Mary Slessor – A pioneer for female Missionaries

“I don’t care where we go as long as we go forward.” Mary Slessor loved this quote from famed African Missionary and Explorer, David Livingstone. It challenged her and what she was accomplishing in her life for God. Mary reflected, “I am not going anywhere. I am 27 years old. I work in a cotton mill 12 hours a day.” So, Mary prayed a bold prayer, “Send me somewhere, anywhere, just send me to be a missionary.”

God did indeed answer that prayer. From an uneducated factory girl in her homeland of Scotland, Mary advanced into the rank of Missionary. Her work was that of a pioneer among the most treacherous tribes of the Calabar region in Nigeria, Africa. Practically singlehanded she tamed and transformed three pagan communities in succession. Her life was full of strange adventures, daring feats and wonderful achievements.

Mary Slessor was born in 1848 in Aberdeen, Scotland, but grew up in Dundee. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother was a devout Presbyterian. Mary Slessor worked at a jute mill to help support the family. It was common in that era to work long hours and so Mary worked a 12-hour day. On her day off, Mary taught Sunday School and worked with a Youth Club. She had set her sights on being a Missionary.

In 1876, Mary moved to Calabar, a port city of Duke Town, Africa (current day Nigeria). She acclimatised to the weather, food and local customs. She worked as a teacher, served in a pharmacy and studied the local language, Efik.

In 1883, Mary served in the Okoyong Community, a region rife with witchcraft, drunkenness and superstition. She helped end the sacrificing of wives and slaves whenever a chief died.

She fought vehemently against the killing of twins, multiple births and children with disabilities. Instead, she brought them into her home.

Mary Slessor became the Vice-Consul of Okoyong under the British Protectorate in 1891. She helped settle many disputes and also set up training schools.

Mary continued to have many health conditions and she often suffered from Malaria, blood poisoning and bouts of fever. She died in 1915, after a life of service. She is remembered as the “White Ma”, to entire tribes. Her faith, steadfastness, and pioneering spirit brought her beloved adopted people, their first amazing, contrasting example of the life and freedom found in Christ.

There is no doubt that Mary Slessor is a woman who stopped at nothing to reach the lost with the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. This House Patron lived out what it means to put their faith in action by using their gifts to honour God and to serve others. Go SLESSOR!!

Ref: Benge, Janet and Geoff, Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose, YWAM Publishing, USA, 1999