This is the fourth blog in a series about historical missionaries who stood firm in the faith.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” -John 8:36
In 1773, George Liele was an enslaved Black man in Georgia; but upon hearing the gospel, he had found eternal freedom in Jesus. This was the beginning of his new life in Christ as well as the hardship and persecution he would face as a Black Christian.
Liele’s zeal for Christ led him to become the first ordained Black Baptist minister in America and to start the first African American church in North America. Henry Sharp, Liele’s owner and a Baptist deacon, also granted Liele his freedom so he could pursue God’s calling. Liele spent his ministry in America preaching to plantation slaves in Georgia and South Carolina.
Sharp was killed in the Revolutionary War, and his heirs attempted to re-enslave Liele. Liele decided to leave America and befriended a British colonel named Moses Kirkland, who paid for Liele and his family to go to Jamaica. Once he repaid Kirkland, Liele found his freedom again in the island country, though it was a land also heavily involved in the slave trade.
Slaves brought in from Africa were hungry for the gospel, so Liele began his missionary work. He preached the gospel to enslaved men and women, established a Baptist church, and baptized new believers in public settings. His public ministry resulted in Liele being harassed by colonists and imprisoned on one occasion. But Liele continued his work in the face of persecution.
In 1814, there were an estimated 8,000 Baptists in Jamaica because of Liele’s efforts. He also encouraged church members to share the gospel with others, and some traveled out of the country to spread the good news. According to the Jamaica Tourist Board, more than 60% of the population identifies as Christian today. Liele’s work has left a legacy of evangelism and discipleship that has carried on for generations.
Liele endured racism and persecution through God’s strength. His faithfulness led to thousands of new believers who, like him, found freedom outside of their earthly circumstances.