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Bird, Mark Baker
1807-1880; e.m. 1833

WM missionary in the West Indies, born in London, he was brought up in his mother's native Jersey and, after her death, in Reading. He worked as a tailor before entering the ministry. After four years in Jamaica, he served in Haitifrom 1839 to 1879, where he learned French. In the face of earthquake, fire, debt, civil war and the Missionary Committee in London (where he was suspected of putting political concerns before evangelical ones), he fought sectarian interests to establish the mission among all classes of society, with education as a major focus. His ministry reached a low point in 1869-70, when the Haiti Mission was destroyed during the civil war and his second wife died. Returning in 1871 from a visit to Jersey, he began to rebuild the Methodist Church in Haiti and continued his work in spite of serious illness before retiring to the Channel Islands in 1879. Never afraid to voice his concerns, he became a popular and respected figure because of his commitment to the people of Haiti and his indomitable faith in their future.

His love for Haiti and its people was expressed in The Republic of Hayti and its Struggles (1867) and The Black Man; or Haytian Independence (New York, 1869). In Haiti, un paradis terrestre, published posthumously in 1881, he advocated closer relations between those of different ethnic and religious origins, the value of non-sectarian education and the status of women in society.He died in Jersey on 23 August 1880.

Sources

  • William Moister, Missionary Worthies 1782-1885 (1885) pp.335-39
  • Leslie Griffiths, History of Methodism in Haiti (Port-au-Prince, 1991)
  • The Jersey Methodist, December 2001

Entry written by: MJF
Category: Person

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