In 1818, Philip, at that time a pastor in England, was asked to go on a survey trip to South Africa for the London Missionary Society. The purpose of the trip was to inspect the Society’s mission stations, which were in danger of getting closed down due to high expenses and little fruit. This trip would completely change Philip’s life.
When Philip arrived in South Africa, he was shocked at what he saw. Many of the colonist and missionaries treated the indigenous people horribly and with contempt. The mission stations that had long ago been established to reach the tribes lay empty.
When Philip arrived back to England and reported to the Society, he gave a report in the harshest terms. The society decided that, instead of closing down their work, they just needed a strong leader who would get it back on track. So they asked Philip to take leadership of all their operations in South Africa. Still seething from what he saw, Philip agreed!
When Philip arrived in South Africa, he immediately began to change things. He fought hard against the discrimination that divided many of the missionaries from the people they needed to reach. Philip felt that racial discrimination was contrary to God’s word and unfit to have any place in God’s work. He tried to give the African men more control over the churches and mission stations, hoping that they would help create an African Church, which would help heal the mistrust many Africans felt towards a “foreign religion.”
Philip’s strong stand for the rights of the Africans made him very unpopular among many of the white settlers. But he pushed on and soon new mission stations and churches were being started all across the southern tip of Africa. In his later years, he became much more involved in politics, fighting in the English parliament for the rights of “his people.” But no matter what else he did, his heart was ever among the work among the tribes and people of South Africa. When his age made it too difficult to continue the work of a politician, Philip retired to one of the mission stations in South Africa. Here, he continued the work until he died.
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