Mary Slessor the Scottish missionary to Africa

Mary Slessor came into the world in the Scottish City of Aberdeen in 1848. As a young girl, her father struggled with alcohol addiction, losing his job due to this. When Mary was 11 years old, the family moved to Dundee with the hope of finding work.  Her father found work as a labourer in a mill, although he continued to drink heavily, while her mother worked as a weaver since she was skilled in this trade. Mary went to work part-time from age 11 but turned to full-time work at the age of 14. Full-time work meant starting at six in the morning and finishing at six at night. During these three years, she became very proficient at weaving and could run two looms at the same time.

Mary became a Christian when an old woman told her of her need to be saved from Hellfire. After her conversion, she became concerned for the souls of others around her. Mary would take Bible classes for children and took an interest in missionary endeavours abroad. She was especially enamoured by the life of David Livingstone. So it was that in the year 1875, when Mary was 28 years old, that she set out for Africa herself.

Mary was posted in Nigeria, where she worked with the Efik people in a region called Calabar.  She did visit Dundee on several occasions but always returned to her work in Africa. To work with the indigenous people, Mary had to learn the Efik language. There were many practices that the Efik people carried out that horrified Mary Slessor, such as:

  • The killing of twins and banishment of their mother due to the concept that there was a satanic influence in the births.
  • Human sacrifice when chieftains died
  • Treating women as slaves in polygamous marriages.
  • Drinking poisonous concoctions to establish guilt or innocence, as well as many other rituals.

Mary Slessor worked tirelessly with the native people. She rescued twins from certain death and brought them up as her own and re-educated the native people to respect human life. Mary preached the gospel to the tribespeople. Due to her influence with the indigenous population, Mary Slessor was revered among the people. She was asked to preside over disputes called Palavers and officially judged as a British vice-consul in Okoyiong.

After living a full and abounding life for Christ, Mary Slessor went to be with her Lord in 1915 after suffering a period of ill health. She is buried in Calabar.