First person: Liele’s missionary service sets example for all who are called

Eric Reese (center) has served as an IMB missionary for 23 years. He says George Liele’s life inspires and encourages him to continue making disciples.
IMB Photo

First person: Liele’s missionary service sets example for all who are called

By Eric Reese
IMB missionary serving in Brazil

A trailblazer — that’s who George Liele was.

He was born into slavery. His owner freed him so he could pursue God’s call on his life. He stayed in the antebellum American South and faithfully preached the gospel. When the heir of his former master tried to reenslave him, Liele was thrown into jail. When he proved he really was a free man, instead of taking his freedom and running with it, he chose indentured servitude to get to Jamaica.

And there, instead of basking in the sun on the beach and enjoying his freedom with his wife and kids —  and who would have blamed him if he did — he labored to get the gospel to African slaves in Jamaica.

His ministry was thriving. He planted a church and held a baptism service every three months. Then trouble arose. He was yet again thrown into jail, this time charged with preaching sedition.

Staying the course

Thankfully, he was acquitted. No one could have blamed him for quitting ministry at that point. Still, he stayed the course. His work had a spiritual and social impact in Jamaica. He also bought into the practice of making disciples who make disciples. He encouraged his converts to follow God’s call to missions.

Consider this as we recap Liele’s story: This ordained African American Baptist preacher landed in Kingston, Jamaica, as a missionary in 1782. William Carey went on mission in 1793.

Adoniram Judson was commissioned as a missionary in 1812. Technically, George Liele was the first Baptist missionary sent overseas from the newly formed United States.

This fact makes my jaw drop because I’ve been an African American Baptist missionary serving overseas for the past 23 years. Yet it wasn’t until 2019 when the National African American Fellowship asked the IMB to consider Liele’s life that I even heard of George Liele.

An encouragement

Knowing he existed is such an encouragement to me and my ministry. As my wife, Ramona, and I have planted our lives among the people of São Paulo, Brazil, I’m spurred to do more for the Kingdom because I know someone like George Liele has gone before me and done such great work for the Kingdom in such different and difficult times.

Just like Liele, the color of my skin breaks down barriers among those I seek to reach.

Sometimes I look around at the people I serve — their caramel skin nearly matches mine. Their culture, although so different, bears striking similarities to how I was raised. The color of my skin gives me this unexplainable credit among the Brazilians I share my life and the gospel with each day.

Liele was a freed slave who spoke the gospel to and discipled those who were enslaved. He was one of them, so he could reach them. I’m encouraged and empowered to use the cultural similarities between myself and the Brazilians I live among as a way to further the Kingdom of God, just as George Liele did.


When I consider Liele’s life, I’m steered away from discouragement. I’m inspired to make reproducing disciples because that’s what Liele did. Liele’s life inspires me to continue.

If he could do what God called him to do during the time that he lived, what am I complaining about?

Liele’s legacy isn’t just meant to inspire Black missionaries. It’s meant to inspire anyone feeling the call of God. It’s important that we know, particularly people who look like me, that there was a man whom God called while he was enslaved.

We need to continue to tell George Liele’s story. God is calling African American missionaries, and the generations who come after me need to see that God was faithful to Liele, and God will be faithful to them.

I believe we should keep telling Liele’s story, not just to African Americans, because the gospel is not just for one, it’s for all.

EDITOR’S NOTE — The George Liele Scholarship provides support for efforts to grow international missions knowledge and experiences among Black and African American Southern Baptist churches. For more information, go to

Touched by revival: Ways to pray

As you may have heard, there is a spontaneous revival taking place at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, [marked by multiple days] of nonstop worship and prayer.

The campus is filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit, and hundreds of college students are being impacted in profound ways.

As believers, it is our privilege and responsibility to pray for such a movement of God.

I ask that you would join me in prayer for Asbury University and the students who are being touched by the revival.

Specific requests

Here are a few specific requests:

  • Pray God would continue to work in mighty ways and that the revival would deepen and broaden its impact.
  • Pray for protection and guidance for the students who are participating in the revival and for wisdom for the university administrators.
  • Pray for the students from many colleges who are being transformed by the Holy Spirit, that they would continue to seek God with all their hearts and be used by Him to change the world.
  • Pray the revival would spark a hunger for God in the hearts of students across the country and around the world.

Let us come together in faith, lifting up Asbury University and these college students to the Lord.

May His name be glorified, and may many come to know Him as their Lord and Savior as a result of this revival.

Chris Crain
Executive director
Birmingham Metro Baptist Association

We like to categorize sins into big sins and little sins like we understand some magical measuring process. The truth is that we serve a holy God. He cannot be present where sin is present, and that means any sin. …

You once had that close relationship with Jesus and saw your faith growing by the day. Jesus was always a friend with whom you could speak anytime and anywhere.

And then that day happened, that year happened. You wonder who could love you after you committed such a sin.

Satan invades your thoughts with his unfounded accusations that you have somehow crossed a line of no return — accusations your sin is too great for Jesus’ forgiveness, and the possibility He can never use you as He once planned. …

God’s Word tells us that nothing will separate us from His perfect love. God’s Word tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. God’s Word tells us that all who believe and accept Jesus as Savior are children of the Most High God.

Bill Brewster, author
“Revival: It’s Time to Live Again”

Pray for Asbury … and pray for your church and the churches and people of your city. Cry out as never before, pleading with our reviving God to be merciful to us. Seek revival personally and fervently. Ask God to search your heart and remove anything that is quenching the flow of His Spirit. Ask God to break through your church this Sunday with a wind that will not stop.

Pray that God would send revival to His church and then a mighty awakening to the lost. … Pray for the acceleration and rapid expansion of the gospel … for His Kingdom to come.

Bill Elliff
“Reflections from Asbury”

“It’s the most unified I’ve seen our student body,” said Samford University President Beck Taylor about a gathering of students at Reid Chapel. “It’s unscripted and not programmed. The Spirit is leading. Students are sharing from their hearts. The gospel is being proclaimed.”

From the Twitterverse


Whatever is happening at Asbury, time will tell, but I do know one thing: It would be very much like God to bring revival without the presence of highly produced lighting, music, graphic effects and trendy clothes.


Asbury has a long tradition of making much of Jesus. It offers a pretty stripped-down version of the gospel and of worship. But it’s sweet and true and sincere and earnest. I celebrate what the Lord is doing in Wilmore and how He’ll use it to make His name great among the nations.


I guarantee you there are Christians who have already been asked about the “He Gets Us” commercials [aired during the Super Bowl] already. … I really do believe something is stirring in our country.


Not sure what’s happening in Asbury.

But I believe that the only cure for present day strife in the church, political idolatry, worldliness and widespread apostasy is genuine, Spirit-wrought, Christ-exalting, gospel-proclaiming revival. May the Lord do it in our day!


“A huge door of opportunity for good work has opened up here. (There is also mushrooming opposition)” (1 Cor. 16:5–9).

Opportunity and opposition often come at the same time. So trust Jesus and keep showing and sharing the good news.


Some folks a have a hard time with Jesus as a friend of sinners. Some folks have a hard time with Jesus as Lord of all.


Revival demonstrates the truth that when we cleanse our hands and draw near to God, He draws near to us (James 4:8).


Can I come and stay at your home? Saith the missionary to a great supporter of missions. It’s biblical, folks: 1 Peter 4:9 …