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Black History Month: Faith in the Face of Adversity

Feb 15, 2021 4:00:00 PM

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history” - Dr C.G Woodsen.

In 1926, Dr Carter G. Woodsen developed the first Black History week. He was an author and a historian and the 2nd African American to earn a PH.D at Harvard University. He founded the association now known as The Association for the Study of African American Life and History and in 1976, President Gerald Ford expanded Woodsen’s proposal for Black History Week to be a full month!

Woodsen initially chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglas (a social reformer and abolitionist) and President Abraham Lincoln. He believed it was essential for young African Americans to know, understand and be proud of their heritage. 

In recognition of Black History Month, we’d like to highlight two prolific African American Christians who were radically dedicated to the spread of the gospel through missions and to pursuing God through their lives and influence. 

William J Seymour (1870 - 1922)

Born during a time when Pseudo Christian klansmen had lynched roughly 2,500 people of color, William J Seymour barely acquired any formal schooling and was for the most part, self educated. Eventually he moved up north (Indianapolis) to escape the racism of the South. 

When Seymour met Charles Parham, a preacher and evangelist, he was granted permission to attend his Bible school but had to sit outside the classroom door. On occasion in Houston they would preach together but Parham only permitted Seymour to preach the Gospel to other blacks. 

Seymour later left Houston to begin preaching at a small church in California. April 9th, 1906 marks the beginning of the Azusa Street Revival! 

It is believed that the Holy Spirit filled the people in attendance and the congregation began speaking and translating tongues. Many were healed!

Worship and dancing, even intentional periods of silence filled the next three days. Seymour continued praying and days later the crowds were so big that they had to relocate to a two story warehouse at 312 Azusa Street. Crowds formed outside trying to get in. Within weeks, the prayer gathering started sending out missionaries to different parts of the world (Indian, China, Scandinavia etc), where those sent also experienced revivals in the countries where they served!

The prayer meeting continued to run consecutively for three years.

“Tongues… is not the real evidence of the baptism of the Spirit in everyday life. If you are angry or speak evil of backbite, I care not how many tongues you have. You have not the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, or being filled with the Holy Spirit makes us love Jesus more and love our brothers more. It brings us all into one common family”. 

In such a manner, Seymour invited his former Bible professor, Charles Parham, to attend the revival. Parham scorned the mixed race worship and scolded the attendees. Eventually racial tension broke the revival apart. 

George Liele (1750 -1820) 

Born into slavery in 1750 in Virginia, George Liele so impressed his owner, a baptist pastor, as a teenager that they licensed him to preach the gospel. He was secretly taught to read and write by a friend of his owner, also a Baptist pastor. He began ministering to other slaves, telling owners if they came he wouldn't start a revolt. Through these efforts, he was instrumental in leading many slaves to Christ! He was emancipated and became officially ordained preacher, the first Black man to do so in the US.

Liele went on to establish the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia. He and his church suffered persecution because they preached the gospel to the slave community, which was illegal under US law at the time.

When Liele's former master died, there was a risk he would be enslaved again. So he decided to go to Jamaica as a missionary, with his wife and 4 children in 1782. There he preached the gospel, baptized hundreds of enslaved Africans, started multiple congregations and was imprisoned for 3 years for "stirring up" the population.

This was 30 years before Adonoriam Judson, usually considered America's first missionary, would go to Burma and 10 years before William Carey, known as the Father of modern missionaries, would go to India!

In 2012, Southern Baptists adjusted their official records to formally recognize George Liele as the first ever baptist missionary.

George ministered in Jamaica for 30 years before his death.

We encourage you to spend time this month (and every month!) finding out more about the amazing men and women who have faced great adversity and persevered for the sake of the gospel.  In our Discipleship Training Schools, we challenge and encourage our students to really dive deep into their faith, including the history and formation of the church and missions. If you want to know more about our training programs, get in touch!

Interested in Jesus, adventure, and growing in your faith?

Do a Discipleship Training School, YWAM’s flagship missionary training course. It's a great gap year option. It's also perfect for anyone looking to step out of the ordinary and grow in your faith.

How does it work?

First, you’ll spend 3 months getting to know God amongst a vibrant Christian community and the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Then you’ll embark on a life-changing 2-month overseas missions trip, focused on making God known. A new DTS starts every September, January, April, and June! Submit your info below to learn more. 

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