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Friday, 7 February 2014

Not a Waste: The Short Life of Samuel (Kaboo) Morris

Photo taken from Wikipedia site
   The short life of the young man born Prince Kaboo in a tribal area of Liberia, West Africa had a tremendous impact.  The exact year of his birth is unknown because birth records were not considered important at that time and in that place, but the best estimate is 1872 or 1873.  At the age of about fourteen he had been taken captive by a rival tribe in payment of a debt.  While he was being savagely beaten a light appeared before him and a voice told him to "Rise up and run."  The light never left him as he traveled many days through the jungle and finally reached the coast at Monrovia.[1]   
   When a fellow worker at a coffee plantation invited Kaboo to an English-speaking church, he could not understand a word spoken.  Yet he sensed a divine presence and was convicted of the need to give his life to his Heavenly Father.  He prayed out loud because he was “talking to [his] Father,” but the others in the workers’ lodge objected and sent him to pray elsewhere.  Becoming a follower of Jesus, a missionary lady gave him a new name, Samuel Morris.  [This was the name of the missionary’s benefactor.]  After working about two years as a house painter, Samuel sensed God calling him to preach to his own people.  The missionaries told him he first had to be educated in America.  While today we would disagree with this approach, God is sovereign and had an even greater plan. 
   Samuel was undaunted when he learned how far away America was and how much it would cost to travel and be educated there.  He trusted his Father to provide for everything.  He asked permission to sail aboard a ship and was firmly denied by the captain several times until his persistence gained him passage.  Not only the hostile captain but also many crewmen came to faith during the voyage to New York.[2]
   In New York, Samuel met up with Stephen Merritt, a minister to the homeless who had been suggested as a resource by the missionaries in Monrovia.  With his help, Samuel was enrolled at Taylor University.  When the school was undergoing financial struggles, Samuel encouraged them to pray.  Remarkable answers resulted; those who heard Samuel speak or prayed with him experienced spiritual revival. 
   After thirteen months at Taylor University he contracted pneumonia.  He never recovered from this illness and passed away on May 12, 1893.  He was at peace with the fact he would not be able to return to his homeland with the gospel because he was assured that others would go in his stead.  Inspired by his life and testimony, many students at Taylor did just that.
   University President Thaddeus Reade said of this young man, “Samuel Morris was a divinely sent messenger of God to Taylor University. He thought he was coming over here to prepare himself for his mission to his people, but his coming was to prepare Taylor University for her mission to the whole world. All who met him were impressed with his sublime, yet simple faith in God.”[3]

[1]Samuel Morris: A Spirit Filled Life by D.E. Reed, published in 1908, page 12;  reprinted at http://www.pleasantplaces.biz/books/reed_samuel/0012.php
[2] Hero Tales by Dave and Neta Jackson, 1996, page 96.
[3] Reported on the website of Taylor University: https://www.taylor.edu/about/heritage/samuel-morris/the-samuel-morris-story.shtml

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