Eliza Davis George
Eliza Davis-George (1879–1980) was born in Texas to former-slave parents. Her parents raised her in the Baptist church, but it wasn’t until she was 16, during a series of revival meetings, that she made a decision to accept the Lord. Eliza recalled:
“I went to the mourners’ bench the first night and began to tremble. I stayed on it for about five nights during the special meeting. Then [the preacher] delivered a sermon on John 3:16… It answered my heart, and I accepted the Lord – and never felt so happy in my life. Immediately there seemed to be in my thoughts a longing to do something for Him, but what that ‘something’ was I did not know.”
Eliza earned a teacher’s diploma and afterward attended Central Texas College where she obtained her teacher’s certificate. Upon her graduation, she joined the College faculty. In February 1911, Eliza participated in a college prayer meeting interceding for different regions and nations. As the preacher prayed, Eliza was filled with an overwhelming desire to go to Africa. In that moment, she received a vision of people in Africa in front of the judgment seat of Jesus. Many were weeping and saying, “No one ever told us You died for us.” Eliza knew Jesus was asking her to go and serve Him on this continent.
Eliza encountered a great deal of opposition to the idea of her serving as a missionary in Africa. The president of Central Texas College and the board president of the Texas Baptist Missions Convention tried to discourage her. Determined, but unable to immediately raise the funds to go, Eliza remained at Central Texas College for two more years.
During these years Eliza cultivated a deepening life of prayer, often interceding all night for the unsaved in Africa and forging a bond of urgent love with her Lord for the people she would serve for the rest of her life.
In a poem she wrote nearly two years after her vision, she disclosed the passion that had been building in her soul, “My African brother is calling me; Hark! Hark! I hear his voice . . . Would you say stay when God said go?”
In December 1913, Eliza left Waco, Texas, for New York, and boarded a ship bound for Africa along with six other missionaries, reaching Monrovia, Liberia, on January 20, 1914.
Eliza and another missionary opened a school for children in the interior of Liberia, where there were few missionaries or churches. They called the school Bible Industrial Academy, and their aim was to teach children to read the Bible and show them helpful life skills. Within the first two years they had fifty children attending the academy and saw more than 1,000 people accept the Lord in the nearby villages.
Eliza served as an evangelist, teacher, and church planter throughout Sinoe County, Liberia. Wherever she established ministries, she trained Liberian young people and sent them as missionaries to take the Word of God to their own people and to provide education for their children.
Five years after arriving in Liberia, Eliza’s mission board disbanded. Lacking financial support, she was approached by a British missionary doctor who urged her to marry him so that she would be able to remain in Africa. After much prayer, she concluded that God was permitting her to marry, and in 1919, Eliza became the wife of Dr. Charles George. Together they adopted three children: Maude, Cecelia, and Cerella.
Even when married, Eliza continued to live meagerly, trusting in the Lord’s provision and going to extraordinary lengths to secure support for the ministry Jesus had called her to. Her prayer life reflected her dependence on God:
“O heavenly Father, thou hast taught us to pray for our daily bread. Lord, thou dost know that I do not have one penny to buy food and pay the workers here at the mission. Father, send us something to meet our needs as thou hast promised. Help me to keep trusting Thee so that the children will know Thou art caring for them.”
In 1939, Charles died. Eliza, however, continued the work Jesus had called her to for another thirty-three years—discipling hundreds of young people, and sending many to America for further education. By the 1960s The Eliza Davis George Baptist Association had twenty-seven churches in Liberia.
While traveling in West Africa in 1971, Dr. Joseph Jeter was introduced to Eliza Davis George, whose ministry, despite her advanced age and declining health, was still going strong.
“I met Mother George at the Evangelical Negro Industrial Mission deep in the bush at the age of 91. Her ministry was vast. She was almost blind. She walked with a walking stick. She had a larger tropical cancer on her leg, and she was still pressing the claims of Christ.”
Due to fragile health, Eliza returned to the United States a year after Dr. Jeter’s visit. She died in Tyler, Texas, in March 1980, at the age of 100. Her entire life stands as a witness to a believer’s steadfast determination to count the cost and wholeheartedly follow Jesus to reach the lost.
To learn more about Christians in Black History, check out The Malachi Project.