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.

Advertisements

Patricia St John, RN

An Ordinary Woman’s Extraordinary Faith

A few weeks ago, I was looking over my books to see if I could find a good one to reread. I pulled off the shelf an autobiography by Patricia St. John, RN. Patricia grew up in England and became a nurse during the London bombings of World War 2. She nearly dropped out of nursing school because of illness, but God encouraged her to keep going. By this time, her brother, Farnham, was training to be a doctor in London. While she was spending her day off visiting him, he was called to deliver a baby at a home as the sirens sounded and the bombs started dropping. Together they climbed over rubble and broken glass and arrived just in time. “Never shall I forget the feeling of peace and achievement as we sat, with the world apparently exploding around us, and drank hot sweet cups of tea around the bed with that tiny morsel of humanity cradled in his mother’s arms.”St John RN 1

After the war, Farnham went to a mission hospital in Morocco to try and improve relationships between England and Morocco. He ended up remaining there for over 30 years where he and his wife raised their six children. In 1949, Farnham asked Patricia to join him. Their parents approved, so “oblivious of formalities, I packed and went. It did not seem to have occurred to either of us that this was not the way to join a mission and I received a rather surprised letter from headquarters shortly after my arrival. But I was there and there was no turning back; I remained an associate of the mission through all my years of service.”St John 4 St John 3 St John 2After Farnham married, Patricia felt led to relocate to a village up in the mountains. She moved into a small white washed house with a flat roof which was quickly flooded in the March rains. She was surprised to “meet her saucepan floating across the floor” when she arrived home. Bugs pattered from the rafters in the attic, so she went to buy insect powder. The shop keeper tried to sell her one powder for bugs on the roof, another for bugs in her bed, and a third for bugs on her body. This seemed a little much, but to her dismay, she later realized that she should have bought all three.

As she studied Arabic hour after hour, she discovered what the simple presence of Jesus could mean when there was no other companionship and no one else who could talk English. Also during that time, her lost manuscript of Treasures of the Snow was found that she had written during the war for children about God’s forgiveness in Christ Jesus. She finished writing it, and it was published. (This book is still being published today, is available on Kindle, and is on DVD where it was filmed in the Swiss Alps. It is a beautiful family film which I highly recommend.)

Treasures of the Snow - a wonderful family DVD on forgiveness filmed in the Swiss Alps.

A wonderful family DVD on forgiveness filmed in the Swiss Alps.

Slowly, the village women and children began to trust her and come to her for medicine and Bible stories. Several received Christ as Savior and were persecuted for their faith, but stood strong. The Muslim village officials began threatening the believers and after much prayer, Patricia decided it would be best if she left the village and went back down the mountain to Tangier to work in the hospital with Farnham and his wife.

Patricia visited a hospital in Egypt for two months to study their nursing school, and then returned to Morocco to start a new school with 7 teenagers, their first nursing students. They taught them anatomy, physiology, basic nursing skills, and the Bible. This training was something of an innovation in Morocco, as nearly all the nursing in the government hospitals was done by men. The students did well, but struggled spiritually. The cost was high to become a Christian in a Muslim country. “Only a very few have let their light shine clearly and have suffered.”St John 5She continues on with her autobiography in telling about being “auntie” to her many nieces and nephews, her adventures of driving with her sister in her VW camper in the steps of Apostle Paul, visiting Rwanda to write a book on the revival there, and ministering in refugee camps. The only man she ever wanted to marry was killed during the war, so she remained single all her days on earth. While working as a missionary nurse, she continued to write and publish Biblical children’s stories, many of which are still in print and e-book form today.

After I read The Rainbow Garden to my 8 year old niece, God used it, and she received Christ as her personal Savior. Patricia also wrote a biography about her father, Harold St John, who was a worldwide evangelist and Bible teacher. I am thoroughly enjoying this book currently. So I hope I have shared enough to cause you to read Patricia’s autobiography for yourself and some of her books. I know you will be blessed and encouraged!

But Jesus said, “Permit little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:14

 

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.

Journey to Chile, South America – Part 2

Northern Chile – May, 1984

On Tuesday, the ladies had their monthly Bible study followed by tea. Mr Black had asked me to teach the lesson, so I had prepared a devotional on the life of Priscilla. After I arrived, I discovered that the name of the ladies’ group was “Priscilla”, so the Lord certainly put that together! I wrote out the first few paragraphs in Spanish which helped. I emphasized how Priscilla and her husband Aquila eagerly soaked up Paul’s teaching about Christ as they made tents together in Corinth (Acts 18:2). When Paul left and went to Syria, they sailed with him. Eventually, God used them to start a church in Rome as Paul greeted them as “my helpers in Christ Jesus, who have for my life laid down their own necks…” Romans 16:3-5.

The Ladies' Tea - Mrs Black is the first on the left.

The Ladies’ Tea – Mrs Black is the first on the left.

The ladies listened well, and Mr Black said he thought it went well. They said they wished I could speak Spanish as they had so many questions to ask me. They asked me to learn to speak Spanish so I can come back and teach them more! The whole meeting lasted nearly 3 hours. Everything starts about 30 minutes late – “mas o menas” = more or less. This is very much part of the Latin culture which is more laid back than the fast pace of the USA. Mr Black says you have to learn to “lose time” in Chile, not waste it.

On Wednesday, Mr Black and I went to the copper foundry where many of the men who attend church are employed. The entire Chilean economy is based on copper which is mined here. Our young lady guide gave us a private tour of the foundry. It was fascinating to see liquid copper that had been heated to 2200 degrees F being poured from huge vats into molds. After the copper cooled and solidified, they shipped it by train to the harbor where it was exported. Our guide gave me a beautiful copper paper weight at the end of our tour. Mr Black said no one else had ever received anything like that before! (I think he was a little envious.) We were both happy he was able to  share the gospel with her.

In hard hats and gas masks during our copper foundry tour.

In hard hats and gas masks during our copper foundry tour.

Copper is shipped to the port by train.

Copper is shipped to the harbor by train.

 Reflection

In 2000, a friend of mine who was a missionary in Chile at the time, drove her parents and children north to visit with the now widowed 92 year old Mr Black. She videotaped him as he shared nuggets of truth from his 60 years of experience as a missionary, mission director, and now interim pastor. He said “I have the people in my heart” as in Philippians 1:7, and “I am in their heart.” A Christian lady they hired has been faithfully cooking and cleaning for them for the past 16 years.

In 1998, Letty became very ill from a kidney infection, so they called the ambulance to take her to the hospital. They put all kind of tubes in her, but she was still declining. She told George twice in Spanish, “It is enough.” After conferring with the mission director, George decided to make her comfort measures only. George and the believers sang hymns and read Bible verses in her good ear until the Lord took her home to heaven a few days later. The Chilean brethren said they wanted to conduct her funeral because they loved her so much. He said it was a great celebration of her life of 91 years, and they were all thanking the Lord that she was no longer deaf in heaven above!

After her death, he himself went to the doctor for the first time in 12 years. The doctor said he was in congestive heart failure and gave him two pills-one was a water pill, and one was to help his heart beat regularly. The doctor also advised him to “slow down a bit”. George was very pleased with the medical care they received there locally. Since then, he has been doing quite well physically. He was able to drive alone 1000 miles to the mission conference in the south. He took a big stack of cookies and pulled over when he felt like it as he went down memory lane recalling all the various spots he and Letty had enjoyed visiting over the years. And he finally learned not to exceed the speed limit!

He then gave some words of advice to younger missionaries. Learn the language and Chilean idiosyncrasies well, and get rid of American baggage as much as possible. A compatible team works best, and they must be patient with one another as they learn to work together. It takes time for people to change. Always teach good solid Bible doctrine and have a good testimony for the Lord. Work hard and live clean! The goal is to have a local assembly of believers be as close as possible to New Testament principles.

As soon as the local man graduates from the Bible Institute next year and returns to become the pastor, Mr Black’s goal is to write four manuals for new missionaries before the Lord takes him home.

2015

George Black lived from November 3, 1907 until September 12, 2009. Before his home-going, he was the oldest actively serving missionary in the world at age 101! What a blessing and privilege it was to have known him and Letty. I pray that each of us will run the race God has given us like they did that we might hear God say “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…” Matthew 25:21

Journey to Chile, South America – Part 1

March, 1984

Over the years we have had quite a few missionaries from Chile speak to us at church. The Lord laid a burden on my heart to visit some of them in Northern Chile in May, so I am excited about getting ready to go! The couple I am visiting, George and Letty Black, are now in their late seventies, but still actively serving the Lord in a small copper mining town. Since I do not know any Spanish, I put a note on the bulletin board in the graduate student dorm at the University requesting a native Spanish tutor. A man named Carlos from Madrid, Spain called me so we have begun to meet together for an hour twice a week in the dormitory study lounge to speak Spanish. We are using my Berlitz Spanish for Travelers book and my new Spanish Bible. It’s going well and I really enjoy learning Spanish! It seems much easier than German. Someone told me that it’s easier to learn your second and third foreign language, so I hope that is true!

My 1984 Berlitz phrase book has been well used over the years!

My 1984 Berlitz phrase book has been well used over the years!

May, 1984 – Northern Chile

I finally arrived at the bus station here after a rather grueling 18 hour trip in the cigarette smoke filled plane. The smokers sat in the aisle seats while non-smokers like me sat by the window. I breathed through a tissue the entire time because the smoke gave me a headache and nausea. I crossed the Andes mountains 3 times to and from Argentina to get to Santiago because the Santiago airport was fogged in. When we refueled in Argentina, their soldiers surrounded us with machine guns pointed at us which was a little unsettling. I thought the plane would fall apart as we crossed the second time because it was shaking so hard from the turbulence. Oh, my stomach! Mr and Mrs S kindly picked me up at the airport in the pouring rain (first rain in 5 months) and took me to their home for a delicious empanada supper. Several other missionaries stopped over to welcome me which was kind of them.

After a 2 hour nap, they took me to the bus station where I boarded a modern bus for my all night 12 hour trip up the Pan American highway. I sat in my assigned seat by the window next to an elderly Indian man. I greeted him in Spanish and then he pulled a box out of his pocket and popped a couple pills. I noticed the box said “Diazepam” (Valium) which is a very powerful sedating prescription drug in the USA. (Mr Black later told me that all prescription drugs can be bought over the counter in Chile except for narcotics.) He promptly fell asleep and only woke up once in the next 12 hours. I slept little as my bottom went numb and my long cramped legs swelled terribly.

I rode the bus all night for 12 hours on the Pan American highway along the Pacific coast.

I rode the bus all night for 12 hours on the Pan American highway along the Pacific coast.

The pretty bus stewardess served us a sandwich, coffee, and hard candy at the beginning and end of the trip. They played American music on the speakers such as theme songs from “Little House on the Prairie” TV show, and “Hello, Dolly!” which was surprising. As I exited the bus,   the stewardess and the elderly man each gladly received a Spanish gospel tract. I was so glad to greet George and Letty and take a refreshing nap at their home!

George and Letty Black who served the Lord together for 55 years in Chile.

George and Letty Black who served the Lord together for 55 years

Before I left the USA, Mr. Black asked me to speak to the young people’s group on Saturday night, so I had prepared a devotional on Psalm 119:9-16. I am always challenged by verse 16: I will delight myself in Thy statutes; I will not forget Thy word.

I did not realize how difficult it would be to teach by translation as I spoke a sentence in English and then waited for Mr Black to translate. It came out rather stilted, because I kept losing my train of thought while he translated. I think I was still tired from my journey, but the young people were very gracious and asked me questions afterwards about courtship, my job, etc. One of the high school guys told me he didn’t want me to leave!

The small Bible Church

The small Bible Church

I so enjoyed the worship services on Sunday. I went with Mr. Black as he picked up many children for Sunday School in his van. They crowded in so it was standing room only. As he introduced me to each child, they each gave me a hug and an air kiss on the cheek which is customary here. They sing the hymns with great enthusiasm! I followed along during the message as best I could. I found the Bible verse in my English Bible after I saw where Mrs Black turned in her Spanish Bible. Carlos had helped me learn the names of all the books of the Bible in Spanish, so that was helpful. The brethren here are so friendly and open.

The friendly congregation!

The friendly congregation!

The desert climate is beautiful! It is a brisk 60 degrees in the morning and 70 degrees during the day year round. The Blacks said this is a better retirement place for them than Arizona would be, so they want to spend their final days on earth here among the beloved Chilean people. The town is an oasis in the middle of the Atacama desert which is the driest desert in the world. The average ANNUAL rainfall is 0.638 inches. When it does rain, wildflowers pop up and bloom from the dormant seeds left from the previous rain. Mr Black said it reminds him of Isaiah 55:10-11: For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not there, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

Atacama desert in bloom!

Atacama desert in bloom!

We walked around town on Monday through a pretty park and the University campus. I was amazed that poinsettias grow into trees here!

The copper town in the desert

The copper town in the desert

The park is like an oasis!

The park is like an oasis!

Mr Black is dwarfed by this huge ancient tree.

Mr Black is dwarfed by this huge ancient tree.

Poinsettias grow into trees here!

Poinsettias grow into trees here!

In the evenings after dinner, at my request, they told me story after story of their early days in Chile. They both went to Chile when they were in their thirties, thinking they would be single all their days. George’s father worked in Barcelona, Spain, so George became fluent in Spanish when he was 15 years old. George arrived in Chile in 1940 and witnessed fervently to the Chilean soldiers, many of whom received Christ. There were several single women missionaries at the time. But he was especially attracted to Letty because “she was a woman of character who could encourage me to have an undivided heart for Christ, carry forward with the ministry God gave us, and she was totally dedicated to the Lord.” They married December 31, 1943 because they wanted to start the New Year right!

Eight months later, Letty was struck with meningitis. There was a shortage of penicillin, so the hospitals reserved it for the soldiers who were fighting in World War 2 and were unable to give her any. As her fever raged and her head pounded, she said she thought she would go insane. Then God brought to her memory II Timothy 1:7; For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a SOUND MIND. In her utter weakness, she claimed that verse and asked God to preserve her mind. She began to recover slowly, but sadly she had lost her hearing. For the remainder of her life, she could only hear her husband’s voice. But she was so thankful his was the voice she could hear! She learned to lip read fluently in Spanish and in English.

Another evening we played Scrabble together which the Blacks play in both Spanish and English. For my sake we played in English. I used to think I was pretty good at it until I played with them. They are definitely at the expert level as they came up with the most amazing words! They both scored 200-300. Their minds are sharp as a tack! So God graciously answered Letty’s prayer to give her a sound mind.

Reflection

I am so thankful they no longer allow smoking on planes! I am also grateful that I now can use Sea Band acupressure bracelets and Zofran prescription medicine for my motion sickness. It definitely makes travel much more comfortable for me. I have also learned to wear compression support socks to prevent my legs from swelling and always request an aisle seat so I can stand frequently.

It was one of the greatest spiritual blessings of my life to spend that week with George and Letty Black. They truly reflected Christ’s love to all they met. Next post I will continue with more about my journey!