Thomas and Lurenna Bowen

A former Texas ranger, Thomas faced the challenges of the mission field with courage and strength. Unfortunately, the effects on his physical and mental health would plague his final years.

Thomas Bowen was brave enough to be one of the first missionaries to bring the gospel to the interior of Africa and face its dangers — known and unknown. He was also brave enough to stand in battle — literally — against injustice. When pro-slavery forces attacked the city of Abeokuta, Nigeria, Thomas stood with anti-slavery fighters as they repelled their attackers. Using his experience as a soldier and a Texas Ranger, he shouted encouragement and instruction from a city wall. His stand with the people of the city opened new opportunities and invitations for him to continue his pioneer mission work and bring the gospel to unreached lands.

In 1853, Thomas married Lurenna Davis, who was also firmly committed to reaching Africans with the message of salvation. She proved to be Thomas’s most loyal companion in the dark days that lay ahead for them.

Many of the stories from Thomas’s work in Nigeria and Brazil were heroic, but his health was compromised in such a way that he would not recover. Painful and chronic illnesses from his years in Africa led him to addiction and then to mental illness and physical debilitation. Thomas’s decline continued until his death in 1875. Lurenna remained a faithful wife during his final years, though she described them as “a sad and heavy affliction, worse than death.” In her truthful and open letters about his condition, she continued to refer to Thomas as “my dear husband.”

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