll highlight individuals from history who crossed cultural lines, but we’ll also share updates from mission partners that Restoration Church supports.
Our first Missionary Spotlight is one of my favorite stories about the advancement of the gospel. In 1782, George Liele landed in Kingston, Jamaica with the intention of proclaiming the gospel across the island, a great feat in itself. But Liele’s story is unique.
George Liele was born in Virginia but was taken to Georgia where he worked as a slave. In 1773, Liele trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. He was baptized shortly after and began preaching the gospel in the slave quarters of the plantations. Liele was ordained in 1775 becoming the first ordained African American preacher in America. Eventually his owner, a Baptist deacon, would free Liele so he could go share the gospel.
Henry Sharp, Liele’s former slaveholder, was killed during the Revolutionary War. Following his death, the family had George arrested and attempted to enslave him. After producing the proper paperwork, Liele was released from jail and was befriended by Moses Kirkland. Kirkland was a colonel in the British army and would eventually help pay for Liele’s passage to Jamaica, which was a British colony at the time.
During his ministry on the island, Liele engaged people with the gospel and saw many trust Christ. He held public baptism services every three months. Eventually a strong, healthy church was planted in Kingston. George Liele would die in 1828 after 46 years in Jamaica. As a testament to the God that he served, the life that he lived, and the ministry that he led, just four years after Liele’s death there were an estimated 20,000 believers in Jamaica.
What an impact!!! George Liele was the first Baptist missionary sent from America, but he wasn’t the only one. Over the years, there have been thousands of men and women who have taken the gospel to the nations. Maybe you are the next one.