Over 130 years ago, in a small Liberian village in West Africa, Samuel Morris was born Prince Kaboo, the eldest son of a Kru tribal chieftain. While still a child, a neighboring clan defeated his people and demanded that Kaboo’s father pay a hefty ransom for his son’s return.
The Miraculous Escape
The conquering chief subjected Kaboo to terrible treatment and cruel labor.
During one of many intense whippings, Kaboo said he saw a bright light and heard a voice from Heaven telling him to flee. Kaboo recalled that the rope binding him fell to the ground, after which he gathered his strength and ran into the jungle.
Traveling at night and hiding in the hollow of trees by day, Kaboo navigated blindly through a jungle dominated by jungle law. Eventually he arrived at Monrovia, the one city of the thousands in Liberia that was civilized and under the rule of law. At a coffee plantation that provided work and shelter, a young boy invited him to church where Miss Knolls, a missionary and graduate of Taylor University (then known as Fort Wayne College), spoke on the conversion of the Apostle Paul. Kaboo immediately recognized the story as being similar to his escape. Shortly afterward, he accepted Christ as Savior and was baptized under the name of Samuel Morris in honor of the missionary’s benefactor.
Faith to Move a Mountain
Morris spent the next two years painting houses in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. He became a zealous member of the Christian community and displayed a fervent desire to learn about the Holy Spirit. Missionaries encouraged him to travel to America and seek the instruction of Stephen Merritt, former secretary to Bishop William Taylor. With no money or means of transportation, Morris began his journey on foot.
From Liberia to New York
Sleeping on the beach at the Robertsport harbor, Morris waited several days before finding passage on a ship in exchange for work. The journey would prove a difficult one as Morris was often beaten and assigned to the most dangerous tasks. However, by the time the ship docked in New York in September of 1891, the captain and most of the crew had accepted Christ because of Morris’ witness.
Morris Arrives in America
As a pastor and sponsor of a rescue mission, Merrit warmly received Morris. He contacted Thaddeus Reade, then president of Taylor University, and requested to enroll Morris at the school. Due to Taylor’s financial debt, Reade personally started a fund for Morris. The fruit of his effort would later be known as the “Faith Fund”.
The “Angel in Ebony” at Taylor University
In December of 1891, Morris arrived on Taylor’s campus (then in Fort Wayne, Ind.). When asked by Reade which room he wanted, Morris replied, “If there is a room that nobody wants, give that to me.” Morris’ faith had such a profound impact on the Fort Wayne community that he was frequently invited to speak at local churches. At night, he could regularly be heard in his room praying, which he simply called “talking to my Father.”
Morris often asked others to read Scripture to him. When one student refused, saying he did not believe in the Bible anymore, Morris replied, “My dear brother, your Father speaks to you, and you do not believe him? Your brother speaks, and you do not believe him? The sun shines and you do not believe it? God is your father, Christ your brother, the Holy Ghost your Sun.”
Morris’ Mission to the World
President Reade once said, “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.”
On May 12, 1893, Samuel Morris died after contracting a severe cold. His death inspired his fellow students to serve as missionaries to Africa on his behalf, fulfilling his dream of one day returning to minister to his own people. Hundreds of spectators lined the streets of Fort Wayne as Samuel Morris’ body was carried to Berry Street Methodist Church. Lindley Baldwin, author of Samuel Morris, writes “the burial ceremony in Lindenwood cemetery, his last earthly resting place, was attended by a multitude such had never before accompanied there.” Morris’ untimely passing prevented him from participating at the laying of the cornerstone at Taylor’s new Upland campus, where he was scheduled to speak and sing.