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Mary Slessor of Calabar: Pioneer Missionary   By:

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Life for most people is governed by authority and convention, but behind these there lies always the mystery of human nature, uncertain and elusive, and apt now and again to go off at a tangent and disturb the smooth working of organised routine. Some man or woman will appear who departs from the normal order of procedure, who follows ideals rather than rules, and whose methods are irregular, and often, in the eyes of onlookers, unwise. They may be poor or frail, and in their own estimation of no account, yet it is often they who are used for the accomplishment of important ends. Such a one was Mary Slessor.

Towards the end of her days she was urged to write her autobiography, but was surprised at the proposal, and asked what she had done to merit the distinction of being put in a book. She was so humble minded that she could not discern any special virtue in her life of self sacrifice and heroism; and she disliked publicity and was shamed by praise. When the matter was pressed upon her in view of the inspiration which a narrative of her experiences and adventures would be for others, she began to consider whether it might not be a duty, she never shrank from any duty however unpleasant. Her belief was that argument and theory had no effect in arousing interest in missionary enterprise; that the only means of setting the heart on fire the magnetism of personal touch and example; and she indicated that if account of her service would help to stimulate and strengthen the faith of the supporters of the work, she would be prepared to supply the material. She died before the intention could be carried further, but from many sources, and chiefly from her own letters, it has been possible to piece together the main facts of her wonderful career.

One, however, has no hope of giving an adequate picture of her complex nature, so full of contrasts and opposites. She was a woman of affairs, with a wide and catholic outlook upon humanity, and yet she was a shy solitary walking alone in puritan simplicity and childlike faith. Few ham possessed such moral and physical courage, or exercised such imperious power over savage peoples, yet on trivial occasions she was abjectly timid and afraid, A sufferer from chronic malarial affection, and a martyr to pains her days were filled in with unremitting toil. Overflowing with love and tender feeling, she could be stern and exacting. Shrewd, practical, and matter of fact, she believed that sentiment was a gift of God, and frankly indulged in it. Living always in the midst of dense spiritual darkness, and often depressed and worried, she maintained unimpaired a sense of humour and laughter. Strong and tenacious of will, she admitted the right of others to oppose her. These are but illustrations of the perpetual play of light and shade in her character which made her difficult to understand. Many could not see her greatness for what they called her eccentricities, forgetting, or perhaps being unaware of, what she had passed through, experiences such as no other woman had undergone, which explained much that seemed unusual in her conduct. But when her life is viewed as a whole, and in the light of what she achieved, all these angles and oddities fall away, and she stands out, a woman of unique and inspiring personality, and one of the most heroic figures of the age.

Some have said that she was in a sense a miracle, and not, therefore, for ordinary people to emulate. Such an estimate she would have stoutly repudiated. It is true that she began life with the gift of a strong character, but many possess that and yet come to nothing. She had, on the other hand, disadvantages and obstacles that few have to encounter. It was by surrender, dedication, and unwearied devotion that she grew into her power of attainment, and all can adventure on the same path... Continue reading book >>

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