Thank you for reading my blog during African American History Month as I highlighted some of my heroes. Tomorrow I will return to reflections from God’s Word. I hope that you have learned a lot and that the stories have been a blessing.
I know these people best – so I saved their story for the last day …
Lloyd and Jan Chinn are native to Texas. Lloyd from Edna, TX and Jan from Houston, TX. The Chinns met, married and their careers were rising when Lloyd sensed the Lord’s leading into ministry. Jan was working for Ernst & Young LLP in Private Client Services; Lloyd was working as a very successful political strategist in Houston, TX. In 1998, when Lloyd acknowledged his call to ministry the Lord spoke to the Chinn’s that May 15th would be Lloyd’s last day of secular work. The Chinn’s moved to Dallas that June where Lloyd attended Dallas Theological Seminary with a plan to return to their home church in Houston to engage in faith based community economic development. By now, Lloyd was in seminary full time and working for a local non-profit as an urban planner and Jan was working as Corporate Human Resources Manager for Rosewood Hotels and Resorts.
In 1999, Lloyd was invited to Ghana, West Africa on a short term mission. Lloyd and Jan had never even met a missionary and had no desire to enter into missionary service; they scarcely knew where Africa was – and had never heard of Ghana. Jan was resistant to Lloyd’s going; but God provided the funds for the journey and they took that as confirmation that Lloyd was to go. 5 days into Lloyd’s trip, he was asked to preach in the village of Pusupu – he had only preached twice before that and was nervous, but he preached from Ephesians 2 and about 10 people prayed to receive Christ! Lloyd was blown away. He returned to his room and while journaling about the day, God spoke to him clearly that Africa would be his context of ministry – it was May 15th – one year exactly from the day Lloyd left the secular work world. Lloyd returned to the USA and did not tell his wife about the call to Africa – but before the year’s end, Jan wanted to go and see Ghana. In 2000 they took all of their children and 22 other people to the same little town in Ghana – and on that trip, Jan’s experience opened her eyes to the need for discipleship in Ghana. Lloyd’s firm message to the African American church became: “Pray! Pay! or Pack!”
In 2002, Lloyd and Jan were appointed as long term missionaries with CBInternational (which is now WorldVenture) and were approved to open a new field of ministry in Ghana. Their mission agency was concerned that as African Americans, they wouldn’t be able to raise the financial support – but God had another plan! The Chinn’s had unprecedented support from the African American church in Texas. In 2004, the Chinns sold everything they owned and boarded a plane with their sons and one way tickets to Ghana, West Africa. It wasn’t easy – they did not have a team; they did not know the language or culture; they had to send their sons to boarding school in Senegal; they endured loneliness; the pain of being misunderstood; the hurt of being taken advantage of; a complete change of systems and culture and yet – they persevered. The Chinn’s call their ability to move to Ghana as a family and have effective ministry God’s anointing. They say He called them to it and He equipped them for it. Lloyd and Jan as well as their sons learned the Asante Twi language and developed friendships in both national and local government and across denominations in Ghana and learned to submit to the leaders in the church and in the community which gained them respect and love in the country. The Chinns served in Ghana for 10 years mainly in pastoral leadership development. The needs of the community in Nkwanta led them to also engage in orphan care, educational development and community economic development.
In 2013, they returned to the USA on a home assignment which was supposed to last 10 months. During their first few months in the US, the leadership of WorldVenture called and asked them to take on the role of International Ministries Director for Africa. In March 2014, they stepped in to this new role where they are now missionaries to the missionary; providing pastoral care, leadership development and strategic planning assistance for 108 missionary units (some families; some singles) in 12 countries across Africa. They are the first African Americans to serve in this capacity with their mission.
George Leile was born a slave in Virginia around 1750. He was led to Christ in 1774 in the church where his master was a deacon. His master, Mr. Sharpe, subsequently freed Leile. Mr. Sharpe died during the Revolutionary War and his children attempted to re-enslave Leile and eventually had him jailed. Liele was able to recapture his freedom by producing “free papers”. In 1778, Liele went to Savannah Georgia where he became the founding pastor of the First African Baptist Church – the very first permanent church building in America “built by blacks, for blacks.”.
In 1782 George Leile left with his wife and four children for Jamaica mainly to avoid being enslaved again – he left as an indentured servant, but began preaching the gospel as soon as he reached Jamaica. After two years – he had paid off his indenture and dedicated his life full time to the gospel. His venue; a race track in Kingston. He was soon able to gather a congregation, purchase a piece of land and build a church. By 1791 the new church, comprised of mostly blacks and a few whites grew to over 350 members. One year later the First African Baptist Church of Kingston grew to over 500 baptized converts. Three other congregations grew out of this body as well as a school for black children – both slave and free. As his influence and church grew, so did the persecution. In 1805 Jamaica enacted a law forbidding preaching to slaves. Because of the influence of George Liele, the Englishmen William Knibb and Thomas Burchell returned to England to campaign to end slavery in Jamaica. Liele would not live to see the resolution because he died in 1828 – 10 years before slavery was eradicated in Jamaica.
One of the remarkable aspects of Leile’s ministry is that he did not wait for the Emancipation Proclamation before taking the gospel to the world. George Leile is believed to be the very first black American foreign missionary, the first black person in the US to be ordained a Baptist pastor, likely the first black Baptist pastor in the world and he is also believed to be the first American foreign missionary to contextualize the gospel.
Evangelist and missionary Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915) became well known for her beautiful voice and inspired teaching and hence, opportunities to evangelize in the South and West opened up for her.
In 1876, she was invited to speak and sing in England travelling on a first class cabin provided by her friends. The captain invited her to conduct a religious service on board and she was so modest that the other passengers spread word of her and resulted in her staying in England and Scotland for a year and a half.
She next traveled to and ministered in India, then spent eight years in Africa (Egypt, Sierra Leone, Liberia) working with churches and evangelizing. While in Africa she suffered from repeated attacks of “African Fever” but persisted in her work. In her journal entry for February 5, 1884 she writes:
“Second Gospel Temperance meeting. Surely the Spirit of the Lord is with us, and He is blessing us greatly. Not so much liberty in speaking, but God is with us, and we are expecting great things. Oh, Lord, for Jesus’ sake, answer prayer, and send us the Holy Ghost to quicken and revive us.”
She founded the Amanda Smith Orphans’ Home for African-American children in a suburb of Chicago. She was called “God’s image carved in ebony.” Amanda Smith retired to Sebring, Florida in 1912 due to failing health. She died in 1915 at the age of 78.
Amanda has one of very few written autobiographies by black americans of that time period. You can read her an electronic copy of her autobiography “An Autobiography. The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith the Colored Evangelist; Containing an Account of Her Life Work of Faith, and Her Travels in America, England, Ireland, Scotland, India, and Africa, as an Independent Missionary”at this link – Autobiography of Amanda Smith
John Day was the first African American appointed by the Southern Baptist Conventions Foreign Missions Board (SBC). Day was born in Virginia in 1797.
He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1821 and had hopes of ministering in Haiti but could not garner enough support among Virginia Baptist . In 1830, he migrated to Liberia to minister and shortly thereafter was appointed by the Triennial Convention’s Baptist Board of Foreign Missions. In 1844, he resigned from the Triennial Convention post and was appointed by the SBC and given the lead of their ministry in Liberia. Day was a missionary to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Central Africa and is known as a founding father of Liberia because he signed its Declaration of Independence and also became the Republic’s chief justice.
Within one year of his family’s arrival in Liberia, his wife and all of his 5 children died. John Day spent 13 years in Africa and is estimated to have preached to more than 10,000 people during his ministry. In 1856 he founded Day’s Hope, a high school and seminary intended to train African boys as missionaries to their own people. John Day died on February 15, 1859 and on his deathbed, when asked how he was feeling, said these words –
“If I speak with regard to the union subsisting between me and Christ, I am well.”
Grover and Sharon Cooper have been on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ since 1983 and 1978, respectively. They moved to Dallas, TX in August 1991 where Grover attended Dallas Theological Seminary and earned his Th.M. in New Testament Studies in 1995. They moved to Houston to raise support after his graduation for what was supposed to be one year; however their plans were changed. Their youngest child was born on March 16, 1996 and ten days later, Sharon suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. She had emergency neurosurgery and was hospitalized for 43 days in 3 different hospitals. After her release, she finished the prescribed 6 months of outpatient rehabilitation in three months, graduating as the TIRR Challenge Program Client of The Year.
In 2000 they finally moved to Johannesburg, South Africa where Grover served as Campus Director at The University of Witwatersrand until May 1, 2006. During the 2006-2007 year of transition back to the US, the family served on the Campus Crusade for Christ Lake Hart Stint, a one year development program; they also worked with The Impact Movement. After completing their time on the CCC Lake Hart Stint they continued their service with the The Impact Movement; serving with Staff Development and Staff Care. Currently, Grover serves as Director of Fund Development for The Impact Movement and oversees Impact Campus Chapters in the South and Southeast US.
Lloyd and I had the great opportunity to meet the Coopers in 2006 before they left South Africa. We are honored to call them co-laborers and friends!