In light of our recent Missions Emphasis Sunday, I wanted to introduce you to an early, arguably the first, Baptist missionary. In their Baptist history text authors Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin provide a good introduction. They wrote:
About two years before the outbreak of the American Revolution, a slave in Georgia by the name of George Liele was converted. Given his freedom shortly afterward, he was ordained in 1775 and went on to plant a work in Savannah, Georgia, which claims to be the oldest African-American Baptist church. With the defeat of the British cause, however, Liele and his family were in danger of being re-enslaved. Liele decided to relocate to Jamaica as an indentured servant, where he formed a small congregation in 1783. Liele was able to follow his calling as a preacher, and within seven years he saw around 500 conversions under his preaching, with 300 of those converts joining his church. Ten years later he had secured enough funds…to build the first Dissenting chapel on the island, Windward Road Chapel. By the time William Carey and his family set sail for India in 1793, Liele had been laboring as a missionary for a decade. He should, therefore, probably be considered the first Baptist missionary…by 1814, Liele’s ministry had produced a rich harvest, some 8,000 Baptist in numerous chapels throughout the island. (pgs. 97-98)
For more on George Liele see this excellent article.