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William Wad Harris The Black Elijah of West Africa

Ben Stimpson Church History IV: The Pentecostal and Charismatic History of the 20th Century

On Sunday, July 27, 1913, three African Christians began a journey from their small village in east Liberia, walking east towards present-day Ghana. This journey would take them through eighteen months and across 300 miles of jungle footpaths and villages, leaving behind 200,000 changed lives. Described by Iijima Michio as the most influential and successful prophet of the African Independent Churches,1 William Wad Harris would embark on an evangelistic journey that yielded phenomenal results well beyond those of his contemporaries. Harris, in the simplicity and power of his message, left behind a legacy from which each of us can learn much. Background Harris was born between 1860 and 1865 in a small village in east Liberia, and he died in 1929 in the same village. In African history, these were the years of colonization and control by European powers; the dividing of Africa into partitions to be exploited by the greater powers. As European culture collided with the various African cultures, we have a very tumultuous environment, reflecting the changing spiritual atmosphere over the continent. In order to understand the impact and ministry of William Wad Harris, it is necessary to look at Africas political, cultural, and spiritual background. Politically, Liberia during these years was an anomaly. In 1822, freed black slaves from America reached Liberia to build their own nation based on the motto The Love of liberty brought us here. An American experiment in an attempt to undo some of the damage caused by the slave institution and pillaging of the African coast, close to 17,000 freed slaves left to populate and establish the new nation.2 These settlers, though of African descent, were of a very different culture than the people currently living in Liberia, and who had lived there for centuries previously. With their American education and European mindset, the settlers quickly formed themselves into a new ruling class, dominating the indigenous tribes in much the same way as the European powers ruled over their colonies in Africa, or as the American slave owners ruled over their slaves. In 1847, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, Liberias first black governor, declared the nation an independent republic. By this time, Liberia was well on its way to becoming a model of inequality. In line with this progression, from 1910 to 1913, Lieutenant-Governor Gabriel Angoulvant began an aggressive policy of pacification in which all tribes were disarmed and local chiefs imprisoned. The recently-settled blacks from America viewed the natives as uncultured and of little value other than as servants. The natives, on the other hand, viewed the newcomers as an invading army. With the majority of the nation ruled by the minority group of settlers from America (from 1878 until a military coup in 1980), the stage was ripe for injustice. Civil war seemed imminent for the fledgling nation. During these early years of Liberias history, the nation was also racked with international debt. In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt of the United States commissioned an investigation into Liberias financial state. This investigation resulted in a $1.7 million international loan in 1912, furthering Liberias dependence on foreign aid. With foreign loans they could not pay, Liberia sold one million acres of land to the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in 1926. In return, the company lent Liberia five million dollars, increasing their debt even more. William Wad Harris was born into this nation, one that had just recently been settled and dominated by outside powers from America, and then quickly driven into debt and greater poverty. Politically, Liberia was divided and weak, on the brink of civil war, and certainly no match for the European colonial powers of the day. Harris belonged to the largest tribe of native Africans in Liberia at this time, the Kru. For many years, the Kru had been hired on to work the European ships because of their great skill on the ocean, their courage, and their loyalty. Further, because they were born in Africa, the Kru were already acclimatized to the heat and diseases on the continent. Unlike the most skilful European sailors, the Kru did not fall victim to the ever-present scare of yellow fever; they had already been inoculated to this
1 2

Michio, 175. This is close to 10% of the approximately 200,000 freed blacks in America during the early nineteenth century (Isichei).

disease. The Kru, with their long-standing relationship with the European powers, were very open to their influence, both culturally and spiritually. The Grebo were the small clan within the Kru tribe to which Harris belonged. Shortly before his birth, a white missionary had visited Harris Grebo clan. The missionary learned the language (Grebo) and translated the Bible for the people. Many converted, including Harris uncle, who became a Methodist pastor. For those who did not convert to Christianity, the spirituality of the Kru was dominated by fear of evil spirits. This fear was controlled somewhat by the priests, who made and sold fetishes 3 in order to offer the people protection from malevolent spirits or gods. Of course, an evil spirit is only temporarily appeased by a fetish, and will ultimately have his way with any worshiper, no matter how devoted he may be. The only real protection and freedom comes through Jesus. It was common for the fetishes to be kept in what is called juju (or fetish) houses, flimsy constructions of mud and grass that served as houses to placate evil spirits. Also abundant were sacred groves (often called bad bush) in which were buried those who had been sacrificed to the spirits. The central activity of the worship of these gods was the day of consultation, on which day the priest would become possessed by the spirit.4 Most often, this possession would occur after the priest made an invitation to the deity, and then began to dance to a traditional and specific drum rhythm. During the dance, possession would occur, and the deity would speak through the priest in unintelligible words that would then be translated. People often traveled from miles around in order to meet the priest and speak with the possessing spirit on this one day of consultation, seeking guidance, healing, and wisdom. Into this atmosphere steeped in the fear of tribal spirits came the first missionaries. In the late 15th and 16th centuries came the Portuguese Roman Catholics, soon followed by various protestant missionaries in the 19th century. The Roman Catholic missionaries, however, remained the most vigorous, with 8 stations and 26 missionaries determined to civilize the African tribes. These missionaries took the common approach to vehemently attack the traditional religions as completely devilish.5 The general method was to prove to the people that their fetishes and priests were powerless, and that the evil spirits so feared were in fact not real and so of no consequence whatsoever. Thomas Thompson, the first Anglican missionary to present-day Ghana, arrived in Africa in 1752, determining to strike at their false worship, and to endeavor to convince them of their absurd notions, and to expose the folly of the idolatrous and superstitious rites.6 Strangely missing in this statement is any mention of establishing the superiority of Jesus and his claim to lordship. In cooperation with the colonial governments missionaries sometimes would try the priests in court, exposing them as frauds and liars. The guilty priest was then flogged and imprisoned, much to the trepidation of the local worshipers.7 These traditional evangelistic methods brought some small amount of fruit for the missionaries, but the people were looking for more than rational instruction and explanation. The people were in need of real spiritual protection and guidance, not mere intellectual or physical religion. This much-needed spiritual guidance would come during the early 1900s with the arrival of Spirit-filled believers. The first Pentecostal missionaries to Liberia arrived directly from Azusa St. in 1907. 8 Through their work and the ministry of prophet figures such as William Wad Harris, the spiritual atmosphere of West Africa began to change dramatically.

A fetish is an object that is believed to have magical or spiritual powers, especially such an object associated with animistic or shamanistic religious practices ( 4 Onyinah. 5 ibid. 6 ibid. 7 After one such incident, the people are recorded to have cried out, What can we do in sickness and distress? Whither can we fly for succor? Our gods have been proved to be no gods! Our priests have deceived us! (Onyinah). 8 Anderson, To All Points of the Compass: The Azusa Street Revival and Global Pentecostalism.

The political, cultural, and spiritual atmosphere of Liberia was certainly ready for change during the start of the twentieth century. Politically, Liberia was the weakest power in Africa, divided within along racial and cultural lines and beset without by the greater European powers. Spiritually, little fruit had yet been gained for the Lord, and the people were held in bondage to fear, with no hopes of freedom being offered by the rationalistic approach of traditional Western missionaries. Early Life and Salvation William Wad (pronounced woddy) Harris was born into the Grebo clan of the Kru tribe between 1860 and 1865. He was raised by his uncle, a Methodist pastor. Though taught the stories and precepts of the Bible, Harris, like many young Kru men, spent the majority of his early years working on various trading ships employed by the European companies. It wasnt until 1881 or 1882 that Harris was converted under the ministry of Methodist missionaries. According to some historians, Harris sought out the missionaries during a short stay at port in Lagos harbor in Nigeria.9 He felt immediately welcomed by the church and soon began taking classes designed to teach the Kru to read and understand the Bible. A model student, Harris quickly committed whole portions of scripture to memory. Shortly after a baptismal service, William Wad Harris left, returning to his hometown. In 1892, he became an Episcopalian and began work as a teacher and catechist for that church. In 1899, Harris began work for the Maryland Country authorities as an interpreter. Because of his political views, he soon ran into trouble in both occupations. Even from early in his life, Harris had possessed a strong desire to bring change to the Kru people, many of whom were held in a state of indentured servitude by the ruling class. During his travels, he had witnessed the injustices of the ruling American immigrants in Liberia and the better state of those peoples under British colonial rule. Harris, a true patriot at heart, began supporting Kru uprisings and British conquest. If the British came, Harris believed they would bring justice for the Kru and oust the current ruling party, the newcomers from America. After years of employment in the Episcopalian church and the government of Maryland Country, in 1908 and early 1909 Harris political views finally grew too radical for his employers. He was suspected of being involved in anti-government political activities, which was likely true, and this was just as likely to cause a problem for his employer (the governmental authorities of Maryland Country in Liberia). Harris was promptly fired from both of his jobs. Continuing in his extremist activities, in February 1909, Harris supported an anti-Republican coup dtat calling for British protectorate. In direct defiance of his government, he twice replaced the Liberian flag with the Union Jack in the town of Harper following a British-inspired military uprising among the Kru. For these activities, Harris was tried in court in May 1909; he was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $500, but was released on parole to a local Episcopalian minister. Despite this close call, Harris revolutionary sentiments continued, and he was again imprisoned for political activity during the Liberian-Grebo War of 1910. It was during this stay in prison that Harris would have an encounter with God that would change his life forever. Prophetic Ministry Imprisoned during the Grebo uprising in 1910, William Wad Harris met God in a very real way. Harris described hearing a sound like gushing water10 and feeling an ice-cold stream11 pouring over him as the Holy Spirit descended upon him. Immediately after this, the archangel Gabriel entered his cell. Harris description of the precise words used by the angel during this event varies in the many different accounts, yet the general calling is consistently reported. Gabriel is said to have announced to

Musson. Isichei. 11 Musson.


him that he would be a prophet like Daniel.12 His message was to be simple: Prepare ye! Prepare ye! The time is short!13 He would call his people to repent and turn away from fetishes and idol worship, baptizing them in the name of Jesus. As a symbol of the simplicity and humility of the gospel, he was told to abandon European dress (especially the expensive shoes he was so used to ordering from America) and shown a vision of the clothes which he was to wear, a white robe and turban. As a sign of his life set apart for God, he was also forbidden to drink any alcohol. Harris was to lead his people to freedom not as a political activist but as a prophet of God. Immediately upon his release from prison later that year, Harris returned home to announce to his wife this new direction his life had taken. Upon hearing the news, his wife Rose assumed he had gone mad. Overcome by grief, she promptly died, leaving behind six children, the youngest of whom was eleven. Harris was now close to fifty years old and had to consider supporting his children, yet his call from God was more important to him than even his family. Harris set about preaching in Liberia, traveling to nearby villages for the next three years. His method was simple: he wandered to a village where he began playing a simple gourd rattle until a crowd was gathered. Then he began speaking to all who gathered, announcing to them that there is only one God, and that his son Jesus died on a cross for their sins. It was he alone who could protect them from evil spirits; the fetishes were powerless. Jesus himself, Harris proclaimed, was returning soon to judge all peoples for their conduct and their idol worship. For these three years, Harris was faithful to preach the gospel in every village to which he went, but he saw no fruit. The people were not unkind; they simply did not care. Things changed drastically, however, in 1913. On Sunday, July 27, 1913, Harris set out from East Liberia, traveling towards the Ivory Coast with two women. All three wore white; Harris in his traditional white robe and turban, with a red sash around his shoulders, carried a cross-shaped staff in one hand, an old Bible in the other, and a calabash bowl under his arm; the women wore white, Westernstyle dresses with white turbans and carried musical instruments, traditional gourd rattles. These women were Helen Valentine and Mary Pioka, Christians who traveled with Harris and later became known as his wives. During the next eighteen months, these three would travel by foot over 300 miles and they would baptize 120,000 new converts. This journey began like all his others: Harris entered a city, began playing a rattle until a crowd had been built, and then preached to them. Two remarkable things happened when Harris crossed into the Ivory Coast, though. The first change he noticed was that the listeners could no longer understand his preaching. Grebo (his native tongue) was ineffective, and even his pidgin-English was not understood any longer. With the help of local translators (usually young men working for the European companies), Harris was able to convey his message to the crowds gathered. The second remarkable thing that happened in the Ivory Coast and in Ghana is that the crowds responded very positively. Listeners came from miles away to hear Harris simple message, and they responded by the hundreds; literally whole villages converted, burned their fetishes, and were baptized. In a few villages, the fetish priest who resisted was told by the excited converts to either submit and burn his fetishes or leave the village. 14 These people had been soundly converted. One British colonial saw Harris ministry, writing, Folks were sunk in debased superstition and fetish-worship, and had been so for years. In three days this prophet-fellowI heard him preach myselfchanged all that. Their fetishes were burnt, and what was an ordinary African coast village, steeped in superstition, became nominally a Christian town.15 The change was dramatic and sudden, with no warning and no obvious reason. Harris methods hadnt changed. His sense of Gods calling and presence hadnt

Isichei records the angels words: You are not in prison. God is coming to anoint you. You will be a prophet. Your case resembles that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. You are like Daniel. 13 Musson. 14 ibid. 15 Shank 7.

changed. His message hadnt changed. So what had changed that allowed for such a dramatic increase in fruit? There are at least three important reasons for the greater fruit that Harris found outside Liberia. First is that he was now reaching out as a missionary to a different culture and people group. Jesus himself spoke of the dishonor that a prophet receives in his hometown, among his own people (Matthew 13:57). The experience of many people has been the same; there is a distinct and obvious difference when ministering among ones own people rather than among a different people group. Though certainly some have had great fruit among their own people, there is a distinct anointing that seems to work while on the mission field. Harris stepped out of his comfort zone, he left his own people behind, and so stepped into a greater anointing of God. Secondly, the people on the Ivory Coast were themselves different. We have no way of knowing for certain, but God had likely been preparing these people for years. They were ripe for harvest. Unlike those in Liberia, who were still looking for a political extremist to save them from unjust rulers, the people in the Ivory Coast were ready to respond to Harris message of a savior from spiritual oppression. Finally, Harris found much greater fruit along the Ivory Coast because of the greater power in which he walked. We have no mention of miracles during Harris work in Liberia, but in the Ivory Coast and Ghana we find literally hundreds of accounts of exorcisms, healings, and displays of Gods miraculous power. The shear volume of miracles was enough to cause many to take Harris message seriously who would have dismissed it otherwise. It has been noted concerning the ministry of William Wad Harris that, whereas the white missionaries viewed the traditional witchcraft with skepticism, he attacked it.16 This is seen most notably in his ministry in the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Here, with power and with authority, Harris denounced idol worship and fetishes, calling on the people to burn these objects of spiritual worship. He not only argued with his listeners concerning the foolishness of trusting in a fetish, he also displayed the simple and powerful ability of Jesus which surpasses any and all power behind the idols. These displays of Jesus power over the spirits are what made Harris ministry so effective. As David Shank noted, Often it was the prophets triumph in the contest which led to the mass destruction of religious objects.17 The display of power proved the validity of Harris message to his listeners. Harris work was certainly among the most miracle-driven ministries in Africa. Many healings and deliverances were recorded. Hundreds were regularly healed upon touching Harris staff. It was so normal, in fact, that Harris repeatedly broke the staff to show that the power was not in the piece of wood but in Jesus. When Harris touched the foreheads of those seeking baptism, it was common for spirits to manifest in seizures and convulsions as they left. On the more bizarre side, twice Harris preaching against work on the Sabbath was confirmed by the mysterious burning of a boat in the harbor, at Grand Bassam and at Axim. Also at Axim, a woman committed adultery after her baptism, and she suddenly died. Also, two women were miraculously healed, one of whom was on her death bed. In another village, a few of the townspeople did not want to burn their fetishes so they hid them under the bushes. Somehow, the bushes started on fire anyhow and the fetishes were completely destroyed. At other times, pagan shrines burst into flames as he approached.18 In the small village of Kraffy, thousands came to be baptized after hearing news of Harris approach. Lack of food in the village, however, forced Harris to continue moving after a few days. It was said that the prophet could call down rain from heaven, and he did so during his journey to the town of Bonoua to confront a wellknown fetish priest. When he came to a lagoon known to be inhabited by evil spirits, Harris prayed for God to baptize the lagoon. After ending his prayer, it literally down-poured. Upon arriving in Bonoua, the fetish priest saw Harris approaching and fled in terror. On another occasion, a man came to Harris seeking baptism. Receiving a prophetic word, Harris warned the man that he needed to first return home and burn his fetishes, and then he could be baptized. If he was baptized while the fetishes remained,
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Jones. Shank 6. 18 Scott.

Harris warned the man, he would die in the road on his way home. The man denied that he still had fetishes in his home and so Harris baptized him. Later, when the man stepped from his boat on the river Aleppe, he fell down dead. The miraculous even followed Harris in the persecution he encountered. It was said that those who disbelieved his message would go insane, blind, or even die. Harris would commonly pronounce curses on those cities who did not repent upon hearing the message of Jesus. One such village refused to allow Harris to even enter, and that night it was invaded by a horde of baboons that mauled many. Later, in Lozou, he was imprisoned and sent to Grand Lahou because of the many conversions that had disrupted city life. After arriving in the city, Harris was miraculously freed from prison and immediately began preaching again. After his arrest in Grand Bassam by the French Commandant Ceceldi, Harris pronounced that the man would die for his wrongdoing. Eight days later, Father Hartz reported Ceceldi was dead.19 In Axim, where Harris saw his greatest number of conversions, the local missionaries rejected him completely, cursing him as an instrument of the devil or, at best, refusing to speak to him. Though it is certainly possible that some of the stories of Harris ministry were exaggerated, it is no doubt that he lived and worked with a supernatural power unlike his contemporaries. Wrote William Platt, a Methodist missionary and successor to Harris, This mans God lived, saw, acted, punished, protected, and could be talked to. This man talked to him. God certainly answered. Many knew it to their costothers to their credit. We heard these things from a hundred eager black folks who vowed they had been eye witnesses.20 For some missionaries, the great power in which Harris walked was a sign of Gods presence; for others it was a sign of the devils hand. Certainly for the hundreds of thousands converted, it was the sign of Jesus right to their lives. Harris knew his God was stronger than all others, and he expected him to prove it to the people. With so many converts wherever he preached, Harris quickly began to establish churches. He felt the call of God to continue reaching new villages, and so only stayed long enough in order to do two things: to teach a few elementary truths of the faith, and to set up the believers into churches. When there were nearby missions already established, Harris always told the converts to join those, whether Catholic or Protestant. (He had no intention of establishing an independent stream of churches.) Where there were no nearby missions, Harris instructed the new believers to build God houses and to gather together to worship God there. He had no Bibles to leave the believers, and most would not be able to read them even if he had, so he taught them simply to follow the Ten Commandments and to wait for white missionaries who would come to teach them further. In each village, Harris set in place twelve men to be apostles in charge of the church until the white missionaries would come to teach. The End to His Ministry After eighteen months of travel and preaching, Harris and his two wives saw 120,000 baptisms and over 200,000 people burn their fetishes. Harris reputation had spread throughout the region, and thousands came to hear his message and repent. He was seeing miraculous healings on a regular basis, and his ministry was growing rapidly. With the word of God spreading so mightily, things came to a sudden and surprising halt for Harris and his team of evangelists. At this time, Africa was still controlled as a colony of the European powers. Europe was on the brink of World War I, and things were more tense than usual among the colonial authorities. Already having been jailed numerous times for evangelizing the villages, Harris had a history of causing disturbances. The officials were very anxious concerning this man who was able to, single-handedly it seemed, convert and call to his allegiance 120,000 of the tribal people. They did in no way relish such a powerful character who was outside of their authority and control. In 1914, as Harris was returning from Axim in Ghana to the Ivory Coast, Lieutenant-Governor Angoulvant ordered his arrest and
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Shank 10. ibid. 236.

deportation to Liberia. Fearing their own positions of power, the officials put a stop to one of the greatest moves of God in African history. Though his work in the Ivory Coast was ended, the Lord showed himself faithful even during Harris capture and imprisonment. Before his capture, Harris had been preaching in Port Bonet. The soldiers sent to capture him arrived but, out of respect, waited for Harris to finish preaching and baptizing the converts. As they listened, the officer in charge saw two of his own soldiers walk forward to be baptized. After the baptisms, Harris urged his followers to go home in peace, and he quietly followed the soldiers, now a prisoner in their custody. Though Harris was cooperative, he and his wives were very badly treated. Helen Valentine was beaten so badly by the captors that she died shortly after returning to Liberia. Though the most obvious reason for Harris ministry to so suddenly end is the growing threat of war in Europe and the fears this caused the colonial rulers, are there other reasons? There was much more going on spiritually than most historians ever consider. Did God end Harris work for other, more important, reasons? By 1914, Harris reputation as a prophet had grown so great that some claimed anything he said would be accomplished within twenty-four hours. His fame was indeed very great. Had this fame perhaps caused him to think himself higher than he ought? Or had God perhaps mercifully ended his ministry before this could happen? Further, his views on polygamy were often criticized. Not only did Harris accept polygamy among the converts, he had claimed six wives himself while in Axim. The Bible does not say a lot about multiple wives, but we do find 1 Corinthians 7:2, But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and each wife have her own husband and 1 Timothy 3:2, An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife. Harris certainly did much to bring his people to faith in Jesus, yet his acceptance of polygamy was clearly unbiblical, and so could not be wholly supported by other missionaries. Did God perhaps end Harris ministry before his teaching on polygamy spread much further? Also, though colonial officials found no character flaws in Harris, those leaders he appointed were not so well-established in holiness and purity. Harris himself never accepted money from anyone, but would only take food, shelter, and laundry services. Some of his apostles, however, were not above reproach and had been accused of using their positions for personal gain. Perhaps God saw that it was time to bring an adjustment into Harris ministry. The leadership needed correction, and that would not happen as long as Harris continued to be the main voice for the movement. Whatever the reasons for his ministry coming to an abrupt end, Harris found himself back in Liberia in 1914. William Wad Harris returned to the village he had left eighteen months ago, the same village in which he had been born. Now in his mid-fifties, his daughter took him into her house, and Harris returned to the quiet life of a farmer. For the next few years he would make a number of unsuccessful attempts to return to the churches in the Ivory Coast, worried about their well-being and faithfulness to Jesus. Most times, he was simply turned back at the border, though he was beaten and jailed on a number of occasions. In 1923, William Platt, a Methodist missionary from England, arrived in the Ivory Coast to begin missionary work, and he discovered the thousands of churches left behind by Harris. He was very well-received by the Christians,21 but he found himself unable to unite the churches. In order to bring unity, Harris wrote to the converts in 1926, passing on his authority and leadership to Platt. Facing more difficulties concerning the converts, in 1927, Harris again wrote to the churches, requesting that all become Methodists. Later, in 1928, he sent a final letter, repenting for passing on his authority to Platt and for requesting that the people become Methodists. Instead, Harris commissioned John Ahui to continue the work as leader of the new churches. William Wad Harris died the next year, on April 23, 1929, leaving behind thousands of Harrist Churches. The Legacy of William Wad Harris

In fact, Musson tells of several occasions where Platt was literally kidnapped by neighboring villages because they were so eager for his teaching.

Harris public ministry only lasted three years, from 1910 to 1913, and only eighteen months of that time bore much fruit. However, his impact on African spirituality went far beyond those three years. He left behind 120,000 baptized converts and 200,000 people who had burned their fetishes. After his ministry, the mission outreaches throughout Liberia, the Ivory Coast, and Ghana were flooded with converts seeking discipleship. Wrote one Catholic priest in 1914: a whole people who, having destroyed its fetishes, invades our churches en masse, requesting holy baptism.22 Reverend Charles Armstrong wrote, Hundreds of people are seeking admission to the church. They want to serve the living God and learn more of Christ their Savior. They crowd in at our services, weekdays and Sundays, and attend Sunday School where they are learning the creed etc. This is now the normal state of affairs and has been for three months. Whole villages have given up fetish and are asking for the gospel, chiefs are offering land for buildings and everywhere there is an awakening that we have prayed for, but scarcely expected, perhaps.23 There was a huge hunger that was aroused by Harris ministry. This hunger was not simply a temporary occurrence, either. Of those 120,000 original converts, William Platt found 45,000 still meeting faithfully in their God houses, waiting for white missionaries to come. Platt arrived a full nine years after Harris had returned to Liberia. It is a testimony to the solid conversions that these people continued to meet together faithfully, though they had no teachers, no songs, and no Bibles. After Platt arrived in 1923, the long process of discipling the converts began, and the fruit that Harris first reaped would soon be matured into a solid, reproducing crop. Other than the spiritual effects of Harris preaching, there were also a number of physical changes that took place. One district commissioner wrote in 1915 how a year ago their village had been low and mean and filthy and their people miserable.24 He continued to describe how he had just returned from another visit and found the whole place transformed. 25 Another official commented, Appolonia before Harris was steeped in fetishism and the towns and villages were in a most unsanitary condition. All this has now been changed, places of worship and schools are to be found in every village and the villages and towns are being remodeled on sanitary lines.26 When the people converted, there was a dramatic change in their physical well-being, not simply the spiritual. Schools were built, public sanitation became important, and people became healthier. With a realization that their bodies were made in the image of God, the people desired to take care of themselves. Africa was left, after Harris ministry, a changed place. Conclusion With little more than faith in Jesus and a willingness to obey, Harris began a journey that would leave behind a radically transformed Africa. He had boldly followed the call that Jesus had on his life, and he had relied on the strength and power of his God to confirm that call. We can all learn a lot from his simple obedience to the call of God and willingness to go. Jesus said simply, Go into all the world, and so we must simply go. Though he certainly had his faults, William Wad Harris was a man of great compassion for his people and great trust in his God. His first biographer, Casely Hayford, wrote in 1915, He is a dynamic force of a rare orderIt seems as if God made the soul of Harris a soul of fire.27 We would all do well to seek a similar fire in our souls.

22 23

Shank 17. ibid. 12. 24 ibid. 12. 25 ibid. 12. 26 ibid. 11. 27 Isichei.

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