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When he died in 1938, this missionary thought he was a failure, 72 years later this was discovered


A photo of William's missionary base on the Vanga River in the Congo.

A photo of William’s missionary base on the Vanga River in the Congo.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24 NASV)

Dr. William Leslie was a pharmacist in Ontario, Canada. In 1888, after his conversion to Christ, he worked for 35 years as a medical missionary with the American Baptist Missionary Union. During the last 17 years of his ministry, William worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo among tribal people in that remote area of the world.

He returned from the mission field n 1929 and until his death in 1938, William believed his ministry in the Congo was largely a failure.

However, that all changed in 2010, when a group made up of members of Tom Cox World Ministries and Mission Aviation Fellowship visited the area of the Congo where Williams had ministered decades earlier.

After arriving in Vanga where Williams had set up his base, the group decided to visit the Yansi tribe located across the Kwilu River. It was a region that William had only visited sporadically — about once a year.

Leader Eric Ramsey of Tom Cox World Ministries was shocked by what they found.

Ramsey said:

“When we got in there, we found a network of reproducing churches throughout the jungle.

“Each village had its own gospel choir, although they wouldn’t call it that.  They wrote their own songs and would have sing-offs from village to village.”

Ramsey and his team visited eight villages in the area and each of them had a church. He noted that in one village, the tribe had build a stone church that could seat 1,000 people. That church was built in the 1980s, but with this building filling up and people walking long distances to attend services, the leadership decided to start churches in other villages.

After finding this amazing group of churches, Ramsey did more research on William’s ministry. He had arrived in the region in 1912, and set up a base in Vanga. However, he had a falling out with one of the leaders of the main tribe he was ministering too and was asked to leave. Though William and the tribal leader eventually reconciled, William looked upon his time of ministry as falling short of what he believed God had for the area.

One of the analogies Jesus used to describe the Kingdom of God was the idea of a seed, that once planted, can take on a life of its own. All God needs is servants willing to plant seed.

This applies to all of us. Continue to plant seeds that God has given you, the results are in God’s hand.

 

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