Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Missionary Stories - Mary Slessor


It was peachy. I accidently said "customer" when I meant to say "customs." I don't think the kids got it. One or two counselors smiled.

At the end, two Jr. boys showed me the lines upon lines of notes they took. Go them!

How about I share the story with you...

I read the Christian Heroes: Then and Now Series to get all my info, then I jotted it all down in a condensed form so that I can tell it to the kids in under 20 minutes. I actually quite like my truncated version of the story. I took some direct quotes from the book (I can't remember all of them) so, I'm going to cite the reference now, so that I don't get busted for plagiarism. And my source is "Christian Heroes: Then and Now - Mary Slessor, Benge." There. Hope that's sufficient.

From a very young age, Mary learned what it meant to never give up. When her father wasted the family’s money on alcohol, Mary, who was only 11 years old went to work in a cotton mill to help support her family. She worked hard and under difficult conditions. The cotton mill was endlessly hot, but her reward was that she was able to attend a night school the cotton mill had for young children. Working hard in the hot cotton mill was a small price to pay to learn to read and write. Mary was delighted to do it.

One Sunday afternoon, while on a walk with her friends, and not long after she began her work at the mill, she met a woman who invited them in for tea. This woman shared the truth that Jesus died on the cross for her sins and without trusting in Jesus for eternal life, Mary would spend eternity separated from God, in a place called Hell, where it was always hot. Mary’s eyes opened wide. “I don’t want to be away from God forever…” She said slowly. That night she was the only one of her friends who repented of her sins and accepted Jesus as her Savior.

The very next week at church, Mary told her pastor that she had accepted Christ as her Savior and wanted to help serve in church. He suggested teaching the younger children’s Sunday School class. Mary was eager and excited for such an opportunity.

Now that Mary was a Christian, she was thankful for the school at the mill where she was learning to read and write. Soon, she was able to read passages from the Bible! She enjoyed Missionary stories as well. Her favorite Missionary to read about was David Livingstone, a missionary explorer to Southern Africa. She frequently kept up with his work through her churches Missionary Newsletter and by reading the Newspaper.

The more Mary read about David Livingstone, the more she could see they had a lot in common. Like Mary, he was Scottish and worked in a cotton mill as a boy and Mary began to dream about being a missionary to Africa. She turned that thought out of her mind. David Livingstone was a man and a Dr. Mary was a woman, and in that culture, women didn’t do such things. She also didn’t have a skill like Dr. Livingstone. She could use the things she learned while working at the mill, but it’s not likely someone would call on her for those skills. Secretly though, Amy was hoping her brother Robert would become a missionary and she would be his faithful assistant.

With her dream in tow, Amy spent the next several months teaching Sunday School, believing that is what God wanted her to do and enjoying every minute of it and when she was 14, she heard of another chance to teach children the Bible. Her church was beginning a new ministry in the slums of Dundee, where gangs roamed around teasing and hurting others. Her pastor was uncertain of petite little Mary being in such a dangerous place. Mary convinced him that she was able to do the job and after making Mary promise not to venture into the slums alone, he agreed to her being one of the teachers.

3 weeks into this new ministry, Mary decided to go to her classroom early to prepare for her class, forgetting the promise she had made not to go there alone. As she was turning the key in the lock, she felt as if someone was standing behind her. She turned quickly to find 4 teenage boys glaring at her.

One boy reached out and tugged at her red hair and said, “So, Carrots, you’re going to teach the Bible, are you?”

“Yes, I am” said Mary, standing tall. “Would you like to come in?” She invited.

But, the boys just laughed. 2 of them grabbed her arms and the other two taunted her. One boy took a string out of his pocket with a piece of metal tied to the end of it. He began to swing it in front of her face. “Tell me you’ll go home and forget all this foolishness and we’ll let you go. Otherwise,” he sneered at her, “we’ll see how brave you really are.”

Mary’s blue eyes stared hard at the boy and then the piece of metal. She responded strongly, “Do what you want to me, but you’ll not get me to give up my Bible teaching.” She cringed inside at the thought of what might happen next.

The boy with the string held it closer to Mary’s forehead and began swinging it back and forth, closer to Mary’s face with each swing. While the other boys stood teasing Mary, the piece of metal scraped against her head cutting her. Blood trickled down her face.

Suddenly, the boy stopped swinging the string. He motioned to the others and said, “That’s enough boys. She’s tough.” The other boys let her go and Mary quickly reached for her handkerchief and held it up to her wound.

“Now that you’ve had your fun, won’t you come in and see what this is all about?” Mary said with a smile. She didn’t understand why, but the boys, with their heads hung low, followed Mary into the classroom. Soon more than 20 children and teenagers were in the room, listening to Mary’s Bible lesson, and by the end of the day, the boy that struck Mary with the piece of metal became a Christian.

This was a lesson Mary would never forget; to stand up bravely and without fear not giving up on what she believed God wanted her to do.


Several years later, Mary finally achieved her dream of becoming a missionary to Africa. Unfortunately, both of her brothers had died from illness, so she was unable to join either of them as their assistant, but she never gave up and believed firmly that God had called her to reach the people in Africa, specifically the tribe of dangerous people in Calabar, even if she had to go alone.

The people in Calabar were very cruel and unforgiving. Many of their customs were harmful to others and often included death. If a man died, his wife had to be buried alive with him.

Also, if someone died of an illness, they often called a witch doctor in to determine who caused the death by giving a number of people a poison bean ground up in water. If the person didn’t die from drinking it, (and most people did), then they were innocent. Those who did die from the poison bean drink were considered at fault for the recent death. In their culture, there were never accidents. Someone always had to be blamed.

There were many strange laws in Calabar that were punishable by death or by the pouring of very hot oil onto the offender, which often resulted in death because the wounds were left to become infected.

One time, while Mary was in her hut, preparing for the Sunday Bible lesson, she heard a woman screaming and several people chanting and calling out loudly. She went out to see what was the matter and saw a woman, tied up next to a boiling pot of hot oil. She could hear the people chanting in their language. A warrior with painted face was guarding the area from those who might want to stop the carrying out of this punishment. But, Mary was not afraid. She wanted to save this young woman’s life and teach the people about mercy, forgiveness and justice. She ran out of her hut and into the circle of chanting Africans, brought the tied up woman toward herself and yelled for them to stop. The warrior stood up to Mary with an angry expression. But, Mary remembered the day she stood up to the boys in the gang and held her place. Mary and the warrior stood staring at each other for minutes that seemed to go on for hours. The chanting and singing had died down by this time. Finally, the warrior backed down and bowed towards Mary. Mary learned that the woman was guilty of sharing her yams with another person in the tribe. And it was against their law for a woman to share food with anyone that was not their husband.

Mary had earned the respect of many of the people in Calabar, including the King of the tribe, who often sent people with disputes to her. She was able to teach the people of Calabar about God’s justice and love for them while she taught them how to live in love. The people of Calabar called Mary the “White Ma.” They had also never seen anyone with such red hair and referred to her also as the white woman with the fiery head.

Mary faced another custom without giving up. Life was not valued and if there were twin babies born, they were both left on the jungle path to starve and be eaten by animals. To the people in Calabar, it was bad luck to have twins and feeding them would bring them under a curse as well. Soon, Mary was rescuing children who would have otherwise been killed. One of the girls that Mary spared, she named Janie. Janie became one of Mary’s faithful helpers.

Mary continued to press on by sharing Christ’s love with the people in Calabar. She even went further into the jungle, which was very brave. Many men would not venture into that part of the jungle. She continued to settle disputes among people and teach them about God’s love and how to have peace with God and others. Many people back in Scotland expected Mary to die within her first year in Africa. Although, Mary did get sick at times, God would bring her back to health and she would begin right away teaching the people in Africa about God’s love. She lived in the African jungle for 39 years, much longer than any other missionary at that time had even survived in the jungle. Mary never gave up, and as a result, many people learned not to live in fear, but in peace amongst themselves and with God.


HonorMommy said...

Boy Sarah...that brought tears to my eyes! Way better than Clif Notes ;-). You have definitely encouraged me to read more missionary stories. Thank you for adding to my life.

HonorMommy said...

Oh and it's a good reminder that God allows what we consider "troubles" into our lives so that we can learn from them and teach others. Really...great job!

How about you write all of my homeschool material??? ;-)

Sarah said...

Aw! *Blush* That's sweet...and yes, you should read 'em! They are great reading material and they always seem to bring tears to my eyes, too! I'm glad you enjoyed it. The series for younger readers that would be fun for your little ones is called Christian Heroes for Young Readers and the publisher is YWAM. (youth with a mission)

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

© 2009 'Two-column photo blog' by HUGE photo blog

Back to TOP