Mary Slessor adopted many children from amongst the abandoned boys and girls of the native tribes that she served. She was referred to by the natives as ‘Ma’ because of her deep love for the people that she worked amongst. She really was like a mother to the people of that land. She was a single woman and some might think that this was due to her dreadful childhood experience of marriage. Mary’s father was a drunkard and she often had to be the barrier to protect her mother from her father’s physical abuse. Some nights as a child she would be thrown out on the Dundee streets until her father slept off his drink induced rage and her mother could bring her back into the ‘safety’ of the home once more.
I think however, rather than putting her off marriage, it was this tough upbringing that gave Mary Slessor her edge as a missionary. What we might think of as a disadvantage and a blight on her life was used by God to bring the gospel to the area of Calabar – in what we now refer to as Nigeria.
Her commitment to the spreading of the gospel, mission work and the defense of the vulnerable women and children of that area was remarkable. One choice that she made shows both her commitment to the Lord’s work and to the fact that she wasn’t against marriage. In 1890 Mary met a new missionary to Calabar Charles Morrison. Quietly and with little fuss the two missionaries began a relationship and Mary agreed to an engagement on the condition that Charles joined her in her missionary work in Calabar. His health however was the barrier to this. Charles left the mission and Mary continued with her work. The engagement was ended. The only evidence that it had ever been – a photograph with Mary wearing an engagement ring and two books where Mary and Charles had both signed their names side by side.
To close this post I’ll just add one of the quotes found in the margin of Mary’s bible: “It were worth while to die, if thereby a soul could be born again.”
Women of Faith and Courage
Mary Slessor: Servant to the Slave
Mary Slessor: What is it Like?