Eliza Davis George. Liberia. 1913 – 1917

Eliza Davis George served in Liberia, 1913 to 1972.

Eliza Davis George was born in 1879.  In December 1913 she left Texas for New York; and on December 12, 1913, she sailed from New York to Liberia as a National Baptist missionary.

Eliza and another missionary opened a school for children in the interior of Liberia, where there were few missionaries or churches. They called the school Bible Industrial Academy, and their aim was to teach children to read the Bible and show them helpful life skills. Within the first two years they had fifty children attending the academy and saw more than 1,000 people accept the Lord in the nearby villages.

Eliza served as an evangelist, teacher, and church planter throughout Sinoe County, Liberia. Wherever she established ministries, she trained Liberian young people and sent them as missionaries to take the Word of God to their own people and to provide education for their children.

Five years after arriving in Liberia, Eliza’s mission board disbanded. Lacking financial support, she was approached by a British missionary doctor who urged her to marry him so that she would be able to remain in Africa. After much prayer, she concluded that God was permitting her to marry, and in 1919, Eliza became the wife of Dr. Charles George. Together they adopted three children: Maude, Cecelia, and Cerella.

Even when married, Eliza continued to live meagerly, trusting in the Lord’s provision and going to extraordinary lengths to secure support for the ministry Jesus had called her to. Her prayer life reflected her dependence on God:

“O heavenly Father, thou hast taught us to pray for our daily bread. Lord, thou dost know that I do not have one penny to buy food and pay the workers here at the mission. Father, send us something to meet our needs as thou hast promised. Help me to keep trusting Thee so that the children will know Thou art caring for them.”

In 1939, her husband passed away – yet she continued in the work for 33 more years.  By the 1960s The Eliza Davis George Baptist Association had twenty-seven churches in Liberia.

Eliza returned to the USA in 1972 at the age of 93 due to fragile health.  She passed away in Tyler, TX in March 1980.

George Leile – Jamaica; served 1782 to 1828

George Leile was born a slave in Virginia around 1750. He was led to Christ in 1774 in the church where his master, Mr. Sharpe, was a deacon. 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. (some historical writings say he died 1820)

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.

John Day – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Central Africa; served 1830 – 1856

John Day born in Virginia 1797. John Day was the first African American appointed by the Southern Baptist Conventions Foreign Missions Board (SBC).

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.”

JOhn Day

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Maria Fearing – Congo; served from 1894 to 1916

Maria Fearing was born in 1838. She was enslaved as a house servant in Alabama. In 1871, Maria completed the ninth grade, learning to read and write. at age 33. The mistress of the house where she served often told Maria and her children stories about missionaries in Africa which left a deep impression on Fearing.

She worked her way through the Freedman’s Bureau School in Talladega to become a teacher. At age 56 she went to the Congo, where for more than 20 years she worked as a Presbyterian missionary and eventually established the Pantops Home for Girls in 1915. She taught in the mission day school and Sunday school and worked with women in surrounding villages. Her students nicknamed her “mama wa mputu” (mother from far away) as to reflect their love and appreciation. At the age of 78, Fearing was encouraged to retire. After returning to Alabama, Fearing taught at a church school in Selma, and later returned to Sumter County, where she died on May 23, 1937 at the age of 99.

In 1918, Maria received the Loving Cup, an honor bestowed on her by the Southern Presbyterian Church. Maria Fearing was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000.

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Louise (“Lulu”) Cecilia Fleming.Congo. Served from 1887 – 1899

Lulu was born 1862 as a slave in Florida. In 1887 she became a missionary teacher in Congo. The students were being introduced to Jesus because of Lulu’s ministry to them. The school had 49 students and many of them came to Christ through Lulu’s ministry to them.

This seems a poor report…and perhaps many may think the work almost discouraging, but to us whom God has given the privilege to labor here it is very encouraging. [It] fills us with unspeakable joy.

Lulu combined her teaching with weekend evangelistic work in the towns and within a year she had learned Kikongo and no longer required a translator. When Lulu saw that women needed to be reached, she began making home visits while urging the mission society (American Baptist Foreign Mission Society of the West) to send more women.

In 1891 Lulu return to the USA as a student at the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia, Lulu returned to the Congo in 1895 as a medical missionary.

Known now as Dr. Fleming, she was stationed at Irebu, further up the Congo River where she needed to learn a different language. The power of Dr. Fleming’s ministry came from her identification with those among whom she served. The Baptist Missionary Magazine described her as “particularly successful in winning the hearts of the Congo people, putting herself in close touch and sympathy with them.” She passed away in 1899 from complications from African sleeping sickness.

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