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Missionary Doctor Never Saw His 'Success'

In 1912, medical missionary Dr. William Leslie went to live and minister to tribal people in a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After 17 years he returned to the U.S. a discouraged man, believing he failed to make an impact for Christ. He died nine years after his return.

But in 2010 a team led by Eric Ramsey with Tom Cox World Ministries made a surprising discovery. They found a network of reproducing churches hidden like glittering diamonds in the dense jungle across the Kwilu River from Vanga, where Dr. Leslie was stationed.

Based on his previous research, Ramsey thought the Yansi in this remote area might have some exposure to the name of Jesus, but no real understanding of who he is. They were unprepared for their remarkable find. "When we got in there, we found a network of reproducing churches throughout the jungle," Ramsey reports. "Each village had its own gospel choir, although they wouldn't call it that," he notes. "They wrote their own songs and would have sing-offs from village to village." They found a church in each of the eight villages they visited scattered across 34 miles. They also found a 1000-seat stone "cathedral" that often got so crowded in the 1980s—with many walking miles to attend—that a church planting movement began in the surrounding villages.

Apparently, Dr. Leslie traveled throughout this remote region, teaching the Bible and promoting literacy. He also started the first organized educational system in these villages, Ramsey learned. For seventeen years, Ramsey fought tropical illnesses, charging buffaloes, armies of ants, and leopard-infested jungles to bring the gospel into a remote area. He died feeling like he had failed, but instead his faithfulness and courage left a powerful legacy of vital churches.

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