Calabar and the Mission Station
David Livingstone, missionary hero of the day, had urged fellow Christians not to let die the fire of opening Africa to Christianity. When Mary heard that David Livingstone had died, she wanted to follow in his footsteps. Mary worked till the age of 28 in the Scottish industry before she applied to the Foreign Mission Board of the United Presbyterian Church, offering her life to the people of the Calabar region, as a missionary teacher. Eventually, After a brief period of a three months training in Edinburgh, she was finally offered the permission to go on the mission to Old Calabar.
At 29 years of age, with red hair and bright blue eyes shining in enthusiasm, wondering about the daunting task ahead, Mary set sail in the S.S. Ethiopia on 5th of August 1876 heading to Old Calabar mission. She was dismayed to find the ship loaded with hundreds of barrels of whiskey. Remembering how alcohol had ruined her own family, she frowned, “Scores of barrels of whisky,” she muttered, “and only one missionary”. Overwhelmed by the enormous accounts of strange and terrifying work ahead in Nigeria as outlined in the "Missionary Records" during her training, Mary doubted her own ability sometimes, teasing herself as "wee and thin and not very strong" to perform similar deeds. She arrived at her destination in just over a month later. At her arrival, some of the old hands in her mission in Calabar might have been excused for questioning whether she would last her first full year.
Origin of Old Calabar Mission
The incentive of the mission to the Old Calabar came through the horrific grief, pains and extreme suffering of the Jamaican Christians slaves of Calabar descendants. They wished that God could one day send missionaries with the messages of salvation to the people of their land of origin where they first lost their innocence and freedom in the first place, through kidnapping and trading, in their own nature, into the barbaric and cruelty state of horror and slavery.
It was In 1841, that Hope Masterton Waddell, an Irish clergyman serving with the Scottish Presbyterian mission in Jamaica, received a copy of Sir T. Fowell Buxton's book “The Slave Trade and Its Remedy” where the author proclaimed that God would inspire men from the West Indies to return to their African homeland with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But their prayers, the Jamaican slaves, came to reality in 1844 when King EyoNsa II of Creek Town, Calabar, wrote to George Blyth requesting for missionaries to start western-style schools among the Efik people in old Calabar.
The newly formed Presbyterian Synod of Jamaica decided to send the Waddells and Jamesons to Old Calabar soon after receiving EyoNsa II’s invitation. The Presbyterian missionaries’ very excitement over the Efik king’s invitation at least partially stemmed from denominational rivalry. The Methodists, Baptists, and even the Anglicans who had already made missions into West Africa from Jamaica finally arrive in Calabar in 1846. However there had been no previous missionary presence in Old Calabar.
By going to Old Calabar the United Free Church of Scotland which then became the Presbytery of Biafa in 1858 left a significant mark on the empire because they were evangelizing alone. The missionaries’ purpose in travelling to the colonies was to evangelize and expand the Kingdom of God on Earth.
It could be argued that the Scottish Presbyterians did not become missionaries to participate in empire building, although they were intimately wrapped up in the larger civilizing project. They were motivated by scripture and a sense of Christian duty, it was to the Scots, a national pride, nourished by the opportunity to extend her independent church, educational system, and other aspects of her civil society into the Imperial territories, they demonstrating their zealous liberal, evangelical spirit that gave shape to both the British Empire itself and how Britons perceived the objectives of the empire in the nineteenth century. perhaps it may be said that without the Scottish Presbyterian missionaries, the British Empire would not have been justly British.
Presbyterianism was the only taste of Christian doctrine, worship style and church structure that the Efiks had in the mid nineteenth century. However Old Calabar did not yield the fruit that the Scottish Presbyterians had tasted in Jamaica.