Traveling by faith on a skimpy budget, Geoff Sadler has been visiting
U.S. cities and seaports that were once part of the slave trade.
By Peter K. Johnson
The Liverpool, England, native begs African Americans to forgive his
city's role as the leading slave-ship port in the 18th century in hopes
that genuine reconciliation will bring revival to his nation, theirs
Sadler, 42, hatched the idea to repent for his hometown's
past sins in the fall of 2003 after researching Liverpool's history of
building slave ships as well as ships for the Confederate navy during
the Civil War. "It shocked me," he said.
Wealthy merchants also bankrolled slave-snatching expeditions to the
west coast of Africa from 1740 to 1808. The ships unloaded their
grieving human cargoes in Southern ports. John Newton, the reformed
slave-ship captain who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," sailed from
Sadler came to Christ at a Billy Graham crusade in Liverpool in 1984.
He quit his job as a carpet installer and attended Roffey Place Bible
School. He joined Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and worked in England,
the former Soviet Union and the United States. While working for YWAM
Slavic Ministries in Oregon in 2003, he sensed God calling him to
apologize to black people.
"God started speaking to me about being involved in reaching out to
African people both here and abroad, and also being involved in
reconciliation and repentance issues concerning Liverpool's involvement
in the slave trade," he said.
During a Sunday worship service in Albany, Ore., in November, he
approached a black churchgoer saying: "This may sound weird but I'm
from Liverpool, England, and we were heavily involved in the slave
trade in the 1700s. I want to ask for forgiveness and will you pray
The man didn't act surprised about Sadler's offbeat plea and prayed
with him. Several weeks later Sadler connected with black people on the
street. Hesitant at first, he gained confidence that he was doing God's
will and won over skeptics with his self-effacing demeanor. Then the
Holy Spirit prompted him, "Go to places where Liverpool ships docked."
In January he landed on the East Coast sharing his vision one-on-one
with hundreds of African Americans. He visited the site of the main
slave market in Richmond, Va., where he prayed publicly and witnessed
to passers-by. However, one man challenged, "Oh yeah, we forgive you,
but where's the money?" When Sadler pulled the last $5 bill from his
wallet, the young man refused it, but showed him an article about
Watching Sadler praying by the Mississippi River in New Orleans, two
black men questioned what he was doing. When he revealed his mission
their eyes moistened. "We wish there were more people like you doing
this," they said.
In Annapolis, Md., he kneeled in a historic pub and restaurant,
attracting the attention of kitchen workers. One of them accepted his
forgiveness while another one said, "How are you going to make it up to
In Atlanta Sadler spoke to street people loitering near a subway
station. "I felt God moving in their hearts," he said. "Some people
became tearful. There was sadness in their eyes."
Sadler addressed members of Messiah's World Outreach, an independent
African American charismatic church in Scottdale, Ga., a suburb of
Atlanta. The congregation embraced his message and was impressed that
someone would travel from England to repent for the sins of his
"This gentleman is one of the few voices acknowledging that," said the
church's pastor, Donn C. Thomas. "Rather than reopening wounds, it's an
opportunity to heal wounds that have never been closed. It's an attempt
by God to bring significant healing to the generation that is living
today. Who knows, it could start a revival in reconciliation."
Sadler will join a church in Georgia soon. In October he will
participate in a YWAM initiative visiting former U.S. slave markets and
ports. They will walk in shackles and chains as a symbolic sign of
apology for the slave trade.
Sadler sees all of his efforts aimed ultimately at revival in
Liverpool. "I feel this is the purpose God has prepared for me," he
said. "This is my calling now. I see reconciliation and repentance as a
foundation for revival in the United States, Liverpool and Africa."
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