The True Story of Maria Fearing, a Missionary Who Shared Christ’s Love With Children in Africa

K.A. Ellis | June 6th 2023

The following text is the full biography featured in the back of our new children’s book exploring the inspirational story of Maria Fearing’s life. It is part of our Do Great Things for God series, a collection of beautifully illustrated biographies written to excite young children about the great things they can do for God. This book can be read to young children aged 4-5 and read by children aged 6 or older. Click here to download free biography worksheets for kids to fill in.

July 26, 1838: Maria was born near Gainesville, Alabama. Her parents were called Mary and Jesse. They were enslaved and forced to work on a plantation owned by a man named William O. Winston.

Maria worked as a slave in William O. Winston’s home. She was a nanny and a house servant.

1865: At the end of the American Civil War, all enslaved people in the United States were set free. Maria was 27.

Maria learned to read and write and became a teacher. She worked at a school in a town called Anniston.

May 1894: When she was 56, Maria went to the Belgian Congo (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo) with William Henry Sheppard. She sold her own house so that she had enough money for the journey. When their ship reached the Congo, they had to travel 1,200 miles to Luebo, where they lived.

The Congo was ruled by King Leopold II of Belgium. His soldiers treated the people brutally. Maria worked as a teacher, and she also helped translate the Bible into Baluba-Lulua. She traveled round the villages, telling people about Jesus. She bought many people out of slavery and set up the Pantops Home for Girls in Luebo for girls who were orphaned or had been kidnapped and enslaved. Around 50 girls lived there at a time.

1915: At the age of 77, Maria retired as a missionary and returned to the United States. She taught in a school in Selma, Alabama.

May 23, 1937: Maria died aged 99.

K.A. Ellis

Karen Ellis is the Director of the Center for the Study of the Bible & Ethnicity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia. She holds Master’s degrees from Yale University and Westminster Theological Seminary, and works as an advocate for the global persecuted church, raising awareness and promoting indigenous leadership in countries where Christianity is restricted or repressed. Karen is married to Dr. Carl F. Ellis, Jr.

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