Born in Liberia, Africa, of the ‘Kru’ tribe, Samuel Morris was the son of a tribal chief, and so was known as ‘Prince Kaboo’. The Krus lived peaceably with their neighbours; though there were times of droughts and hunger which resulted in little war skirmishes with their neighbouring tribes, especially the Grebos. The Grebos however, ingeniously designed a system whereby they kidnapped people from other tribes as ‘pawns’ in order to compel that tribe to bring tributes of foods, animals and other things to them. Being the son of a chief, Prince Kaboo was a prime target for the Grebos. They captured him once and the village had to pay great number of tributes in order to secure his release.
In his early teens, however, the Grebos kidnapped Prince Kaboo again! This time around, the village was so impoverished that they were not able to pay enough tributes to satisfy the heart of the Grebos to obtain his release. As a result, Prince Kaboo was tortured severely while they sent word home to the Krus in order to compel a response from them for the release for the release of their prince. After having exhausted all that they had, Prince Kaboo’s father decided to bring his own daughter to replace Kaboo in captivity – an exchange which Kaboo himself vehemently opposed. Using the sufferings he had passed through, he wondered what would happen to his sister if she was taken captive instead of him. So, he refused. When the Grebos saw that the chief had nothing more to give them, instead of releasing Prince Kaboo, they opted to kill him as an example to others.
A Light from Heaven
In classic Grebo killing system, they would tie him to a tree and beat him till he is almost dying, then they will half-bury him in the ground, smear honey on him to attract driver ants that would come and eat his flesh. It was a most painful death not to say the least. By this time, the prince was already weak and exhausted from all the months of gruesome torture and beatings, and was in no state of mind to escape or to run for his life. We do not know whether in any form or manner he uttered a prayer (as he could not have heard about the true and living God). While they were preparing their perfecting their killing plan, something extra-ordinary happened, something that would change Prince Kaboo’s life forever! A Light from Heaven! The Light shone straight down on Prince Kaboo. The enemies and other witnesses around saw the light, but they could not make any sense of it. The moment the light shone on the prince, his chains and bounds were let loose, and he fell down in a daze. While everyone was still amazed at the sight, a voice spoke out the light. “Run, Kaboo! Flee!” Instantly, his wounds were healed, his pains were gone and an unusual strength surged through his body weakened from beatings and torture; and the prince ran! He hid by a hollow wood until his captors gave up searching for him, then he came out to escape. It was a Friday!
Immediately he came out of the woods, he realized that the same light was still there. Though not as bright as before in its intensity, it was still there. The light led him on and on and on away from his village and into the bush and unknown lands. It was a risky adventure as the African jungle was filled with lions, tigers and other deadly animals that could have devoured him, but he knew no better than to follow the light. He ate forest fruits and drank water from the nearby streams as he journeyed. It is not known how long he journeyed in the wilderness, but after a long while, he was standing at a coffee plantation at the outskirts of the far away city of Monrovia. There the light left him, and there he met a young farmer boy who was passing by. Surprise of surprises, it was a fellow Kru boy about his age! They exchanged pleasantries and the boy introduced him to the plantation owner who offered him an opportunity to work with them in exchange for clothing, feeding and accommodation.
All these while, Prince Kaboo wondered what happened to him. He kept thinking about the light that broke his chains and the voice that told him to run. There was something about that light and that voice that Kaboo could not understand. The Kru boy who introduced him to the plantation was actually a Christian. After giving his life to Christ, he changed his name to Nathan Strong. One day Kaboo saw Nathan kneeling on the floor, his face and hands were turned upward. He was talking. Kaboo asked him what he was doing, and he said he was talking to his father in heaven. A few days later was a Sunday, and Nathan took Kaboo to church to hear God’s word. That day, a missionary woman from America by name of Miss Anna Knolls was preaching. That day she told the story of the Apostle Paul and how he met a light from heaven and heard a voice speak from heaven. She then told them that the voice was that of Jesus Christ.
At that point, Kaboo jumped up and shouted: “I have seen that light! It is the same light that brought me here. And I heard that voice. When they were whipping me, and I was about to die, I heard that voice. I saw that Light!” His face glowed with revelation. “Now I know who it was who saved my life. It was Jesus!”
After telling his story, Kaboo was led to the Lord. He became a member of the Methodist Chrich in Monrovia and was baptized by Miss Knolls. He was christened “Samuel Morris”, after the name of the man who sponsored Miss Knolls to get to Africa. Samuel continued to learn under Miss Knolls, and his passion for God grew. He longed for a day when he would return back to his tribesmen to teach them about Jesus, so he longed to know more and more and more. Every Thursday evening was his last meal until Saturday. For the rest of his life, he never ate on a Friday, he always kept a fast to commemorate his deliverance from his captors.
“I will go to New York”
Samuel Morris kept studying his Bible as he developed his English-speaking abilities more and more. He had lots and lots of questions to ask and Miss Knolls did her best to answer, until one day she got tired of his questions. She told him that she had taught him all she knew, and wished that Mr. Stephen Merrit was available to answer all his questions, as it was Mr. Merrit that taught her all that she knew. “Where is Mr. Merrit?”, Kaboo asked. “He is in New York, a big city in America”, Miss Knolls replied. “Then, I will go to New York.” All of Miss Knolls efforts to explain to him that New York is not a place you just walk into like that fell on deaf ears. Samuel Morris was going to talk to his Father, and if He approves, he will go to New York, find Stephen Merrit, and learn all he could about the Holy Spirit.
Journey to New York
In his own words, this is what Samuel Morris had to say about his journey, “I had so many questions. I was hungry to know more about God. I decided to go to America to study and learn. I went to the African coast and found a ship headed to America. The ship’s captain refused to let me on board. I asked God to change his heart, and he did! One of his sailors became very sick. The captain let me take his job, assuming that I knew how to sail, but I didn’t. When he and the sailors drank too much, they treated me very badly. One man even tried to kill me. But I showed them God’s love. Over the months at sea, many of them, including the captain, became Christians. A ship, once so full of hatred and drunkenness, became a vessel of love and unity in Christ.” Actually, God worked lots of miracles through Samuel Morris in that ship. By the time he was leaving the ship, almost all, including the captain had given their lives to Christ.
On getting to New York, Prince Kaboo alighted from the ship. As the God of miracles would have it, the first person he met and asked about Mr. Stephen Merrit actually knew him. He offered to take him to Mr. Merrit for the price of one dollar. Samuel had no money but promised him not to worry that his father will pay. 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. Since he had to leave for another appointment, 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. Mr. Merritt was amazed. He welcomed Samuel into his house, and provided food and clothing for him.
Since Samuel came to America with an intention to learn, Mr. Stephen Merrit connected him to Thaddeus Reade, the then President of Taylor University in Fort Wayne, Indiana. At that time, the university was at the brink of a financial meltdown and was about to close down. They reluctantly agreed to give Samuel Morris a chance, and that was to be the turning point of the school. In Samuel’s own words, “God used my desire to know him better to start a spiritual revival in the town, after a local newspaper printed a story about an all-night prayer service we had. It also included the story of my capture and conversion to Christianity. The name Samuel Morris became known in almost every home in Fort Wayne. So many donations came in to the “Samuel Faith Fund” that the university began to grow. (The fund helped other needy students, too.)”
Death & After
The Lord continued to use Samuel Morris mightily to revive the Church in America. On account of him, many souls were won to the Lord. His child-like faith, his trust in the Lord, his life of prayer was worthy of note. Even Mr. Stephen Merrit’s life was transformed by this young African boy. He once remarked that though many hands had been laid on him by mighty preachers, but none could compare to the mighty presence of the Holy Spirit that came upon him when the young Samuel held his hands and prayed for him.
The cold weather of America was not really favourable to the boy Samuel as he went down with cold. He asked God to heal him, but Samuel’s work on earth was done. He died just five years after coming to America, at the age of about 20 years. Though that was not the end. His life and passion moved many students of Taylor University to answer the call to African to minister God’s word to the natives of Samuel’s land. Till today, the influence of Samuel Morris had remained with Taylor University such that even in the midst of the decadence in America today, Taylor University remains a missionary-sending university in America; and they can never finish telling the story of that university without talking about Samuel Morris.
Now, what about you? For what will you be remembered? Do not say you are too young. Though Samuel died at the age of 20, but within that short time, he had won many souls to the Lord, and influenced generations for His Father. Though dead, his life still speaks, and his simple child-like faith in his heavenly Father reminds us that such faith is all that is needed to turn our world around.
FOR FURTHER CONSULTATIONS:
7. Merritt, Stephen. Samuel Morris: A Spirit-Filled Life.
—. Samuel Morris: A Marvelous Story of Divine Power:
Francis Asbury Society, 1987, 2000.