Africa became a major focus of mission work from the 1840s onwards.
Jamaican Christians urged BMS to commence a mission to Western Africa. As recently freed slaves they wanted to share the gospel with their fellow Africans, proclaiming: “We have been made slaves for men; we can be made slaves for Christ”. In 1843, a group of BMS missionaries and Jamaican volunteers sailed for Africa.
A key figure in the West African mission was Alfred Saker. Though most of the missionaries soon died, Saker was able to build up work in Cameroon.
In 1878, after a large donation to BMS, Thomas Comber and George Grenfell were dispatched from Cameroon to Congo to investigate the possibility of establishing a mission on the Congo River. This 4,000 mile waterway into the heart of Africa potentially offered access to 25 million people.
A further gift to BMS purchased a steamer – the Peace – which enabled the mission to move eastwards along the river. Grenfell spent several decades exploring and charting land and waters and assessing the best locations for mission stations – work which laid the foundation for a considerable Christian witness in tropical Africa.