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.

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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!

 

Mary Slessor of Calabar (Nigeria) – Pioneer Missionary

Free Book Recommendation!

Dear Readers,

I rediscovered an old favorite missionary biography on Kindle which was free, so I downloaded it even though I have the hardback copy in my personal library. It is easier to read it off my mobile phone during free moments compared to carrying the hardback around. It has probably been well over 20 years since I read the story of Mary Slessor. I also enjoyed teaching it many years ago to children’s Bible clubs using the flashcard story called “Run, Ma, Run!”

by W.P. Livingstone

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

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.

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

Red haired Mary with Chief Edim 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

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!

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.

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

Happy New You!

January 1, 2015

I thank God that He made me a new creation when I received Jesus Christ as my personal Savior in 1971 (See Life Changing Letter).

Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

II Corinthians 5:17

It is exciting to grow to know my dear Savior and best friend every day, and to continually learn about Him through all eternity as He reveals the riches of His grace to me!

And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6-7

The moment I received Jesus Christ as my Savior, I was seated positionally with Christ in heaven so now I can look DOWN from my heavenly position in Him. When I’m having a rough day at work and remember this, it helps me step back and get the big picture from God’s viewpoint in heaven. Then my little corner of the world doesn’t seem so big.

The other day, I was reading in Matthew 17:1-8 about the transfiguration of Jesus when they went up into “a high mountain”. This was likely Mount Hermon, which at 9232 feet is the highest mountain in Israel. It was spectacular when I saw it in 2013!

Mt. Hermon, the highest mountain in Israel at 9232 feet

Mt. Hermon, the highest mountain in Israel at 9232 feet

Matthew records that after Christ was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, they saw Him talking with Moses and Elijah. Perhaps Peter, James, and John were able to identify Moses and Elijah because Christ called them by their name.  How amazing that they were all having sweet fellowship even though they lived here on earth in different millennia! When the Father spoke and said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him,” (verse 5) the three disciples were terrified and fell on their face! But Jesus tenderly touched them and said, “Arise, and be not afraid.” Then they lifted up their eyes and saw “JESUS ONLY.” Even though we will know other believers in heaven, all the focus will be on Jesus Christ, with no fear and perfect fellowship while we  worship and serve Him for all eternity! How gracious of God to give us this little “peek” into eternity to encourage us in the here and now. My tiny finite mind certainly has trouble comprehending “forever”.

In order to grow in His grace and keep me looking unto Jesus, I wanted to share a few things that God has given me in past years and presently that have helped me. For personal Bible study tools, I have been richly blessed at this web site: http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org  They have a wealth of free Bible studies. The 100 page study for New Believers is especially helpful which covers major Bible doctrines. Presently, I’m going through these notes again, but this time in Spanish to try and improve my language skills.

I also discovered Through the Bible (http://www.ttb.org/ ) with Dr. J. Vernon McGee who is now home with the Lord. They recorded all his sermons as he taught verse by verse through the entire Bible. I downloaded the app on my phone and tablet so I can listen to it while I’m driving or doing chores around the house!  These messages have been translated into 100+ languages so they are available worldwide. If you go to the archives, and then daily programs, you can choose to listen to whatever book of the Bible in the order you desire.

I also like http://www.prophecytoday.com/ with Dr. Jimmy DeYoung. During his Saturday 90 minute radio broadcast, he interviews various experts in Israel, Europe, and the USA and examines current world events in light of Bible prophecies. You can listen later to this broadcast at any time that is convenient for you. His daily devotionals, which he will email to you free, are also excellent as he writes about all the Bible prophecies.

A few of my favorite biographies and Bible study tools.

A few of my favorite biographies and Bible study tools.

I’ve also decided to start rereading the classic missionary biographies which were such a blessing to me as a new believer. Even though I’ve read them several times before, I always gain something more from them because I’m at a different stage in life than the last time I read them. I was delighted to find that they are now available on Kindle, and some of them are even free! So here is my list of favorite biographies: Isobel Kuhn-missionary to China, Hudson Taylor- founded the China Inland Mission, J. O. Fraser – missionary to China, Amy Carmichael – founded an orphanage in India, George Mueller – founded orphanages in England, Mary Slessor – missionary to Africa, Gladys Aylward – missionary to China, Zvi – a Polish boy who survived the Holocaust and then emigrated to Israel.

Exercise!

Exercise!

To help my physical body, my sister recently told me about Mary Ann Wilson, RN who has developed an excellent chair exercise program. In some parts of the USA, her TV program is broadcast on PBS which is  called “Sit and Be Fit.” http://www.sitandbefit.org/ I found her on You Tube and felt fabulous after I did some of her exercises! She has a series for office workers that is broken down into 5 minute segments that you can do at your desk. As you have probably discovered if you have a computer/desk job, this position is not kind to your body! She also has special exercise routines for those with arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, prevention of DVT in airplanes, and vestibular exercises to improve balance. As we all age, balance decreases and the risk of dangerous falls increases. So you may want to tell your older patients about this resource and try out the exercises yourself!

Eat Healthy Foods!

Eat Healthy Foods!

I also recently read in the Nutrition Action Health Letter about the healthiest vegetables, fruits, and grains. They gave each a score for their nutrients and fiber content. So here are the top 5 in each category:

Vegetables: Kale (1392), Spinach (968), Collard greens (737), Swiss chard (717), Turnip greens (714)

Fruits: Guava (575), Watermelon (314), Kiwi (201), Papaya (189), Grapefruit (141)

Grains: Quinoa (73), Amaranth (66), Buckwheat (64), Bulgur (60), Barley (59)

So Happy New You! Please feel free to share your favorite Christian biographies with me at pamela.aprn@gmail.com

For my new readers, you may enjoy reading my post last year where I tell about working as a dialysis nurse on a cruise ship over the New Year holiday. Oh, how my stomach rolled! 😦