Thomas James Comber was a Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) missionary in the Cameroons and the Congo. Comber was born in Camberwell, South London, to a strong Baptist family. He was trained at Regent’s Park College, London, and was accepted by the BMS for service in the Cameroons. From 1876 to 1878 he served in the Cameroons alongside George Grenfell. With Grenfell he made two journeys to the Congo River in 1878 to investigate the possibilities of a Congo mission. After Grenfell resigned from the BMS in difficult circumstances, Comber was left to press the claims of the new missions on the British public. He led the first BMS missionary party to sail for the Congo in 1879. The death in June of his wife, Minnie, was followed by the 1884 loss of his sister, a missionary in the Cameroons, and in 1885 of his brother, a fellow missionary in the Congo. In 1886, at São Salvador do Congo (now Mbanza Kongo, in Angola), Comber’s Congolese servant, William Mantu Parkinson, become the first BMS convert to be baptized. Comber deserves to be remembered as one of the architects of the Baptist Church among the Bakongo people. He died of fever on board ship en route for England.
J. B. Myers, Thomas J. Comber: Missionary Pioneer to the Congo (1888); Ernest A. Payne, The Great Succession: Leaders of the Baptist Missionary Society during the Nineteenth Century (1938).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.