MISSIONARY TO CANNIBALS
by Muriel Larson
Mary Slessor, a pert, blue-eyed,
red-haired girl in Scotland, had always felt
called of God to go to the black people in
Calabar, Africa, to bring them the gospel of
Jesus Christ. When she was a young girl, she
learned that many cannibal tribes there had not
yet heard about Jesus Christ. And white men
risked being on the menu for supper if they
dared to venture into the interior!
"Some day I will go and tell them about the Lord
Jesus," she vowed. And finally, when she was 27,
the day came when she boarded a ship headed for
Africa with the blessings of a mission.
Since missionaries had not yet pushed into the
dangerous unexplored wilderness where the real
savages lived, Mary contented herself with
seeking to reach the people in the settled towns
where the missions were located, especially in
FIELD OPENED WIDE BY LOVE
After a while she began making trips to some
outlying stations. Her joy and love for the Lord
shone in her face and spoke through her halting
voice, as she sought for the right words in the
native language. Soon great crowds were coming
to see and hear the white "Ma."
Mary was appalled at the heathen customs she
saw. The chiefs of the villages had many wives
and slaves over whom they held the power of life
and death. Another missionary told her, "Many
are cannibals. When a chief dies, his wives and
slaves must have their heads cut off, and they
are buried with him."
The custom that caused Mary the greatest anguish
of heart, however, was that of killing twin
babies and driving the mothers out to die. They
did this for fear of evil spirits.
She started rescuing the twin babies and mothers
before they could be murdered, and she took them
into her home. After a while, the natives saw
that Mary went unharmed by evil spirits in spite
of all the twin babies and mothers all around
her. They also saw how healthy the children
were, and as a result they gave up the practice
of killing twin babies and their mothers.
But Mary still had the burden on her heart to go
into the unexplored wilderness, Okoyong; and
finally the mission board grated permission for
her to go. A king who had turned to Christ, King
Eyo Honesty VII, offered her his royal canoe,
and he fitted it out especially for her.
Up the river she went, with only the native
rowers accompanying her. The natives at a
village she finally reached were deeply
impressed that she had had enough courage to
come to them alone.
The people were given over to drunkenness,
witchcraft, murder, warring, and wickedness of
every kind. As Mary went through the jungles
telling them about Jesus Christ, many turned to
Christ and their way of life was changed.
Gradually all the chiefs and people came to look
to her for guidance and wisdom, and she was able
to put a stop to some terrible customs and wars.
MARY'S HARD CHOICE
Then Mary met Charles Morrison, a mission
teacher at Duke Town. Although Mary was quite a
bit older than he, they fell in love. Charles
asked Mary to marry him.
Mary raised her blue eyes to his. "I will,
Charles," she answered, "if the Lord will
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"We will have to get permission from the mission
board for you to join me in my work in the
jungles, for I am sure the Lord would not have
me leave that."
"I'm willing to join you in that work, Mary,"
Charles exclaimed eagerly. Then a sober look
came over his face. "But what if the board says
I can't? Would you join me in the work in Duke
Mary shook her head emphatically. "Oh, Charles,
you know I couldn't! The Lord has opened a
marvelous door for me among the jungle people. I
must continue telling them about Christ and
leading them out of their terrible heathen
customs! To leave a field like Okoyong without a
worker in order to go to one with a dozen
workers, where the people have the Bible and
plenty of privileges--oh, I just couldn't do it.
You know that!"
Charles knew it, and that made him love her even
Mary wrote concerning this matter: "I lay it all
in God's hands and will take from Him what He
sees best for His work in Okoyong. My life was
laid on the altar for those people long ago, and
I would not take back one jot or tittle of it.
If it be for His glory and the advantage of His
cause there to let another join in it, I will be
grateful. If not, I will try to be grateful, as
the Lord knows best."
The board disapproved of the marriage. Thus
Mary's dream of love, marriage, and family was
shattered. But humbly she said, "What the Lord
ordains is right." And the heartache she
suffered no one ever knew.
Charles was broken by the disappointment, and
soon his health failed. He returned to his home
in England, and after a while he died.
GOD'S LEADING JUSTIFIED
Mary went on to become the first missionary to
the real cannibal land. She pressed ever deeper
into the mysterious, weird forest and met more
and more tribes given over the heathen practice
of cannibalism. Perhaps because she was a lone
woman and did not pose the threat that a man
might, she was able to travel unharmed by these
fierce cannibals. Thus she was able to bring
them the good news of Christ that turned
multitudes from darkness to light--from
cannibalism to Christ.
Two books were found among Mary's treasured
keepsakes after her death. One contained the
initials "M.S." and "C.M.," and the other
contained the signatures, "Mary Slessor" and