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Samuel Cunningham Gordon was born at Hastings, St. James, Jamaica on June 30, 1862. Educated at Calabar College, the “Normal School” (as the first High Schools along with Teacher Training Colleges were called in Jamaica at that time) then situated at East Queen Street in Kingston. He did not do his theological training there, however, but went to England to attend Spurgeon’s College for pastors in London. When the Jamaican Baptists could not find anyone to send to Africa, in response to the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) request, Gordon was recruited by the Baptist Missionary Society from London for the Congo (Zaire). Jamaicans had previously served with the BMS in the Cameroons, and from there Francis Pinnock had been transferred to the Congo in1876 from the Cameroons work, which would be turned over to the German Presbyterian Basel Mission in 1884.
Gordon thus became the third Jamaican Baptist to serve with the BMS in the Congo, following Francis Pinnock and then by Pinnock’s son, John. The Jamaican church had been supporting Pinnock in Africa through the BMS. Even when they had no missionary there they still sent this money to be used for whomever the BMS would designate. Gordon benefited from this Jamaican financial support. He married an American, Nora, a graduate of Spellman College, but she died in January 1901. He would be the last Jamaican with the BMS in Africa, until Alfred Johnson resumed the connection in 1968.
Gordon spent 36 years in the Congo, where he served first at Stanley Pool, (Kinshasa) for 15 years, and then at the chief mission station at Matadi for 20. At Matadi, at the entrance to navigation on the river Congo, he maintained a house which was a haven of hospitality for many journeying inland, whether they were missionary, trader, or government official. His abilities in agriculture and animal husbandry were useful both in Africa and on his return to Jamaica.
Ill health caused him to retire in 1926 and return to Jamaica where he became pastor at Sudbury, in his home parish of St. James until his death in 1932. His service in the Congo earned him, after his retirement to Jamaica, a gold medal from the King of Belgium for service to that country, which was then still a colony of Belgium.
Lloyd A. Cooke
BibliographyBaptist Missionary Society. Baptist Handbook. London: Baptist Missionary Society, 1933.
Jamaica Baptist Reporter. Monthly. Kingston, Jamaica: 1930.
Missionary Herald. Monthly. Boston, MA: 1901.
Russell, Horace O. Foundations and Anticipations: The Jamaica Baptist Story:1783-1892. Columbus, GA: Brentwood Christian Press, 1993.
--------. The Missionary Outreach of the West Indian Church: Jamaican Baptist Missions to West Africa in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Peter Lang, 2000.
The Daily Gleaner. Daily. Kingston, Jamaica.
Tucker, Leonard. Glorious Liberty. London: Billing & Sons Ltd. Baptist Missionary Society, 1914.
This biography, received in 2014, was adapted from the manuscript of Lloyd Cooke’s book, The Story of Jamaican Missions: How the Gospel Went from Jamaica to the World (Kingston: Arawak Publications, 2013). Lloyd Cooke grew up in Jamaica and served as a missionary in Dominica with the International Missionary Fellowship. He is currently a lecturer at Regent College of the Carribbean and assists local churches in evangelism and church growth strategies.
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