Ministering the gospel in various countries such as Brazil, Niger, Morocco and India, Beeson Divinity School’s Events Coordinator Gabriele Watts realized she was the only African American on the sending missionary team. Her experience left her grappling with the question, “Where are all the African Americans in missions?” This is a question many African-American missions-interested Christians face.
In June of 2019, a group of mostly African-American Beeson students and staff attended the National African American Missions Conference (NAAMC) in Washington D.C. NAAMC exists to equip African American and multi-ethnic churches to identify, send and support people going into global missions. Recalling her experience at the conference, Gabriele said, “That conference excited me because, for the first time in my life, I learned about our rich history, and I also encountered other African Americans who are just as passionate about missions as I was.”
Though not as well known, several of the pioneering American missionaries had been slaves such as George Liele, Lott Carey, and Betsey Stockton. Liele was sent as a missionary in 1782 to Jamaica around 10 years before William Carey left England and roughly 31 years before Adoniram Judson, who is popularly known as the first American Protestant missionary, was sent to Burma.
Sadly, this rich history took a sharp decline as African Americans struggled against slavery, colonization, the civil war, segregation and Jim Crow laws at home. The problems at home forced the African American community to turn inward and focus on self-survival and ministering to their own neighborhoods and communities.
Last week, a few of those who attended NAAMC, including Watts, shared with the Beeson community about the unique insight they gained regarding African American involvement in missions today and throughout history.
Where are all of the African Americans in missions? Watch this video of their presentation.