Scottish-Cultural-Festival
Scottish Cultural Festival

My dear wife Leeta and I celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary this August 25th. As a special celebration of that exceptional blessing we are going on our first-ever overseas trip to Scotland, August 5-17.

We plan to visit a number of Scotland’s scenic and historic sights. We hope to observe one of the Scottish cultural festivals that are held in various locations during the month of August. (Think traditional Scottish dress, music, folk dances, food, athletic competitions, etc.)  High on Leeta’s priority list, and I’ll enjoy it too, is the opportunity to visit a couple of Scotland’s noble historic castles.

Scotland has a rich Christian history, and we’re looking forward to learning more about that and to visiting some of its related sites. We’re also desirous to learn more about the status of Christianity and the professing Christian Church in modern Scotland – various Christian denominations, their convictions, ministries, challenges and influence in society.

David-Livingstone-Centre-Blantyre-Scotland
David Livingstone Centre Blantyre, Scotland

For the past three and a half years I’ve been working on a comprehensive biography on the life and ministry of David Livingstone, the eminent nineteenth century missionary explorer to southcentral Africa (“Doctor Livingstone, I presume”). One of the highlights of our Scotland trip will be spending a day at the David Livingstone Centre and Birthplace Museum in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire.

We’re also greatly looking forward to meeting several of the people who minister at Christian Focus Publications, my primary publisher in Fearn, Ross-shire, in the Scottish Highlands. I’ve interacted via email with a number of those individuals for several years, but this will be our first opportunity to meet most of them in-person. We’re keenly anticipating worshiping at the church that some of the CFP staff attend, and to receiving a “wee ecclesiastical tour” of the region presented by William Mackenzie, the CFP Publisher.

CFPs-Geanies-Keepers-Cottage
Geanies Keeper’s Cottage at Christian Focus Publications

Christian Focus has a “cottage” (a cozy two-bedroom house overlooking the North Sea) which we’ll be staying at our second week in Scotland. From there we plan to make several day trips to see various sights in the north of Scotland.

So much to see and take in, so little time! But we’re looking forward to taking in as much as we can while enjoying what we are able to see and experience. I’ll plan to share some highlights from our Scotland trip in future Perspectives blogs. Your prayers for the Lord’s manifold blessings on all aspects of our trip will be greatly appreciated.

Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie

Mary Slessor (seated) with a Nigerian family

Mary Slessor (seated) with a Nigerian family

Throughout her thirty-eight year missionary career in southern Nigeria, West Africa, Mary Slessor (1848-1915) exhibited the spirit of a true pioneer missionary. She was never content to settle down permanently in one location, but was always seeking to advance Christ’s kingdom work into hitherto unreached areas.

The first twelve years of her missionary career were spent along the coastal region of Calabar, where Scottish missionaries of the United Presbyterian Church denomination had ministered for three decades. Mary then gained permission from the UPC Foreign Mission Committee to carry out missionary service in the previously unreached Okoyong region, which she did for the next seventeen years. (See my June 21, 2017, Perspective for a summary of her courageous, compassionate service during those first two periods of her missionary career.)

In 1904 she once again gained the Foreign Mission Committee’s permission to expand her work further inland to a pair of unreached tribes, the Ibo and the Ibibios. Slavery, human sacrifice and cannibalism had been carried out among them from time immemorial. While the British Government was seeking to curtail those practices, they were known to persist, especially in more isolated regions.

Mary Slessor at a Nigerian village

Mary Slessor at a Nigerian village

In opening that new work, Mary was initially granted one year in which to carry out itinerate ministry in the area. She took with her a small group of Christian teenagers whom she had trained in Okoyong to assist her in the new ministry. Amazingly, by the end of that year of itinerating, Christian schools and congregations had been established in six towns and villages along Enyong Creek which ran between the Ibo and Ibibios.

When Mary’s year of ministry travels concluded, her mission board desired her to resume her former responsibilities back in Okoyong. But she could not reconcile herself to that prospect, explaining: “There is an impelling power behind me, and I dare not look backward. Even if it cost me my connection with the Church [denomination] of my heart’s love, I feel I must go forward. I am not enthusiastic over Church methods. I would not mind cutting the rope and going adrift with my bairns, and I can earn our bite [food] and something more.” She was greatly relieved when the Mission decided to free her from normal responsibilities at a fixed base so from that point forward she could act as a pioneer missionary.

Mary Slessor and adopted children

Mary Slessor and adopted children

Her advance into Ibibios territory was aided by the fact that the British government was building roads in that region. “Get a bicycle, Ma,” government officials said, pointing to the road, “and come as far as you can. We will soon have a motor car service for you.” At fifty-seven years of age Mary gamely learned to ride a bicycle after a government official presented her with a brand new model from England.

The early months of 1909 found Mary covered with painful boils from head to foot. “Only sleeping draughts keep me from going off my head,” she related. She later became severely ill from blood poisoning. She was taken to Duke Town near the coast where members of the mission attentively nursed her back to heal. But after five weeks of such care she was eager to resume her ministry responsibilities inland, and did so before some officials and doctors thought it fully advisable.

Mary Slessor Memorial in Dudee, Scotland

Mary Slessor Memorial in Dudee, Scotland

Eventually her health declined to the point that the Mission’s doctor forbad her to travel by bicycle. Hearing of her need for an alternative means of transportation, a group of ladies in Scotland sent her a Cape cart, a basket-chair on wheels capable of being maneuvered along quite easily by two boys or girls.

In the closing years of her life Mary established churches and schools in the villages of Ikpe, Odoro Ikpe and Nkanga further up Enyong Creek. She carried out ministry at those locations unaided by fellow missionaries. To her deep disappointment, the Mission had already concluded that health conditions were not safe enough in that region to place other missionaries there. To the end, however, she continued to be assisted by several African girls who lived with her as foster daughters.

Women of Faith and Courage by Vance Christie

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A fuller account of Mary Slessor’s storied missionary career in Calabar is recorded in my book Women of Faith and Courage (Christian Focus, 2011). W. P. Livingstone’s Mary Slessor of Calabar, Pioneer Missionary (originally published 1916) is the classic full-length biography of her life. Bruce McClennan’s Mary Slessor, A Life on the Altar for God (Christian Focus, 2015) is a more recent full account of her life.

Copyright 2017 by Vance E. Christie