William Leslie thought his mission was a failure, but God had a long-term plan

The missionary died thinking his mission had failed. However, 80 years later, where he once served, far in the jungle, a whole network of thriving churches was discovered.

In the age of instant shopping, deliveries and experiences, we want to see the fruits of our ministry now. Right now. But have you considered that you can be an instrument in God’s long-term plan? And how important it is in such a situation to do what God has told you, even if you do not see results now. Right now.

In 1912, medical missionary Dr. William Leslie traveled to a remote part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to live and minister to the local tribes. After 17 years, he returned to the US exhausted and disappointed, because he was sure that he had not been able to exert the proper influence on people to lead them to Christ. Nine years later, he died.

But in 2000, a team of missionaries led by Eric Ramsey (Tom Cox World Ministries) made a shocking, sensational discovery. Lost in the wilderness of the distant jungle, they discovered a network of growing, reproductive churches that, like sparkling diamonds, fringed the Kwilu River along the bank opposite Vanga, where Dr. Leslie’s mission station had once been located.

Thanks to a pilot from the Mission Aviation Fellowship, they were able to fly a Cessna Caravan amphibious aircraft from Kinshasa to Vanga, a two and a half hour flight east. Arriving in Vanga, the missionaries walked about a mile to the Kwilu River and crossed this 800-meter-wide water barrier in narrow canoes. Then, with packs on their shoulders, they had to walk another 15 kilometers deep into the jungle before they reached the first village of the Yansi tribe.

Relying on data from previous studies, Ramsey was sure that the Yancy  tribe lived in such a deep jungle that even if they have heard the word “Jesus”, they do not know who He really is. However, they were in for a big and pleasant surprise.

In his report, Ramsey wrote the following: “When we arrived there, we found a whole network of reproductive churches scattered throughout the jungle. Every village has its own gospel choir, though they certainly don’t use that terminology. They themselves compose hymns, which are then distributed from village to village.”

The villages visited by the mission team are scattered within a 25 km radius. In one of the villages, Ramsey’s team even discovered a stone “cathedral” with a thousand seats. Ramsey learned that this church was at its peak in the 1980s. The evangelization movement started from nearby villages. Many people traveled many miles to the service.

“There are no Bibles in the Yancey language,” Rumsey says. “They use Bibles in French. Therefore, the preachers and Bible teachers of this tribe must be able to communicate fluently in French.”

Apparently, Dr. Leslie crossed the Kwilu River once a year and traveled through the jungle for a month on a litter carried by his servants.

“He taught people the Bible, taught children to read and write, taught them the importance of education and told them Bible stories,” Ramsey explains. He also learned that Dr. Leslie established the first educational system in these villages.

Ramsey, however, had to dig diligently to find out “to whom” these flourishing churches in the Yancey tribe owe their existence. “In these tribes, Leslie was only known by name,” says Rumsey. “They didn’t know if it was first or last name. They also know that “that white missionary” was a Baptist and lived in one of the cities across the river. They also gave the approximate years in which he served among them.”

Upon returning home, Ramsey did some more research and found out that Dr. Leslie was an associate of the American Baptist Missionary Union, founded in 1814 by Adoniram Judson, a pioneer missionary in Burma.

A native of Ontario, Canada, William Leslie worked as a pharmacist until he converted in 1888. He then moved to suburban Chicago, where the Lord began to instill in his heart the desire to become a medical missionary.

Dr. Leslie began his missionary service in the Congo in 1893 in the village of Banza Manteke. But after a couple of years he fell ill with a serious illness. He was cared for until his recovery by a young missionary, Clara Hill. Their friendship grew into love and soon Leslie proposed to her. In 1896 they got married.

In 1905, William and Clara began pioneering missionary work in Cuilo, Angola. There, on the eve of the birth of their child, they survived a terrible hurricane. There they had to overcome “more worldly” difficulties – like the invasion of buffaloes and ants.

A few years later, they were able to clear a small area in Vanga along the Kwilu River from the jungle, which then teemed with leopards. On a tiny plateau they built a new missionary station. Cannibalism was still practiced in some surrounding villages then.

They lived in Vanga for 17 years, but their ministry ended on a sad note. “Dr. Leslie had an argument with some of the tribal leaders and they asked him not to visit them again,” Ramsey explains. They later reconciled. There were apologies, words of forgiveness, but the result was completely different from what Dr. Leslie had hoped for.

“His goal was to spread Christianity,” Ramsey says further. – It seemed to him that he spent 17 years there in vain, that his ministry did not have the proper impact on the locals. However, in reality, he left behind a huge spiritual legacy.”

Adapted from blog.godreports.com, translated by www.istina.info.

Previously published in IN VICTORY magazine