The World’s First Baptist Missionary
The Unpaid Labor Project is dedicated to acknowledging the collective contribution of 12.5 million African American slaves (Unpaid Laborers). For two and one half centuries they were vital to the birth, growth and survival of the United States. But every now and then an individual looms so large that we must pause to honor them. On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation (October 31, 2017) we pause to honor George Liele. He was born into slavery in 1750. He was freed just before the Revolutionary War began in 1775. He died in 1820.
George Liele was the first Protestant missionary from America. “He was the first Baptist to leave his homeland and take the Gospel to foreign soil.” We learn about Liele from a book written by Danny Akin. The title of the book is Ten Who Changed the World. Liele left America to take the Gospel to Jamaica in 1782. That was ten years before William Carey left England to take the Gospel to India in 1792. That was thirty years before Adoniram Judson left America to take the Gospel to Burma in 1812. That was one year before the Revolutionary War ended in 1783. The Gospel is the message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world.
Carey and Judson are towering figures in the Protestant Christian community deserving all of the credit they receive. But it was around 1964 before scholars would note that Liele was first among these heroes of the faith. And what makes Liele so remarkable is that he accomplished his feat an emancipated slave. Professor E.A. Holmes noted the following in an essay on Liele: “Though supported by no church or denominational agency, (Liele) became the first Protestant missionary to go out from America to establish a foreign mission, ten years before William Carey set out from England.”
As our nation considers giants of history that left our shores to impact the world remember George Liele. The political, social, military, and economic history of America rests upon the foundation of those first 12 generations of African Americans. Our religious history is no exception.
Photo Credit: Jude 3 Project