Henry Sharp was a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia. He was also a slave owner – as were most of his neighbors. When he recognized that the Lord had saved one of his slaves, George Leile, and that the Holy Spirit had given him gifts fit for the ministry, he “emancipated the stirring preacher so he might give himself wholly to the preaching of the Gospel (among) the people of color.”
Before he moved to Jamaica as a missionary, Leile led Andrew Bryan to the Lord. Bryan became an outstanding preacher himself, and suffered persecution for his efforts. Thankfully, he persisted in his service for Christ, and his owner allowed him to construct a church building in the Yamacraw district of Savanna. This became the first black Baptist church in America, eventually growing to more than 800 members.
125 miles away, outside of Augusta, Abraham Marshall was pastoring the Keokee Baptist Church. He was also traveling throughout the region as a missionary and evangelist. He took a great interest in the black work in Savannah. It was Brother Marshal and the Keokee church who helped to organize that church and which subsequently ordained Brother Bryan.
Marshall prepared and presented a certificate of ordination to the new pastor. It read: “This is to certify that the Ethiopian Church of Jesus Christ of Savannah, have called their beloved brother Andrew Bryan to the work of the ministry. We have examined into his qualifications, and believing it to be the will of the great head of the Church, we have appointed him to the preach the Gospel and administer the ordinances as God, in His providence may call. January 20, 1788. A. Marshall.”