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!

 

The Psychiatric Hospital

December, 1998 – New England, USA

I have now completed my first six months as a Nurse Practitioner in a 120 bed psychiatric hospital. I thank God for my boss, Dr. T., who is a Family Practice Physician and an excellent teacher. The hospital has an adult unit for acute psychiatric problems, a second adult unit for detoxification of patients from alcohol and opioids (heroin and oxycontin mainly), a teen psychiatric unit, and a pediatric unit for ages 5-12. I thank the Lord that He closed the door four years ago to the Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP) program and redirected me to a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program. Otherwise,  I would not be qualified for this job since I need to treat the medical problems of the children and teens.

When patients are admitted here, Dr. T. or I must do their admission physical examination and record it in their chart within twelve hours. We have a full time MD who works all night and does the exams of patients who are admitted after we leave. I am becoming an expert at doing a neurological exam of the twelve cranial nerves. I am also improving in my examination of ears and eyes with the otoscope and opthalmoscope.

Image result for nurse using otoscope

I developed my skill in using an otoscope for ear, nose, and mouth exams.

In addition to being certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), I also had to be certified in handling violent patients without hurting them (Nonviolent Crisis Intervention). I learned how to break a strangle hold in case a patient tries to choke me. I never wear a necklace or scarf to work since a patient could use it to strangle me. If I feel uncomfortable about being alone with a patient in the exam room, I request one of the aides to be present with me for safety. I always keep myself between the patient and the door so I can escape the room if I feel threatened.

The hospital is under investigation from the state because a child died last year. The staff did a face down restraint when the child came violent, and he suffocated. Tragically, they were unable to revive the child. So the state investigators come every day and read each providers’ progress notes, including mine. How I ask God for wisdom in my job! It is sometimes difficult to work under such scrutiny.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

Dr. T. and I write the admission orders for the patients going through alcohol and opioid detoxification. The nurses use a scale to measure the patient’s withdrawal symptoms which guides them to administer the correct amount of medications to prevent the patient from having a seizure or dying.

It is so sad to see patients’ lives wrecked by alcohol and drugs. Only the person who receives Jesus Christ as his Savior can truly be delivered from these deadly addictions.  I pray for each of them to look unto Jesus Christ and be saved. How I thank God that He has put a song in my heart and prevented me from ever using alcohol or drugs by His grace. By following Him, He has spared me so much heartache and grief.

“And be not drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit, Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:18-19

Reflection

I thank the Lord for all I learned while working in psychiatry for those four years. It was sometimes difficult to see lives so broken. But my experience with psychiatric assessments was  extremely helpful in every other job I had the remainder of my nursing career. A person’s mental condition often strongly impacts his physical condition.

 

Happy Birthday, Florence Nightingale!!!

Happy Birthday, Florence Nightingale!!!

Today we celebrate the life of Florence Nightingale, the mother of modern nursing who was born in Florence, Italy, on May 12, 1820. She was also called “The lady with the lamp” and was known for her contribution to her profession as a nurse.

Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Her wealthy family did not support her choice of career. One doctor told her father, “Some of the nursing is done by drunken prostitutes who were given the option in the police courts of going to prison or to the hospital.” But she defied all odds to not just become successful at nursing but to revolutionize it entirely.

During the Crimean War, she and a team of nurses improved the unsanitary conditions at a hospital on a British base in Scutari, Turkey, greatly reducing the number of deaths.  She described in her journal the horrific conditions that greeted them. “We have four miles of beds eighteen inches apart. We are steeped to our necks in blood. Eleven men died in the night simply from exhaustion, which, humanly speaking, might have been stopped could I have laid my hand on such nourishment as I knew they ought to have had.” She and her nurses soon set up a diet kitchen, purchasing food for the soldiers from her own funds. Her next problem was the hospital laundry. Only six shirts were being washed per month for the thousand or more wounded because the rate of theft was high. Again, using her own money, she rented a nearby house, had boilers installed, and hired the soldiers’ wives to wash clothes. Then she purchased 10,000 shirts for the soldiers since they literally only had the shirts on their backs when they landed in the Crimea, thinking the war would only last one day. Florence made sure the old vermin infested blood soaked clothing was burned.

She was known to work for 20 hours without stopping for a rest. As she made her midnight rounds with her lantern, the soldiers saluted her in appreciation for all her care. Longfellow immortalized this nightly tour in his well known poem in which he speaks of Florence as “the lady with the lamp.”

Lo! In that hour of misery, A lady with a lamp I see

Pass through the glimmering gloom, And flit from room to room.

And slow, as in a dream of bliss, The speechless sufferer turns to kiss

Her shadow as it falls Upon the darkening walls.

After the war ended in 1856, she returned to England and was given a heroine’s welcome, much to her surprise. She insisted on compiling statistics to present to the government to improve the conditions for their soldiers. Seven times more men died from disease than from battle wounds. She won her battle with Parliament, and in 1858 they provided the funds to ventilate and heat the barracks, introduce a sewer system, remodel the kitchens, and use gas lights rather than candles. To safeguard the soldiers’ moral health, she built reading and recreational rooms, coffee shops, and lecture halls.

In 1859, she published her Notes on Nursing which became an international bestseller worldwide.  Her Notes on Nursing were used to guide the nurses during the Civil War in the United States which began in 1860.

In appreciation for all the lives of the wounded British soldiers that she and her team of nurses treated, Queen Victoria awarded her $250,000. Florence used this money to establish St. Thomas’ Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in London in 1860. Fifteen students were admitted to the school on the condition that they would serve in public hospitals and infirmaries.

She was an invalid the last 40 years of her life, but she wrote and published a number of papers during that time. She reflected, “Wretch that I was not to see that God taking from me all human help in order to compel me to lean on Him alone. O Lord, even now I am trying to snatch the management of Thy world out of Thy hands… Too little have I looked for something better and higher than Thy work, the work of Supreme Wisdom… O God, to Thy glory, not to mine, whatever happens, may be all my thought.”

“Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God…not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” I Corinthians 10:31, 33

The “Lady with the lamp” died in London, on Aug. 13, 1910 and was buried in a simple family grave as she requested.

(All quotes taken from “Florence Nightingale” by Basil Miller, Bethany House Publishers, 1947, 1975)

Graduation from College of Nursing!

March, 1977 – Winter Quarter – College of Nursing

The final few weeks in nursing school have been so busy between clinicals, sending out resumes, and interviewing for jobs. My first job choice was to work in home care because that was my favorite quarter. I met with the director of nursing at the county board of health where I had my clinical last fall. She said they would be very interested in having me work for them after I gain at least one year of experience on a medical or surgical hospital floor. Because it is such an independent position alone in the patient’s home, they do not hire new graduates.

I also interviewed on a medical unit for evening shift at University Hospital where I have had many of my clinical sites. My third interview was at a 300 bed community hospital located downtown in a low income neighborhood. The head nurse on the diabetes unit seems very friendly, efficient, and has developed an impressive diabetes program.

I was offered both hospital positions, so after praying about it, the Lord gave me peace about accepting the evening shift position on the diabetes unit. Since I am rather weary of the huge 1000 bed busy University Hospital, I am ready for a smaller quieter place.  I hope the hours will be a good fit for me since I am not a morning person. Like all hospital nurses, I am required to work every other weekend and every other holiday. I will be able to attend morning worship at church every Sunday, but I am sorry I will miss every other evening worship and most prayer meetings on Wednesday nights. After I have some experience, I hope the Lord opens the door for me to work more regular hours.

I guess it paid off to go to summer school and graduate 3 months before the majority of my nursing class. I am very blessed to have had 2 good job offers since there is an overabundance of new nursing graduates presently.

My graduation was held inside at the 10,000 seat basketball arena. The graduates sat in rows on the basketball floor while our families and friends sat in the stands. It was a happy thrilling moment when they asked the 20 of us in the College of Nursing to approach the table where we were each handed our degree. I was so thankful all my family could attend. We had a nice dinner afterward and I showed them the hospital where I will be working.

Pamela Receives Her Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree!

Pamela Receives Her Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree!

My Brother tries on my Cap for size! He graduated 2 years later.

My Brother tries on my Cap for size! He graduated 2 years later.

Grad family

My family rejoiced with me

Dear Lord, Thank you so much for your grace and strength these past four years of college. I know I could not have completed my degree without your help. Thank You for the times of sweet fellowship with the brethren, and for the trials that pressed me closer to You. I pray for all the students from around the world who heard the gospel, and pray they would receive You as their personal Savior. I commit my nursing career to You and pray You will use me for Your glory and honor! In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Thou wilt show me the path of life. In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11

Reflection

The Lord has been so faithful to me these past 40 years. He has always wonderfully provided for me and given me so many opportunities to share the gospel around the world during my various travels.

My first pastor always taught us to record the number of gospel tracts we handed out and the books we read on the home Bible study program. As I was rereading my college journals, I was curious to total them. I was totally amazed that by God’s grace, He allowed me to hand out 2381 gospel tracts on campus and read 45 books in the home Bible study program during the four years I was also studying nursing. What a privilege to meet students from all over the world! I am so thankful that I was taught early in my Christian life to always put God first (Matthew 6:33) and to be “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16

 

Graduate Nurse Banding Ceremony

Febuary, 1977 – Senior in College of Nursing

It is hard to believe I am in my last quarter of nursing school before I graduate in March. This quarter my clinical site is the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at University Hospital. I truly thank God that everything I learned the past 4 years is finally coming together! I am receiving a good review of anatomy and physiology as I spend many long exhausting hours making my care plans for these complex patients. I go to bed at 1 a.m. after finishing the care plan, and arise at 5 a.m. in order to get to ICU ready for report at 7 a.m.

I have a very nice instructor, Miss B. She corrected me last week after I gave a medicine Intravenous (IV) push without her or my preceptor being present. Earlier in the quarter she told me to work as independently as possible, but I guess that does not apply to IV meds yet! Thankfully, no harm came to the patient.

At the third week, I became filled with anxiety that I would not make it through the quarter because it was so difficult. I pleaded with the brethren to pray for me and claimed Isaiah 40:29.

He giveth power to the faint; and to those who have no might He increaseth strength.

The Lord gave me victory and lifted the horrible depression and sense of defeat. From then on the quarter was fine.

The end of January, my class had our ceremony where we received our black velvet band to attach to our nursing cap. I thanked God for his mercy and grace to me these past four years as I pinned the band on my cap .  I know I only  arrived at this moment  with God’s help. My family traveled two hours so they could share this special time with me.

Approaching the podium to receive my band.

Approaching the podium to receive my band.

banding 2

Pinning on my new black velvet band.

banding 3

I almost feel like Cherry Ames with my black band!

Reflection

Nurses no longer wear caps in the clinical setting. It was optional to wear mine in the hospital where I first worked after graduating. I wore it very proudly at first, but as I bent over a patient to do his dressing change, it fell into the middle of my sterile field and I had to start over. I also knocked it off sometimes on the over-bed trapeze bar. There was no good way to clean it since it was made of stiff cardboard like material.

But there were some advantages in wearing it. I could easily identify which nursing school the person had attended. I still am fascinated when I look at old pictures of the wide variety of nursing caps! It also set us apart from the nursing assistants so the patient knew at once that I was a nurse when I entered the room. During a code for a patient emergency, it was easy to recognize who the nurse was because of the cap.

A variety of nursing caps!

A variety of nursing caps!

I still have my slightly yellowed cap tucked away in my bottom bureau drawer. Occasionally, I gaze at it fondly and recall that proud moment when I received my black band.

Christ is Risen!

Easter

I hope you have a blessed Easter worshiping our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ! This week, I will share the precious simple good news from the Bible and a few photos from my journey to Israel in 2013. It was truly the trip of a lifetime! If you ever have an opportunity to visit Israel, by all means go. (I felt safer there than anywhere else I have visited in the world.)

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures; and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve. After that, He was seen of above 500 brethren at once. ” I Corinthians 15:3-6

“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.” John 20:31

If you are unable to attend a good Bible church this Easter Sunday, I encourage you to go to http://www.ttb.org and listen to an Easter message by Dr. J. Vernon McGee.

Six day old donkey with shepherd.

Cross of Jesus

An empty tomb of a wealthy family from the time of Christ

Jerusalem Skyline

Rose of Sharon