The Pioneer of Baptist Missions Was…By David Burnette
The first Baptist to leave his homeland for the spread of the gospel was…not William Carey. And it wasn’t Adoniram Judson. So, who was it?
In chapter 6 of 10 Who Changed the World, Danny Akin introduces us to George Leile, a black man and former slave who planted the gospel in Jamaica in 1782. Ordained in 1775, Leile is recognized as the first ordained black Baptist pastor in Georgia.
Though he had to support himself and his family – a wife and four children – in a bi-vocational role, the Lord blessed Leile’s ministry tremendously. In fact, a contemporary of Leile said the following of Leile’s heavy workload:
“I am led to believe that it has been of essential service to the cause of God, for his industry has set a good example to his flock, and has put it out of the power of enemies to religion to say, that he has been eating the bread of idleness or lived upon the poor slaves.” (99)
In Jamaica, the number of Baptist converts rose from 8,000 in 1814 to 32,000 in 1832, and this despite significant persecution. The Lord used Leile and his followers greatly in this work, converting over 500 slaves to Christianity in a span of seven years under Leile’s preaching. Leile was also influential in the move to abolish slavery in Jamaica, which occurred in 1838.
Leile’s faithfulness is a tribute to God’s grace, and a model for all ministers of the gospel.