In a league of her own


Although Mary Slessor was a missionary, she demystified and secularized the understanding of natural phenomenon. This includes her choice to live alone in the no-go-part of the forest and her struggle for the right to live for twins. She also became fluent in the Efik language, of which she often used with humour and sarcasm to reinforce her arguments. Unlike most missionaries, she lived through out  in native style and became thoroughly conversant with the culture and customs, and the day-to-day lives of the people.
She was bold in her ministry and fearless as she travelled from village to village. Mary rescued hundreds of twin babies thrown out into the forest, prevented many wars, stopped the practice of trying to determine guilt by making them drink poison, healed the sick, and told the people about the great God of love whose Son came to earth to die on the cross that sinful men might have eternal life.

Her childhood lifestyle simplicity made this fairly achieved. Life in the Calabar region meant very little. Slavery was common and to kill a child, a woman or a slave meant nothing. Mary Slessor was saddened, up to her death, by lack of respect and value for life the people portrayed.


Slaughtering of the twins

One custom that broke her heart was 'twin-murder. The birth of twins was thought to be a signal of something evil and deadly to come, which would trigger calamity in the society.
The twins were regarded as a medium of transmission of evil from the world of darkness to people. They were feared and considered a direct channel to the kingdom of darkness. The birth of twins was met with instant and brutal judgement.
Twin babies were cruelly murdered and their mothers were driven from their homes to die in the jungle. There were many ways in which these executions were carried out depending on the advice and or order of the witchdoctor concerned.
In some cases the twins were pulverised with pestle and mortar in order to make sure they did not come back to life, a practise which is still common place today. Sometimes they would be left in the jungle to be eaten by wild beasts.
Mary rescued many twins and ministered to their mothers. She was continuously fighting against this evil practice, often risking her life to stop the leaders from killing twins. The Lord gave her favour with the tribesmen, and Mary eventually gained a respect unheard of for a woman, guided by devoted Christian fixed philosophy, that man, anywhere and everywhere, is a salvable creature; that the “savage” is a child, but not a brute beast; that “missionary work” means getting at the heart of this child and teaching it to live, bit by bit, as wise mothers teaches.


Overcome with loneliness.

Mary was sent home on furlough because she was extremely sick. As she returned home, she took Janie, a 6-month-old twin girl she'd rescued. She was home for over three years, staying to look after her mother and sister, who were ill. While home, she would speak to churches and share stories from Africa. Everyone loved Janie and the story of her rescue, it was a powerful testimony.
During one of her sick leaves back in Scotland, she met Charles Morrison. He was a young missionary teacher. He was 18 years younger than her, they soon fell in love. Mary accepted his marriage proposal, but only after he assured her that he would work with her in Okoyong.
Sadly, the marriage never happened. His health did not even allow him to stay in Duke Town, and, for Mary, missionary service came before personal relationships. She was destined to live alone with her adopted children.
While back in Africa, Mary received news that her mother and sister had died. Now Mary had no one close to her. She was overcome with loneliness. She wrote, "There is no one to write and tell my stories and troubles and nonsense to." But she also found a sense of freedom, writing, "Heaven is now nearer to me than Britain, and no one will be anxious about me if I go upcountry."


A mentor of social justice and dialogue


In August of 1888, Mary went north to Okoyong. It was an area that had claimed the lives of missionaries in the past. For 15 years she stayed with the Okoyongs, teaching, nursing and being a peacemaker. She frequently risked her life to settle problems which arose among the tribes. Vicious villages would attack each other, killing all the men and children, and enslaving the women.
When the chief's son died, the village thought that a neighboring tribe was the cause of the death, and the warriors attacked the other group, killing, plundering, burning the village, and capturing some of the people. Mary plead with the chief to spare the people but to no avail. When the time for the trial came, she saw the natives preparing the poison-cup, a favorite method of killing enemies and determining the source of trouble. She raced to the side of a woman who was about to be forced to drink the poison, grabbed her by the hand and took her to the mission house, where she challenged the enraged chief to come and get her. Eventually the chief's rage cooled and Mary began to soothe his wild nature.
She was 55 when she moved on from Okoyong with her seven children to do pioneer work in Itu and Arochuku in Ibo Land. Janie, her oldest adopted daughter, was a valuable asset in her work.


She mystify the mines but in God’s name.

In the long years that followed, she single-handedly tamed and transformed regions by preaching the gospel, teaching the children, defending the abused, and rescuing the mistreated. She was living in mud huts and sleeping amid crowding bodies. She was a combination circuit preacher, village teacher, nurse, nanny, and negotiator. She diverted tribal wars and rescued women and children by the hundreds. Often babies filled her home by the dozens.
The role of woman in education and regional development were key elements of the change and hope she brought to the region. She fought very hard for it and achieved female emancipation in a male dominated society. She was a lady with a visionary approach to development, education and healthcare.
she was Scottish lady with the courage of a Nigerian man.