First Seventh-day Adventist missionary to the indigenous people of Africa. As a young violinist in London, playing for concerts and in places of amusement but not satisfied with his future prospects, James decided to emigrate to the United States in the 1880s. Not long after his arrival he attended a series of evangelistic meetings and was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In order to gain a more thorough knowledge of the Bible that he might share his faith more effectively, he attended Battle Creek College.
While at the college James became interested in foreign missions. Only a few years before, the first group of SDA workers had gone to Australia and the islands of the Pacific. James decided that he too wanted to work among people not reached by the gospel, and that he would follow in the footsteps of Judson, Moffat, and Livingstone. When a foreign mission band was formed at the college, he joined, and in time became its leader. In 1890 he asked the Foreign Mission Board to send him to Africa. The board replied that funds were limited, and they did not feel that the time had come to open up work among the pagans in Africa. Determined to follow his convictions, James sold all he had except his violin to pay his own way to Africa.
Arriving at Cape Town by January 1893, he set out for Nyasaland (now Malawi). He went by steamer to Durban and Chinde, at a mouth of the Zambezi River; by whaleboat, with a crew of ten Africans, up the Zambezi and Shire rivers for eighteen days; then by hammock twenty-eight miles (forty-five kilometers) to Blantyre. Near there, at the nonsectarian mission of a Mr. Booth (apparently Joseph Booth, later at Malamulo), James introduced Sabbathkeeping and spent some time teaching the Seventh-day Adventist message.
Little is known of the activities of the young missionary during the next two years. He passed from village to village, mingling freely with the African people, preaching the gospel, and treating the sick. Once he went to the assistance of a tribe in danger of being enslaved. Wherever he went, he carried with him the “box that could sing,” as the Africans called his violin. He loved the people, and they loved him. Many years later W. H. Anderson met some Nyasaland Africans who described the very features of George James. They told about his violin, and about his keeping “the right day” as his day of rest.
In 1894 James was thrilled to hear of the mission station being opened for the indigenous people in Matabeleland, near Bulawayo. Feeling that he could accomplish more by linking up with other workers, he bade farewell to his weeping converts, promising to return soon with other missionaries, and took a river steamer bound for the coast. On the way he was stricken with malaria and died. The steamer stopped briefly for a hasty burial in a lonely unmarked spot.
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