Africa Inland Mission (AIM) had its beginning in the work of Peter Cameron Scott (1867-1896), a Scottish-American missionary of the International Missionary Alliance who served two years in the Congo before he was sent to Scotland in 1892 because of a near-fatal illness. While recuperating, he developed his idea of establishing a network of mission stations which would stretch from the southeast coast of the continent to the interior's Lake Chad. He was unable to interest any denomination in this idea (including his own Presbyterian Church), but he was able to interest several of his friends in Philadelphia in the work and in subscribing some funds. This group formed itself in 1895 into the Philadelphia Missionary Council.
Scott quickly recruited several men and women who were willing to return with him to Africa to start work. The emphasis on accepting these and other early recruits was on their Christian commitment and personal uprightness rather than on any special training. The mission was to be composed of the workers in the field and would be entirely self-governing and independent of the Philadelphia Missionary Council. The Council, headed by Rev. Charles Hurlburt, agreed ". . . to spread the knowledge of the work and forward means and workers as God may supply them. They are under no pledge to the mission to supply these, but merely forward them as supplied."
Hurlburt was also president of the Pennsylvania Bible Institute, which provided most of the mission's workers in its very early years.
On August 17, 1895, AIM's first mission party set off. The group consisted of Scott, his sister Margaret, Frederick W. Krieger, Willis Hotchkiss, Minnie Lindberg, Miss Reckling and Lester Severn. Walter M. Wilson joined the party in Scotland. They arrived off the east African coast in October and Peter Scott started making arrangements in the Kenyan seaport of Mombasa. In little over a year, the mission had four stations--at Nzaui, Sakai, Kilungu, and Kangundo, all in Kenya. More workers came from America, including Scott's parents, and the small group expanded to fifteen.
In December 1896, Peter Scott died, partly because of the extremely hard pace at which he had been driving himself. The mission almost dissolved in the next year when most of the workers either died or resigned. The Council began to take more responsibility for the work and appointed Hurlburt director of the mission. After a survey trip to Africa, he returned to that continent to work and he eventually brought his entire family over. For the next two decades, he provided strong, if not undisputed, leadership for the headquarters, established in 1903 at Kijabe, Kenya.
Expansion of Ministry
From Kenya, the mission expanded its work to neighboring areas. In 1909, a station was set up in what was then German East Africa and later became Tanganyika, and still later, Tanzania. In 1912,Theodore Roosevelt intervened for his friend Hurlburt to persuade the Belgian government to permit the mission to establish a station in the Congo, now called the Democratic Republic of Congo. Work was begun in Uganda in 1918; in French Equatorial Africa (Central African Republic) in 1924; Sudan, briefly, in 1949; and the Islands of the Indian Ocean in 1975. Besides evangelization, workers of the mission ran clinics, hospitals, leprosariums, schools, publishing operations, and radio programs. Rift Valley Academy was built at Kijabe for missionary children. Scott Theological College in Kenya helped train African Church leaders. The churches founded by the mission in each of its fields were eventually formed into branches of the Africa Inland Church which, however, continued to work closely with the mission.