Mary Slessor by Nicola Dempsey, Grove Academy

Here I am, lying here in this dirty mud hut. I can feel my strength deteriorating. I know that I am dying but I am not scared. I love the life that I have lived and I will die happy knowing that I have changed this huge world in some small way. I am surrounded by my dearest friends and my beautiful adopted children. “Don’t give up ma’, I need you here. We all need you here! The world still needs changing and we need you to lead us, you’re an inspiration to us all ma’, please we need you!” I do know that I have changed things here and Africa and obviously I am passionate about changing more as there is so much more yet to be done. I am aware that my story isn’t widely known. Lets take it back to when I was a young fierce girl, growing up in the small yet busy town of Dundee many years ago.

I was born in 1848 in Aberdeen, and moved to Dundee with my family when I was eleven. I grew up in Dundee, working in the Jute mills and living with an alcoholic father and a family in poverty. I gained solace from going to church and worshipping God. In my late 20’s I decided to go to Africa as missionary with little medical training but a heart full of hope!

When I first arrived in Africa, the people there were looking at me as if I was some kind of mysterious angel or white spirit. A man was walking over to me. I didn’t who know who he was but he didn’t seem too happy with me? Why was this I wondered? I explained to him that I was here to help the people from his village. Outrage came across his face. “Help my people? What do you mean by that?” “Slaves.” I told him. He looked at me with a puzzled expression. “Slavery, it’s not right, people should never be put under such trauma.” “Without slaves, no one will have any jobs. Your way of thinking is crazy! You must leave now.” He insisted. “God sent me here, I must do what has to be done.” I replied. The chief and I conversed for quite some time. Finally he saw the good in what I had planned for his village.

I began straight away. I built and set up my first school with the help of many. I worked hard day and night, blood, sweat and tears pushing through the strains of building the school in such humid conditions, extremely different to the bitter cold weather I was used to back in Scotland. When the school was finally built, I felt proud! I taught the people of Calabar about the wonders of God, what honourable sacrifices he made for us.

I felt as though my work in Calabar was done, I was ready to journey to somewhere new and spread my good will further! I wanted to move up river to Okoyong, known for being the most dangerous place in Nigeria. The Chief wasn’t too pleased with my ambitious ideas. I did understand why, he didn’t want me hurt or in any danger. I explained to him that this was God telling me to do.

Soon after my discussion with the Chief I travelled up river on my heroic conquest. The Chief was right, this was a dangerous expedition. The river was a disgusting colour and there were fallen trees everywhere, brushing across my delicate skin. I could hear things rustling about in branches, but I knew to stay calm. Oh and the stench was unexplainable, it was so bad it made my eyes water!

Eventually, after a long treacherous journey, I arrived in Okoyong. The site at the river bay was soul destroying. Slaves chained up, being horrifically whipped as they walking unwilling onto the boats. I saw humans but no humanity. Further into Okoyong, twins were being murdered or fed to hungry leopards for no reason? Why were they doing this? This destroyed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I thought to myself, “What can I do to stop this evil way of destroying a precious life?” I thought long and hard.

I built a large house where I protected and nursed women who were pregnant with twins and searching for refuge. I also cared for mothers  who had already given birth to their precious twin babies who were at risk.  I did what I could to keep all of the people safe and away from any dangers.

Not long after I had built the new home where I nursed mothers and their beautiful children, I was bitten by a ferocious dog. I thought nothing of it  at the time.

As the days slowly passed, I was constantly feeling tired, my strength was fading. I’m feeling overwhelmed with exhaustion now, I’m not sure how much more time God has left me. I am in excruciating pain. My eyes are feeling overly heavy, I can feel them closing. I am not afraid of death.  I am confident that God has safe place for me in heaven. I am certain  that he will protect me when I am up there with him.

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Scottish Charity No. SC032781

© Mary Slessor Foundation 2016