Lewis, Thomas

Cameroon , Angola , Democratic Republic of Congo

Thomas Lewis was a Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) missionary in the Cameroons, Portuguese Congo (Angola), and Belgian Congo (Zaire). Lewis was born in southern Wales and studied for the Baptist ministry at Haverfordwest Baptist College. He was accepted by the BMS for service in the Cameroons, where he arrived in March 1883. His work was soon overshadowed by the scramble of the European powers for Africa, which led to the Cameroons becoming a German territory in 1885 and the BMS handing over its Cameroons mission to the Basel Mission in 1886. Lewis was reassigned to the Portuguese Congo, where from 1887 he was instrumental in planting the church at São Salvador do Congo (Mbanza Kongo). Earlier that year he had married one of his Cameroon colleagues, Gwen Thomas. In 1899 he left São Salvador to establish a new station at Kibokolo (formerly Quibocola) among the Zombo people. In 1913 and 1914, as the senior BMS missionary in the Congo, he expressed caution about some of his colleagues’ willingness to risk confrontation with the Portuguese during an anticolonial rising. A strong believer in indigenous and self-supporting evangelistic agency, he was appointed in 1909 as principal of a new ecumenical institute for training evangelists and teachers at Kimpese in the Belgian Congo. After his retirement in 1915, he served the BMS as its first full-time representative in Wales.

Brian Stanley


Thomas Lewis, These Seventy Years: An Autobiography (1930); Brian Stanley, The History of the Baptist Missionary Society, 1792-1992 (1992).

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.