Colley would spend more than fifteen years in Africa, eight of those years in the bushes and villages, where Colley claimed he “learned how to eat snail soup and monkey stews.”
But perhaps Colley’s greatest legacy would be his organizing of the African-American Baptist into a strong mission force. When Colley was sent to Africa, he was sent out by the Board of Foreign Missions of the Southern Baptist Missions. Though the Board was doing a lot of God, it was still the time when racial segregation was running strong in the states, especially the South. The board would happily send out African Americans and work with them, but they could not hold major positions or influence. As more and more African-American Baptist Churches got excited and involved in missions, they found it increasingly harder to take a back seat in nearly all the main missions boards and societies.
When news reached Colley of the growing excitement among his churches back in the states, he realized the awesome opportunity to unleash a powerful mission force. So he left the work in Africa with another missionary and came back to the states. He worked hard to get the African-Americans Baptist churches to come together. But finally, in 1880, more than 151 delegates from 11 states gathered together in Montgomery, Alabama and formed the Baptist Foreign Mission Convention. The convention was centered in Richmond, Va and Colley served as its first secretary. The convention gave special emphasis on the work being done in Africa and Colley would even return there later in his life.
The following was written regarding the start of the convention:
When God put it upon the hearts of the of the Baptist to send out Rev. W.W. Colley to sound the trumpet and call together the great baptist family in this country, with a view of organizing them into a convention to evangelize heathen land, the Holy Spirit went with him was was evident when the roll of states was called in that historic ‘meeting’. For it was there ascertained that the missionary cord in every southern state had been touched and that our leaders were in full sympathy with the movement.
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