Samuel Morris (1872-1893), was born in Liberia as Prince Kaboo, the son of a Kru tribal chieftain. There was much fighting between his tribe and neighboring tribes. When Kaboo was fifteen years old, a neighboring tribe defeated Kaboo’s tribe and took him captive, demanding his father pay a ransom. While he was held captive, Kaboo was often tortured and beaten with poisonous vines. He was hopeless and near the point of death. One day, as he was about to be whipped again, Kaboo said a great light appeared before him. A voice thundered from the light and told Kaboo to run. Immediately, his wounds were healed and he had strength to run. He followed the light into the jungle as his captors searched for him. Over the next few weeks, the light guided Kaboo at night and showed him where to hide during the day.1
Once Kaboo left the jungle, he found a small plantation owned by white foreigners. Much to his surprise, the first person Kaboo met was a Kru boy, about his age, who helped Kaboo to get a job on the plantation and start a new life. At night, Kaboo would see this boy on his knees praying. One night Kaboo asked him what he was doing. The boy replied, “I am talking to God. He is my Father.”2 The next Sunday, they attended a church together where a missionary woman was telling the story about Saul’s conversion and the light from heaven. Upon hearing the story, Kaboo shouted, “I have seen that light!”3 and gave his life to Jesus. Ms. Knolls, the church’s Sunday school teacher, began to disciple Kaboo and help him learn English. Kaboo was soon baptized and received a new name, Samuel Morris, after the main supporter and benefactor of Ms. Knolls’ missionary work.
As Samuel continued to grow in his faith, he became hungry to learn more about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. One missionary told him how they had learned about the Holy Spirit from a man named Stephen Merritt in New York. Samuel declared, “Then I am going to New York!”
After waiting at the docks for several days, Samuel eventually found passage on a ship to New York in exchange for work. The crew soon discovered Samuel didn’t know how to sail, and they abused and beat him, but Samuel endured it all with patience and responded by going out of his way to be kind and forgiving. They saw Samuel pray frequently, even during dangerous storms. Attracted to the profound peace Samuel had, the crew, one by one, started giving their lives to the Lord Jesus. One time, a fight broke out between two crew members and one of them threatened to kill the other with a machete. Samuel quietly intervened, confidently looking the man in the eye, and the crisis was averted. Later, that same man fell ill and was near death. Samuel prayed for him and he was healed. He repented of his ways and became a new man. By the end of the five-month journey across the Atlantic, the crew was radically different.
Once he arrived in New York, Samuel inquired where to find Stephen Merritt. A stranger told him that Mr. Merritt lived on the other side of town, and offered to take Samuel there for a dollar. When they arrived, the man asked for his dollar and Samuel replied, “Stephen Merritt pays all my bills now.” Stephen Merritt graciously handed over the dollar bill.4 Mr. Merritt had to leave for another appointment, so Samuel waited at Mr. Merritt’s mission. That evening, Mr. Merritt returned to find Samuel surrounded by seventeen men, all laying prostrate before the Lord, repenting of their sins.5 Mr. Merritt was amazed. He welcomed Samuel into his house, and provided food and clothing for him.
Mr. Merritt had to conduct a funeral the next day and he invited Samuel to come along. Along the way, they stopped to pick up two other clergymen who were to accompany them in their coach. These men were reluctant and shocked to be asked to ride in the same coach with an African boy. On the way to the funeral, Samuel suggested that they pray. He knelt right there in the coach and began to “talk with his Father.” The purity and simplicity of his prayer produced such a burning of the Holy Spirit in each of the men there that they were convicted of their own spiritual shabbiness.
A Sunday school class was so impacted by Samuel’s relationship with the Lord they decided to fund his way to Bible school. Mr. Merritt arranged for him to go to Taylor University in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Five days after their offering, Samuel was on his way.
Immediately, this young man made an impact on Taylor University. When the president asked him which room he wanted to stay in, Samuel replied, “If there is a room nobody wants, give that to me.”6 On Sunday, he found his way to a black church in town. As he spoke to the people, many were touched. The minister of the church said, “No such visitation of the Holy Spirit had ever been witnessed by that congregation.”7
That winter, the cold weather caused Samuel to become ill. He passed away in January 1893 and on his face was a look of extreme joy and peace. The best summary of his short twenty-year life can be found on his gravestone. It reads, “Samuel Morris . . . Famous Christian Mystic. Apostle of Simple Faith. Exponent of the Spirit-filled Life.”8
1. Lindley Baldwin, Samuel Morris (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1942), 7–15.
2. Wilbur Konkel, Jungle Gold: The Amazing Story of Sammy Morris and True Stories of African Life (Salem, OH: Schmul Publishing Co., Inc., 1993), 17.
3. Baldwin, Samuel Morris, 16.
4. Stephin Merritt and Thaddeus Constantine Reade, Samuel Morris: A Spirit Filled Life (Albion, MI: The Golden Rule Publishing Co., 1908), 7.
5. Baldwin, Samuel Morris, 43.
6. Ibid., 54.
7. Ibid., 59.
8. Ibid., 74.
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