Mary Slessor of Calabar (Nigeria) – Pioneer Missionary

Free Book Recommendation!

Dear Readers,

Since I mentioned Mary Slessor last post, I decided to republish this about her life.  It’s now a free book on Kindle, so I hope you are blessed in reading about this heroine of mine.

by W.P. Livingstone

I have been reading it this time through the lens of life experiences since I have now visited several “third world” countries, including jungles, and can better appreciate the hardships she endured. She had such passion to give the wonderful good news of Jesus Christ to cannibal jungle tribes in Nigeria from 1876-1915, and endured much physically and emotionally as she trusted God to transform the people by His power.

Mary Slessor- a Scottish single lady who devoted her life to reaching the cannibal tribes in Nigeria

Challenged by the life of David Livingstone, Mary Slessor offered her services as a missionary in Calabar, Nigeria. Arriving there when she was 28 years old, she overcame her fears and inexperience with a genuine love for the people and shared with them the hope of the resurrection through faith in Jesus Christ. Earning the nickname “White Ma” she became mother to many adopted children and never failed to preach the love of Christ to all she met. Many times she was ill with fever from malaria, but God renewed her strength repeatedly so she could carry on the work.

The natives believed that any mother who gave birth to twins must be cast out and the twins be killed immediately. Mary rescued many twins and raised them herself to demonstrate the love of Christ to them.

Mary Slessor with some of her beloved adopted children.

She worked long hours as a mill worker in Scotland before coming to Nigeria in 1876. She was a diligent student of the Bible although she never received any formal training herself. When no worker could be found to go with her into the jungle, she went alone with some natives, trusting God to open doors. She wrote in a letter home in 1888, “I am going to a new tribe up-country, a fierce, cruel people, and every one tells me that they will kill me. But I don’t fear any hurt –only to combat their savage customs will require courage and firmness on my part.”

Even though she was not a formally trained nurse, she did what she could to relieve the people’s sufferings who usually went to the witch doctor when ill. In 1896, she decided to move further up the river with her many adopted children since most of the tribe had moved there. However, there was much sickness among the children by an infectious disease which caused the death of four of them. To make matters worse, smallpox then swept through the country, killing hundreds of people. For hours daily she vaccinated all who came to her hut. A man from the mission downriver arrived when her supply of lymph had run out and assisted her to take blood with a penknife from the arms of those who had already been inoculated so they could inoculate more.

She returned to her old house and converted it into a hospital, and people flocked to it. When she heard her beloved Christian chief Edim caught the smallpox in the new village, she tramped back alone through the jungle to nurse him, but it was in vain.  The Lord took him home to heaven in the middle of the night. Since she had no one to help her, she fashioned a coffin with her own hands, placed his body in it, dug a grave, and buried him.

Mary with Chief Edem who later died of smallpox

Two white Christian men arrived from the Mission House down river to help, and she asked one of them to go back to her old house to gather some supplies. When he arrived in the village, all was total silence and he knew something was wrong. He opened the door of her house to find it full of corpses of those who had died from small pox. The place was never fit for habitation again, and gradually was engulfed in bush and vanished from the face of the earth.

Later in her life, the British government appointed her as Vice Consul because of her unique command of the native language, her understanding of their customs, and the great respect and love the people gave her. People would flock to her from miles around so she could preside as judge over their cases. Sometimes her judgement was to assign hard labor for 1 to 3 months, while other times she would box the person’s ears! This was a huge change from when they would administer the poison bean to some while pouring boiling oil over others. Previously, whenever a chief died, they would kill many of his wives and children to serve him in the afterlife. As more and more became Christians, the twin killing and killing among the tribes gradually stopped.

Mary presiding at Okoyong Court

So I hope I have told you enough to whet your appetite to read or reread this classic biography. You will be blessed, amazed, and challenged as you see how God used this humble little Scottish single lady to transform  tribes of cannibals through the power of Jesus Christ! Her image is now on the 10 pound note in Scotland.

Mary's image on the 10 pound note of Scotland!

“and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8

Modern day photo of Cross River, Nigeria where Mary labored.

A Mother of None or Many?

May, 2001

After examining me, my gynecologist gently said, “Pam, I’m afraid you need to have a hysterectomy. I don’t want to let you keep bleeding like this and ending up with an emergency situation.” I choked back the tears and replied, “Is there any way I could be on a different floor so I don’t have to see the new babies?” Dr. Sally said, “No, because the nurses on the other floors aren’t familiar with post operative care of gynecology patients. But I will make sure you have a private room as far away from the nursery as possible so you don’t hear the babies cry. The surgical staff will call you with the date.”

Upon arriving home, the tears flowed as I poured out my heart to God. I know that I am too old to have a baby at the age of 46, nor would I have the energy to run after a toddler, but I grieve for all the children I never had. My pastor has been preaching an excellent series of messages on how to handle trials, so this is my opportunity to learn all I can from this difficult exercise. He said to start by thanking God for the trial. I recited the familiar verse, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I Thessalonians 5:18 God brought another verse to mind. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 

As I continued in prayer, I asked the Lord to teach me all the lessons He could from this trial, to comfort me, and to help me to think rightly from His point of view and not my own. I decided to do a Bible word study of “barren” since that is the word the Bible uses for women who cannot have children. Over the next weeks, whenever I read an encouraging verse, I wrote it in bold black ink (so I could read it through my tears) on an index card. Every morning I read through my growing stack of “comfort verses” and hid them in my heart. The ones that encouraged me the most were Isaiah 54:1 and 5.

Sing, O barren, thou who didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou who didst not travail with child; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord….For thy Maker is thine husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and Thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall He be called.”

I noticed the command to the barren was to SING rather than cry, so I started singing whenever I felt like crying. God always lifted the clouds away after I sang to Him. I also noticed that there is no limit to the number of spiritual children I can have. I just finished reading Amy Carmichael’s biography. She started an orphanage in India and became the spiritual mother to 1000 children! I recalled how Gladys Aylward went to China as a single lady and became the mother of many orphans and led them to safety over the mountains during World War 2. Mary Slessor adopted abandoned children in the African jungles. (see post on Mary Slessor )

Surgery

This is my first time to stay overnight in a hospital as a patient. I’m a little apprehensive as I’ve always heard that nurses and doctors make the worst patients. It feels strange to be the one receiving care rather than giving it. I am so thankful that my sister flew in from the Midwest to be with me. She is also a nurse and a Christian. God quieted my heart as we prayed together this morning and asked the Lord to give the doctor wisdom and to give me a good recovery.

I barely remember being rolled on the stretcher from the recovery room to my nice big private room at the end of the hallway far from the nurse’s station. They gave me a clear liquid tray for supper which promptly came back up. Yuck! What a mess… The pain isn’t too bad for which I thank God. My sister was hesitant to leave me because she wasn’t sure I could call for the nurse because I was so groggy.

The night nurse woke me up this morning and said she had to put the catheter back in my bladder since I was unable to urinate. I was under anesthesia the last time they did it. I recalled how many of these I have placed inside my patients over the years.

Tonight I’m feeling better and could eat solid food for supper, but sleep is escaping me. I decided to walk down the hallway and look at the babies in the nursery. As I looked through the window at each baby, I prayed for each one to receive Christ as his Savior and for his parents to look to God for wisdom in raising him. I thank the Lord for each precious new baby.

Reflection

A few months later, I was asked to share all the lessons God taught me through this exercise with ladies’ groups at several different churches. A number of women who were unable to bear children came up to me afterwards and said the lessons I had learned were a blessing and encouragement to them. I also typed in large print all the “Comfort Verses” God gave me at this time. I have handed out hundreds of these to others who are sorrowing and many have said how God used these verses to encourage and comfort them.

Bible Verses the Lord gave me prior to surgery which encouraged my heart.

http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/christia/verses.htm   

Above is the link if you would like to print out your own copy. I carry a copy of these verses in my purse so I’m ready for the next time I encounter a difficult situation.

Since my mother died of breast cancer and my sister also had aggressive breast cancer several years ago, I decided to have the doctor remove my ovaries at the same time that she removed my uterus. The genetic counselor told me I had a 50% chance of having breast cancer. Many women who have breast cancer also have ovarian cancer.

About ten years later, I had repeat genetic counseling. They said because I had my ovaries removed, I reduced my chance of breast cancer to 3% and eliminated ever getting ovarian cancer.  Little did I know that I would lower my risk of cancer so much by having my ovaries removed at that time. Truly, God’s ways are higher than my ways. My sister, Marsha Swinehart, later developed ovarian cancer and the Lord took her home to be with Him nearly two years ago. I miss her so much, but am thankful she is no longer suffering and experiencing wonderful fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. That will be a wonderful day when we are reunited at His throne!

I thank God that He has given me a number of spiritual children over the years, and I pray that He will give me many more before He calls me home to heaven. It is so wonderful that I am never too old to bear spiritual children!

 

Nursing Home Ministry

Summer – 1973 – Midwest, USA

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” James 1:27

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" was their favorite hymn!

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” was their favorite hymn!

My sister, Marsha, asked the director of the nursing home, where we both are working this summer, for permission to have a Bible study for the patients on our day off. The director said “yes” so we had our first Bible study today! Prior to today, I only saw all the patients asleep at night under their white bedspreads in the dark. I was amazed at all the hustle and bustle with the patients up and dressed and either walking with a walker or in a wheelchair. We went room to room and invited each patient to come to the Bible study in the patient lounge. We gathered about 20 residents and began. Marsha led them in singing a few hymns while I accompanied them on my violin. Their favorite hymn seemed to be:

What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer! 

by Joseph Scriven

Then Marsha read the story from John 3 of Nicodemus, a Jewish ruler, who came to Jesus at night. Jesus said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 She carefully explained God’s wonderful plan of salvation. After concluding with John 3:16, she encouraged each one to receive Jesus Christ as his/her personal Savior if they had not already done so.

Afterward, white haired Mary came to me in her wheelchair with a bright smile on her face. “I received Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was a girl. It was so wonderful to hear the Bible lesson today and sing the hymns I learned when I was young. I can’t see well enough to read any more, so thank you for reading God’s word today!” We are thrilled that God allowed us to minister to these elderly residents today!

Reflection

Over the years, God gave me many more opportunities to share God’s word and songs with elderly Christians. I thank Him for our seasoned believers who have willingly shared with me how God encouraged them through difficult circumstances. May we all faithfully run the race today until God takes us home to heaven above and we hear our Savior say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21

Dialysis Nurse on the High Seas

January 1, 1991 – Caribbean Sea

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! blared the loudspeaker.

Dialysis Cruise Ship 1991

Cruise Ship 1991

I shot out of bed and stood in the middle of the pitch black room with my heart racing. Where was I? What was happening? Oh yes. I signed up to work as a dialysis nurse on this nine story cruise ship for the week, and my payment was a free cruise. I went to bed early because I took a Dramamine tablet for my motion sickness. I drowsily climbed back into bed to sleep until my alarm clock awoke me at 5:30 a.m.

At 6 a.m. I joined my cabin mate, Laura, and Tess, two other dialysis nurses, in the dialysis room in the lowest level of the ship. The dialysis company had rolled on three dialysis recliners and three ancient dialysis machines along with gallons of dialysis fluid. In addition to the fee for their cruise, nine patients had each paid the company $1200 to dialyze them three times during this week-long cruise so they could see some places outside the USA. Once they left the USA, Medicare no longer paid for their life saving treatments. People with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) whose kidneys no longer cleaned their blood of toxins or removed fluids from their body needed 3-4 hours of dialysis three times weekly.

Our charge nurse, Ellen, divided us into two teams and assigned us to patients and times so we dialyzed only while cruising at sea. Therefore when we were in ports, patients and nurses were free to go ashore and sight see. The ship left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, then cruised to Key West, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cancun, Mexico and then returned to Florida on the seventh day.  I met the qualifications since I had now worked for three years on a large dialysis unit in the Midwest.

This is my first cruise. The seas are rolling, so I am suffering from motion sickness. I was blessed in reading Psalm 107:28-31: He makes the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they are quiet; so He brings them unto their desired haven. Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” Yes, the Lord is in charge of the seas and this ship. I thank Him for this opportunity to meet new people,  see new places, and relax in between dialysis sessions. Laura was on the ship last week also for Christmas and said it was so rough she had to go to the ship’s clinic to get a shot to stop her vomiting. She appears to have her sea legs now. Terra firma felt fantastic when Laura and I went ashore at the different ports! !

Key West Florida houses

Key West Florida houses

I climbed the rocks of Ocho Rios Falls in Jamaica in bare feet!

I climbed the rocks of Ocho Rios Falls in bare feet!

Parasailing in Grand Cayman

Parasailing in Grand Cayman

Pam with one of her patients using the old dialysis machine

Pam with one of her patients using the old dialysis machine

Laura showed me how to prime the old machines with saline and enter the amount of fluid to remove for each patient during their prescribed length of dialysis. They did not use the new computerized machines that I was familiar with because the rolling motion of the ship made the alarms go off too often. Our three patients arrived at 6:30 a.m. Our supervising dialysis doctor for this week was also a dialysis patient. I am not sure how ethical this was since he gave me his own orders for dialysis, but it was too late now to do anything about it. Dr. C. was a kind gentleman who also brought his wife and young children with him on the cruise. After he weighed in and we calculated the amount of fluid to remove over the next 3.5 hours, he asked me to take an extra half pound off so he could eat and drink more! I reluctantly entered the amount as he ordered me to do. I took a deep breath as the ship rolled and inserted two large needles into his fistula in his arm. We checked each patient’s blood pressure every 15 minutes and recorded it. Patients and staff chatted together in the small room as three hours slowly passed.

I checked Dr. C’s blood pressure, but it was too low at 70/50! I quickly put his recliner back so he was flat and stopped the machine from removing any more fluid from his body. “Dr C, I know you wanted to get extra fluid off, but I really want you to be with us on this cruise the entire week, so I am giving you 100 cc of intravenous fluid now (about 1/2 cup) to raise your blood pressure.” His face was pale. He didn’t argue with me. He completed the treatment and left with his blood pressure back up to his baseline of 110/80.

I snorkeled in Cozumel, Mexico.

I snorkeled in Cozumel, Mexico.

Laura shared with me that she was in her twenties, a new widow, and this was her first Christmas and New Year since her husband died. He was one of her dialysis patients who received a kidney transplant. But six weeks after they married, he had a complication and died suddenly. She said she couldn’t face being with her family and being pitied, so she chose to drown her sorrow in work on the cruise ship with total strangers. I prayed that she would know the wonderful comfort of the Lord Jesus Christ, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Isaiah 53:3 

Reflection

That was my first and last cruise due to the severe seasickness which plagued me. Even to this day, when I recall that long week, I still become nauseated! I truly thank God that they now have prescription medicine for severe nausea (Zofran) and also Sea Bands (acupressure bracelets). The Sea Bands work fairly well to prevent motion sickness when I am on a plane or train. But when rough weather is predicted, I take Zofran 30 minutes before my flight as it is much easier to prevent it rather than treat it after it occurs.

When I was in Israel several years ago, I gazed over the calm Mediterranean Sea and recalled the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck from the violent sea (Acts 27:14-44) and Jonah’s tempestuous voyage when he was thrown overboard (Jonah 1:15). God sometimes takes us through great storms in our life to teach us to rest and trust Him in the midst of the storm. In John 16:33 Jesus said, These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” I pray you will have a blessed New Year of looking unto Jesus and learning more of Him through the storms and the calm places in your life!

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The Mediterranean Sea when it is calm.

Which Nursing School????

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

March, 1973, Midwest, USA – High School Senior

Ever since last year when the Lord gave me peace about becoming a nurse, I have struggled in deciding which nursing school to attend. I visited two small Christian colleges here in the Midwest that I really liked, but neither has a nursing program. So I would have to earn a bachelor’s degree in some other major and then continue on to get a two year associate degree in nursing. Six years total sounds way too long to be in school! I wanted to attend a  Christian college in the south where I could major in missionary nursing, but my parents do not want me to go there, so they refused to sign the admission form. It was heartbreaking, but I know God closed the door for a reason.

Where Should I Go?

Where Should I Go?

I left the Protestant Church where I was raised because the Bible was not taught verse-by-verse and I wasn’t growing in knowing the Lord better. My sister also left, which broke our parents’ hearts, especially Mom. We became members of a Bible church led by the Pastor who Marsha met at the University her freshman year. A group of students from another University drive an hour every Sunday to attend. The pastor teaches a weekly Bible class on this University campus which is really growing!

They have a good nursing school at this University, so I decided to apply there as well as a three year hospital diploma nursing school in the same city. I have my interview tomorrow at the diploma school and will tour the University while I am in the city. The diploma students work many more clinical hours in the hospital than the University students, but it is more difficult for them to obtain nursing leadership positions after graduation.

The next day I nervously entered the office of the Director of Admissions at the diploma hospital school of nursing. Mrs. L. greeted me warmly and gave me a tour of the nursing skills lab, classrooms, and dormitory. Afterward we sat down in her office and she asked, “So tell me why you would like to become a nurse?”  I replied, “I like science and I would like to help sick people get better. I enjoy learning new things, and I think it would be fascinating to learn all about the human body and how it works.”  She asked if I had applied to other schools, and I told her I was also considering the State University in the city here.

She advised, “After reviewing your high grade point average and ACT/SAT scores, I think you should go to the University Bachelor of Science (BSN) program rather than our diploma program. Our program will probably be closing in the next few years, and I think you have real potential to go into management or research in nursing. You could then earn your master’s degree or even a doctorate degree in nursing!” I thought to myself, I am amazed that she thinks I have real potential to go so far in my nursing career! I would be satisfied to be a regular staff nurse, work a few years, marry a godly Christian man, quit work, have children, and be a stay-at-home Mom like my mother did. I thanked her for her time and drove across the city to tour the State University.

I joined the walking tour led by a student. This campus has 55,000 students, which is as many people as my entire city where I grew up! It has over ten libraries, 30 dormitories, and countless classroom buildings. The 1000 bed University Hospital is one block from the School of Nursing, so that would be convenient for clinical days. Despite all the buildings, it has green space and many beautiful trees, so it doesn’t appear to be a concrete jungle. After living in the country my entire life, I hope I can adjust to living in a huge city.

State University

State University

When I returned home, I asked the Lord to make it clear to me which school I should attend, and He gave me perfect peace that He wanted me to attend the University. I  was accepted, and am so excited to start in the fall! It will be so wonderful to have fellowship with the other Christian students in the Bible class, and give the gospel to American students as well as the the international students who attend from all over the world. In addition to the prerequisites for nursing, I’m looking forward to taking electives in a wide variety of areas since they offer so many majors.  The class catalog is fascinating to read.  I also hope to become very fit from walking all over the huge campus to my classes!

Reflection

The director of the diploma nursing program gave me excellent advice in steering me toward the BSN program at the University. As she predicted, the diploma school closed a few years later.When I was 39 years old, I returned to graduate school to become a nurse practitioner. I was thankful to receive my Master’s of Science in Nursing after four grueling years of working full time and going to school part time.

In God’s great sovereignty, He never gave me a husband or children. Little did I realize when I was in high school that I would have a 40 year full time nursing career, but God knew all along!

One of my favorite hymns is:
Tis’ so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word,
Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more.
-by Louisa M.R. Stead

The Diary of a Young Girl

Midwest, USA – April 2, 1969 – 13 years old


My journals since 1969!

My journals since 1969.

Dear Angie,

As you can see by the cover, this is supposed to be an autograph album, but I am going to use it as a diary. Friday, President Eisenhower died at the age of 78, so on Monday we missed school in honor of mourning.

Yesterday was April Fool. Only one more day till Easter vacation! Just a little while ago I was outside in the yard practicing my tennis serve.

Reflection

“And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee.” Deuteronomy 8:2

This was my first entry after reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank who was a 13 year old Jewish girl in Holland during World War II. Because Hitler, the German dictator, hated all the Jewish people, he had his soldiers corral them in cattle cars and send them to horrible concentration camps.  While there, over six million Jews were exterminated in the gas chambers or died of disease. In 1942, Anne’s family went into hiding in an attic to try to escape the camps. Because she was so lonely, she wrote in her diary to her imaginary friend named “Kitty”.

June 12, 1942

Dearest Kitty,

             I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.

Sadly, they were discovered and arrested August 4, 1944, and were sent to the concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen, near Hanover, Germany. The typhus epidemic swept through the camp as the result of horrendous hygienic conditions and claimed Anne’s life and that of her sister in early March, 1945 shortly before the camp was liberated by the British on April 12, 1945. Only Anne’s father, Otto, survived the camps. When he returned to the attic, he was given Anne’s diaries which two secretaries in the building had stored safely after finding them scattered all over the floor. After long deliberation, he decided to fulfill his daughter’s wish and publish her diary.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

I was so moved after reading Anne’s diary, that I decided to keep a journal which I have continued to the present time. However, I no longer write to my imaginary friend who I named Angie:) I never wrote in my journal daily, but wrote summaries of life events periodically. Sometimes I record a Bible verse that has been a special blessing to me or helpful quotes from books I read. I love to reread my journals from time to time and go down memory lane. Many times I exhort myself to walk closer to the Lord and seek Him more! I encourage you to consider recording your own lessons from the Lord as you travel the path of life. Because of these journals, I am able to write this blog which I pray God will use to bless and encourage you.

God blessed me this morning with verses in Deuteronomy 33: 25, 27:

“…as thy days, so shall thy strength be. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and He shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.”

As I continue in this year of Spanish language school, it is so good to know that God is my strength and is carrying me. Only He knows how many days any of us have remaining here on earth. I desire to be used by God for His glory and honor and be an empty vessel in His hands.

Please share a Bible verse with us in the comments section that God has used recently to bless you!