From Liberia, Africa to Fort Wayne, Indiana
In Bolivia last week, David Harriman told about a man who knelt in front of a tombstone and prayed, “Lord, give me the same spirit that you gave this man, Samuel Morris.”
Samuel Morris was born Prince Kaboo in 1873 in Liberia, Africa, the son of a Kru tribal chieftain. As a child, he was captured by an enemy tribe. They demanded his father bring them a present each month if they wanted to see their prince again. His father brought a present each month, but it was never enough.
When he could bring no more, Kaboo was beaten every day. During one of many intense whippings, Kaboo saw a bright light and heard a voice from Heaven telling him to flee. The rope binding him fell to the ground; he ran into the jungle where he wandered for days living off snails, mangos, roots… He traveled at night and hid in hollow logs during the day. He eventually came upon a coffee plantation owned by a Christian former slave.
There he met Miss Knolls, a graduate of Fort Wayne College (now Taylor University). She led him to Jesus. He was baptized with the name Samuel Morris in honor of her benefactor. He learned to read using the Bible as his textbook. He wanted to know more of this Holy Spirit he was reading about. When she told him that a man named Stephen Merritt had led her to Jesus, Samuel decided to go to America to find him.
He hired on a British ship where the arrogant British passengers made fun of him and treated him with scorn. When the captain became deathly sick, Samuel prayed for him and he was healed. Samuel then led him to the Lord. The captain made Samuel his personal assistant. By the time they reached New York, the whole crew and many of the passengers had become Christians through Samuel’s witness.
In crowded New York City he miraculously found Dr. Merritt who kindly offered to show him the city. “I don’t care to see buildings. I want to find the Holy Spirit,” Samuel said. The doctor sent him to Fort Wayne College. Everywhere he went, people were drawn to Jesus. In one church, as he sat up front, people saw his glowing face and began to come forward before he even got up to preach!
In late 1892 he came down with pneumonia. Five months later, in May, 1893 he died. His goal to take the Holy Spirit back to Africa was not met. He had been scheduled to help lay the cornerstone at the newly formed Taylor University in Upland, IN. As he lay sick, he said, “God is sovereign. I have finished my job. God will send others better than I to do His work in Africa.” At his funeral many students committed themselves to go to Africa. He was buried in the Lindenwood Cemetery in Fort Wayne. Seventy some years later a man knelt and prayed for the same spirit.
Would you believe that while we were in Bolivia that man came to the guest house where we were staying?! I got to meet this man who had prayed at Samuel’s grave!
“God gave me the same spirit He gave Samuel Morris. I rose from my knees a different man,” he said. He went on to be a pastor and then the president of a large missionary organization. He just retired and was bringing some businessmen to Bolivia to show them how they could get involved in missions.
Taylor University named one of their dorms for Samuel Morris. He never got to go back to Africa, but his influence is still felt all over the world today, 124 years later.
The next time I am near Fort Wayne, I plan to visit his grave.