The Collective Journey of Our Faith
This section aims to highlight Some Key Dates in the History of the Cameroon Baptist Convention. A summary history can be found at the end of this page and a full history can be found in the Resources section of this website.
- In 1843 Dr. J. K. Prince and Rev. John Clarke came to Cameroon under the canopy of the London Baptist Missionary Society. They later had reinforcement from Joseph Merrick and Alexander Fuller.
- Joseph Merrick settled in Bimbia where he quickly learned the language and started sharing the gospel in the Isubu area.
- Afred Saker joined him later and translated some portions of the Bible into tribal languages.
Joseph Merrick, a Jamaican Baptist, begins work in Bimbia – not far from Limbe (formerly Victoria). In spite of physical deformity (“the Elephant Man”) he was an effective missionary and began to translate parts of the Bible. He had a printing press in Bimbia.
Alfred Saker, a British missionary arrives in Douala; later moved to Fernando Po.
Saker establishes Victoria (now Limbe), transferring the Baptists from Fernando Po to Victoria. His house still stands in Limbe. David Livingstone said: “. . . having regard to its many-sided character, the work of Alfred Saker is, in my judgment, the most remarkable on the African Coast.”
Baptist property in Victoria transferred to Basel (Swiss Presbyterian) Mission. This included the Saker house, which is Presbyterian property even now.
- German Baptist missionaries began coming to Cameroon.
- August Stephens, first American to serve under German Baptists.
Carl Jacob Bender in Cameroon 1899-1919 and 1929-1935 (buried in Soppo). Born in Germany, seminary in Rochester NY – became US citizen in 1899. He was an American, appointed by the Baptists in Germany. He was an important figure in the transition from German to American missionary endeavors. His house in Soppo still stands.
Paul Gebauer – a bridge from the German to the North American Baptists. Allan Effa sums him up this way: “Paul Gebauer, who made myriad contributions to a wide number of fields, could be described as a missionary statesman, strategist, educator, anthropologist, and art collector, all with a heavy dose of personality. From the perspective of mission history he is most remembered as a key architect of the Cameroon Baptist Convention and as the catalyst for the development of the North American Baptist Missionary Society. “In 1931 Paul graduated from seminary, became a U.S. citizen, and was appointed as a missionary to Cameroon under the German Baptist Mission. . . . but became a forceful advocate for the establishment of a missionary work under North American Baptist direction in ways that he felt would be more progressive and more in line with his passion for an indigenous church. His first term of service was spent under the mentorship of the German-American Carl Bender, a strategist and ethnographer in his own right.”
Formation of North American Baptist (NAB) General Missionary Society; Paul Gebauer reappointed to Cameroon as its first missionary.
Edith Koppin First Nurse
Laura Reddig Pioneer Nurse, began leprosy work in Cameroon.
George and Louise Dunger Served in Cameroon
Cameroon Baptist Mission takes over Banso government hospital; Dr. Leslie Chaffee becomes first doctor at Banso Baptist Hospital
Preliminary Teacher Training Center opened at Soppo.
Leprosy work begins and construction begins at Mbingo (Bamenda New Hope Settlement).
Cameroon Baptist Convention formed.
Saker Baptist College (CBC's first secondary school) opened.
September 17, 1963 CBC received a Certificate of Incorporation from the Prime Minister of West Cameroon under the Land Ordinance (perpetual succession) Act.
CBC General Council formed.
Baptist Mission schools/colleges handed over to the CBC Education Authority.
- Medical work handed over to CBC Medical Authority
- CBM Evangelism Committee hands over to CBC Evangelism Board
- Process of registering all CBM properties in the name of the CBC begins.
- Cameroon Baptist Mission (and its CFC) becomes obsolete and fades away.
- Cameroon Missionary Fellowship (CMF) becomes part of CBC.
The Reverend Joseph Merrick was a native of Jamaica, and of African descent. He was educated in the school of the Baptist Missionary Society, and as a youth began in 1837 to preach. He was soon after associating with his father in the pastorate of the church at Jericho in Jamaica. In 1840, he heard that a group of missionaries from England and Jamaica were planning to spread the gospel among the native people and released slaves on the Island of Fernando Po. One of the results of the great act of Emancipation, which ended slavery, was the development of a desire by freed Africans to convey the gospel to the land of their fathers. Many could still remember the homes from which they had been and longed to revisit their native land in order to bring the enlightenment of Christianity to their own people in Africa.
The committee of the Baptist Missionary society of London was encouraged to undertake this work because of the generous offer of funds and volunteers from the churches in Jamaica. The time seemed ripe and appropriate as the triumph of freedom over slavery could be commemorated by the effort to proclaim in Africa itself the glad tidings of a Divine liberty form on high. It was to help in this mission that the young Merrick sailed from Jamaica to England in the company of Rev. Clarke, Fuller, and Dr Prince. From there, he sailed with his wife, Dr. Prince and Rev. Fuller to Fernando Po where he arrived in September 1843, some five months before Alfred Saker ever arrived Africa.
In March 1884, Rev. Merrick purchased from king Bell and King Akwa two pieces of land in the Cameroon River Area to be used as stations from which the work of evangelism and education could be carried out. It was on one of these stations Bimbia in West Cameroon – which he and his wife settled in 1845. Rev. Merrick had started the first school in the entire of Cameroon (1844). Because he preceded Alfred Saker, he was the first missionary to work on Cameroon soil. He was also the first of several Negro Baptist missionaries who came at that time to help with the task of evangelizing and educating the people from whom they descended.
In addition to preaching and educating, Rev. Merrick spent much time and effort to learn the Isubu language of the Bimbia people. After having become very proficient in the language, he proceeded to translate part of God’s word into the tongue that the people could understand. He translated the Gospel of John in 1848. These translations were partially printed by himself on the first printing press in Cameroon.
During the voyage, on 22 October 1849, he died, worn out by his labours which included journeys into the immediate interior. His death, ended a life devoted to Jesus Christ as savior of all mankind, to bring the light of the Gospel to suffering people, and to educate the young minds of those who would carry Cameroon into the future of freedom, independence, education and Christianity. In 1844 English missionaries Alfred Saker and Helen Saker joined the mission field and established the city of Victoria (now Limbe) in 1858. In 1884 officials from Germany made an agreement to make Cameroon a German Territory. However, with the start of World War I in 1914 all German missionaries were driven out of Cameroon leaving many ministries let by German Baptists without leadership. Carl Bender, one of the first North American Baptist (NAB) missionaries who arrived in 1899 and also a USA citizen, chose to stay in Cameroon to train church leaders. NAB soon began to send more and more missionaries to continue the work the German missionaries began. The NAB in Cameroon was organized as the Cameroon Baptist Mission (CBM). Following a few decades of incredible growth, including increasing numbers of Cameroonian Church Leaders, national meetings were held in Bamenda. The end result was the formation of the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC). The Cameroon Baptist Mission continued to work alongside CBC for the next two decades. The wave of independence that swept through Africa in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s prompted CBM to be dissolved in 1974 as the two entities (CBM and CBC) were integrated into one.
The initial hope and eventual goal of the CBM was to hand over work and properties to the CBC even before the CBC was officially organized. The transition was brought about smoothly in large part due to the fact that Cameroonians were brought into leadership positions as their qualifications improved. There was an enormous amount of committee work and planning that led up to the dissolving of CBM into CBC. The process of integration was a long one and not free of issues that had to be overcome . However, by 1975 CBM had been officially merged into CBC and the final transfer of property had begun. Following 1975, the body of foreign missionaries serving under the CBC has been known as the Cameroon Missionary Fellowship (CMF).