When taking a look at history, I want my kids to have a Christian worldview just like any other thing that will study or learn. February is black history month so I decided for us to chose four black heroes of the faith and study their lives and the contributions they made to the kingdom of heaven. These are men and women who lived in this world but knew their citizenship was in heaven and lived for a higher purpose and calling. They looked at their sacrifices as necessary to further God’s will and their work has left a legacy of faith! I hope you enjoy learning with us.
George Liele was born into slavery in Virginia in 1752. He was separated from his parents at a young age and sold to a plantation owner in Georgia. Although unlearned and with no rights, he established the first African American Church and became a church planter in Jamaica. He was born a slave to men but gave himself as a slave to the gospel.
You can read a lot of different biographies on George Liele which I have linked at the bottom of this post so I won’t attempt to go through his entire life. Instead, what I want to focus on here are the highlights and what we and our children can learn from the life of this amazing man of God!
The Gift of Godly Parents
Although George was separated from his parents at a young age, nothing can take away those early seeds that have been planted by godly parents or the prayers that they pray on behalf of their children. In one of the most known quotes from George Liele, he states, “I cannot ascertain much of my parents as I went to several parts of America when young and at length resided in New Georgia but was informed by both white and black people that my father was the only black person who knew the Lord in a spiritual way in that country.”
Paul encourages Timothy in his second letter by reminding him that his grandmother and mother were genuine in their faith and Paul is persuaded that the same faith was passed on to Timothy. (2 Timothy 1:5) We have to believe that if enough people spoke of the genuine faith of George’s parents that what little time they had with him, they instructed him in this way and even when they were apart, they prayed for his salvation and faith. So many great men in their autobiographies attribute their strong faith to the training and prayers of their godly parents. See also: Giving Them A Mom Worth Imitating
Encouragement for Parents: God hears your pleas for your children. He loves and care for them more than we ever could. Even when we can’t be with them, our teaching, example of faith, and prayers are always with them.
Encouragement for kids: God has given you parents to teach and train you in His word. Listen and obey. Allow their example and legacy of faith to guide you.
God’s Hand of Favor
One might look at George’s life as sad and unjust and focus on the tragedy of him being a slave, ripped from his parents, not having many rights, and being imprisoned. However, if we choose to focus on the positive aspects, we can see that like Joseph in the Bible, what others meant for evil, God meant for good. George ended up being sold to a plantation owner who treated his slaves fairly and attended a local church. Henry Sharp took his slaves to his white Baptist Church and later, gave George his freedom to preach the gospel.
God put George under the rule of a man who would take him to a gospel preaching church where he was saved in 1773. Henry Sharp also allowed George to preach the gospel to other slaves. The pastor of the church they attended even licensed him as a minister and he is believed to be the first black man ever licensed in a church in the U.S.
Later, Sharp gave George his freedom and George used this freedom as a means to declare the gospel to slaves in Georgia and South Carolina. Also, he started some of the first independent black churches ever in the U.S.
Encouragement for Parents: God’s purposes are always being accomplished. It is hard to watch our children walk through trials in this life but if we believe in a trustworthy, loving God, then we can agree with scriptures that “He is working everything out for good.” We can trust Him to use the pains to draw them nearer to Him and to raise them up in His time.
Encouragement for Kids: Even though its hard to understand, the Bible says that the Lord will allow us to experience hard times and suffering so that we will be made more like Jesus. Its during these times, that we can come closer to God and let Him be our strength. He promises to never leave us and that He has a plan and purpose for our lives.
Going Into All the World
During the Revolutionary War, George’s former master, Henry Sharp was killed. George was imprisoned as an escaped slave until he could find his documents proving his freedom. George feared that this may be a reoccurring problem for his family so he indentured himself to a British officer in order to pay his family’s passage to Jamaica.
George worked hard to finish his term as the indentured servant to His earthly master so that he could start his work for his heavenly master. He preached on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica to both freed and enslaved people. In order to earn a living, he farmed and transported goods with a horse and wagon. Soon, he started a house church and after less than 10 years, he had baptized 500 converts.
George was imprisoned numerous times for preaching the gospel but like the apostle Paul, he always rejoiced and preached to the other prisoners. The Lord supplied him other young men who were willing to take up the cross in his absence and who would be his partners for the rest of his ministry.
George later organized a mission society and sent out missionaries back to the southern U.S., to Nova Scotia, Canada, and to Sierra Leone. The DNA of being a missionary and church planter would have been strong in that church because of George’s own experience and teachings. It is no surprise that he would have encouraged the others to “go into all of the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)
Not much is written about the final years of George Liele and we aren’t even sure about his cause of death. We do know he received support from a church in London, England and that many of his converts became preachers and advocates for the abolition of slavery. At the time of his death, it is recorded that there were between 20,000-30,000 Baptists in churches spread across the region. And, the churches that he began in Georgia and South Carolina, multiplied greatly as well. What a wonderfully, fruitful ministry!!
Encouragement for Parents: The Lord has all sorts of methods to get us where he wants to be. He used the issue of George’s free papers to get him to Jamaica. No matter where we are though, God calls us to obey His great commission and to spread the gospel. He promises His word will never return void and while we may not see the converts that Liele did, He is faithful to multiply the seeds we plant.
Encouragement for Kids: Just like the little boy offering his two fishes and five loaves, we can offer what we have to Jesus and He can multiply it for His use and His glory. Never be afraid or discouraged by offering what little you have, it is in His capable hands and He can use it for wonderful things. George Liele was enslaved for half of his life but when he put all he had to offer, which was only his willingness, in God’s hand, great things were done.
Links for extra reading and learning:
- George Liele biographies
2. Video on the Oldest African American Church: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6&v=Bk4j7nrNkWc&feature=emb_logo
Black Heroes of the Faith Series:
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