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Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Old books, new treasures

While organizing my missionary books I came across a small volume (about 3” x 5”) entitled Missionary Daily Text Book, published by The Religious Tract Society. There is no author or compiler listed nor publication date, though by the looks of the binding, endpapers, and pages it was probably printed in the late 1800’s.

The book has entries for each day of the year and highlights missionary themed scriptures and quotes along with notable missionary events for each date.  I’d like to share a few entries from this week.

The Judsons

February 19 – Adoniram Judson sailed for India, 1812. Mark 10:27 With God all things are possible.

Judson and his wife Ann sailed for India, but God redirected them to Burma (modern Myanmar) where they endured privation, suspicion, false accusation, imprisonment, starvation, the death of children, and finally the death of Ann.

Bud God allowed the translation of the Scriptures to survive and eventually many Burmese were won to Christ.  Our friend pastors a church in Calgary where a number of the Karen tribe from Burma worship.  They trace their spiritual ancestry back to relatives who were won to Christ by the work of the Judsons.

Longfellow poem

February 21 – Longfellow poem (taken from Hymn for My Brother’s Ordination)
And evermore beside him on his way
The unseen Christ shall move,
That he may lean upon His arm and say
Dost Thou, dear Lord, approve?

James Gilmour and Mtesa – Answers to prayer  EmilyPrankard411px-Gilmourjames

February 22 – James Gilmour sails for China, 1870
Mtesa’s request for missionaries given through H. M. Stanley    

James Gilmour was used of God to share the gospel in China and Mongolia.  His had the blessing of ministering with Mr. and Mrs. Meech, but longed for a companion – a wife – to share in his life. Not having any prospects nearby, he asked God to clearly direct and provide a wife.  His coworkers opened their lives to him and often read letters from home to the bachelor.  After seeing a picture of Mrs. Meech’s sister, and hearing her letters read in his company, James, having never meet Emily, decided to write and ask for her hand in marriage.  She accepted and God gave them a number of years of joyful marriage and ministry together in Asia.

Mtesa was the King (or Emperor) of Uganda who was converted to Christ.  He sent a message back with H.M. Stanley (of Stanley and Livingstone fame) to send more missionaries.  God blessed that request by calling a number of missionaries to Africa.

The view from history

Sometimes in obeying God’s leading we feel like failures or as if we are wasting our time.  Nothing is happening!  God does not seem to be answering our prayers!  We’re enduring such opposition!  These entries remind us that sometimes we don’t see immediate answers to prayer in our spiritual efforts.   It is essential that we walk with God, obey His direction for each of our lives, and leave the results with Him.  History will better display the eternal effectiveness of our Christian labors than what we are able to observe in the here and now.

photos: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EmilyPrankard.jpg; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gilmourjames.jpg

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A godly family

William Waddell was born in Scotland in the mid-1800’s.  His parents loved God, helped in the church, and taught young William William Waddell 001about God and the Bible.  William’s mother loved to read missionary stories and eagerly retold them to her children.

Quiet and humble

William had a sensitive nature and was very quiet and humble.  He did not feel comfortable playing rough games with the other boys and they often made fun of him because of it.

William could build and fix things

Sickness kept William from attending school regularly.  He was not a very good student, but he was very good at figuring out how machines worked.  He spent many quiet hours in his workshop building with wood and rebuilding mechanical things. Neighbors soon learned that William had the exceptional skill of understanding how machines worked.  They brought their broken machines to William and he was happy to repair as many of them as he could.

Good, but still a sinner

William liked to be good, but just like everyone else he was a sinner.  At age fifteen he asked Jesus to save him from his sin.  Jesus did save him and will save you or anyone else who asks.

God made it clear that He wanted William to be a missionary in Africa.  But the boy wondered if that could ever be possible since he wasn’t smart like other young people and had such a hard time studying from books.

In those days someone who was not good at studying from books could be apprenticed to a tradesman who would teach him a specific skill.  William was apprenticed to a joiner, a type of carpenter, and became very good at his work.

To finish his apprenticeship William was sent to a ship building company.  The other men who worked there were crude and ungodly.  They did not like the young man’s quietness or his faith in God.  Many of them taunted and threatened William as he worked.

William stands up for God

But even though William was a quiet person, he was not afraid to stand up for God in front of these men.  God gave him a quiet confidence and helped him to know how to answer the mocking words.

One day William saw an advertisement looking for workers to build a church in South Africa.  He answered the ad and soon left for his new job.  Maybe God would lead him to missionary work once he was in Africa!

William settled in to his work and joined a local church.  Hi pastor became a close friend.  One day William’s pastor told him about a missionary nearby named Francois Coillard who was praying for a godly man to work with him.  He particularly wanted someone who could build and repair things.

A missionary in Africa

When the missionary met William he saw a quiet frail-looking man.  He was not sure the young man knew how hard the work would be in remote African areas.  “Do not come unless you are certain God is calling you to this work.”  But William was absolutely certain God wanted him to help the Coillards.   He was thrilled that God gave him exactly the right skills that the missionary group needed!

The missionaries traveled north to begin work in the area now called Zambia.  Sickness, tribal wars, bad weather, rough roads, and wild animals made it hard for them to travel quickly.  Finally they arrived!  William was able to begin building houses and other buildings for the mission station. Soon he was not only building, but making the tools they needed and repairing almost any tool, machine, or vehicle that broke.

Showing God’s love

The African people there had never heard of Jesus and did not seem interested when Mr. Coillard preached and taught them.  But a wonderful thing happened.  The young men who helped William cut down trees and build things were impressed with the quiet man’s bravery and skills.  As time went on he was able to show them God’s love.  These boys began to listen and some asked Jesus to save them from their sins.

William was very happy in his work and he and Francois became close friends.  Both men loved God and God used the different abilities of each man to establish a mission station.  These men showed the love of God to the Africans in many ways.  Because the African people saw that they were loved and not just preached at, some were willing to listen to the gospel and become Christians.

Back in Scotland but not forgotten

After many years of serving God in Africa, William became ill with a tropical disease.  The disease made him so sick he had to return to Scotland where he was told he would never get better.  The last years of his life William could no longer be with his beloved African friends.  But God’s work continued in Zambia and his friends and helpers never forgot the quiet man who could build anything and who showed them the love of God by the way he lived.

Verse: Isaiah 30:15 In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.

Ten Questions for young readers:

  1. What kind of a person was William?
  2. Was William a good student?
  3. What did he spend time doing?
  4. Was William a sinner?
  5. Where did God want William to serve as a missionary?
  6. Was he afraid to stand up for God when other people mocked him?
  7. What does it mean to be an apprentice?
  8. Do you have to be a preacher to be a missionary?
  9. How did God use William on the mission field?
  10. What did William show the African people that helped them want to be Christians?

Bibliography: MacConnachie, Rev. John.  An Artisan Missionary on the Zambesi:  The Story of William Thomson Waddell.  Edinburgh and London:  Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1910.

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Last year it was my great privilege to visit the McManus Museum of Dundee Scotland.  There we saw a display about the brave redheaded missionary, Mary Slessor.  We were saddened to observe that much of the display touted her humanitarian efforts and downplayed her evangelistic zeal.  Mary Slessor was a godly woman who served the Lord and her African brothers and sisters whole-heartedly.  The following article summarizes an excellent biography of her life and ministry, Mary Slessor of Calabar by W. P. Livingstone.  It was originally published in the early 1900’s and can be found used online.  Modern reprints, or rather copies, are available but do not always contain clear renditions of the photos from the original, so you may want to check on that before ordering one.

Mary Slessor:  Brave Missionary Example

Mary Slessor was a sensible, thrifty Scottish lass born in 1848.  Her father’s alcoholism ruined the family financially and forced Mary to begin working at the mills when she was just eleven. An elderly neighbour woman was burdened for the souls of area children, earnestly urging them to forsake their sins and come to Christ.  Mary responded and soon began gathering street children to attend religious meetings.   A missionary spoke of the great need in Africa, particularly the Calabar region and Mary’s heart grew burdened for missions. After arranging for the care of her mother and sisters, Mary left for service in Africa.  She was 28 years old.

Mary Slessor window in Dundee, Scotland

Mary’s spent time on the African coast training under veteran missionaries.   A survey trip to the Calabar region caused her to observe, “Calabar needs a brave heart and a stout body.”[1]  Possessed of a stout heart, Mary found her body weakened by the many tropical diseases she was exposed to, but she persevered in her desire to work inland.  Mary was finally left in charge of her own station at Calabar (Nigeria).  Her earnest, winsome concern for the souls soon won the affection and admiration of the mission staff and the natives.  Mary exercised extreme frugality – eating native food, sleeping in a native house, and doing all her own work.  She quickly learned to speak the language.  Mary often travelled barefoot or by canoe to minister to various tribes, and campaigned tirelessly to end the superstitious and evil practices that often meant death for the innocent.  Her efforts were so joyful and devoted that her field directors noted, “Her labours are manifold, but she sustains them cheerfully – she enjoys the unreserved friendship and confidence of the people, and has much influence over them.”[2]

When Mary learned in 1886 that both her mother and sister had died, leaving her without family in this world, she commented, “Heaven is now nearer to me than Britain, and no one will be anxious about me if I go up-country.”[3]  She moved further inland to Okoyong.  The inhabitants were wild, fearless, and superstitious with no regard for life. Slowly Mary influenced the tribesmen to make changes by introducing the gospel and gently but staunchly standing against the vile tribal rituals and vengeful reprisals enacted when death or illness struck.

The “White Ma” was called upon to intercede to save lives and prevent tribal warfare.  “Run, Ma!” her friends would urge her when hearing of trouble brewing in a nearby area.  Mary would run to the area of conflict and bravely and calmly argue for the life of those facing certain unwarranted death. Her basis of argument was “the Book” and the words of the great God.  Many lives that would have been carelessly cast away at a whim or superstition were saved by the timely intervention of Mary.

When requests came from other interior tribes for White Ma to come to them with the stories of the good book, Mary longed to go.  Though her spirit was more than willing, her body was increasingly frail.  Years of privation and extreme frugality had left her body weak and unable to function and she entered heaven in her sixty-sixth year.  Mary Slessor was a faithful servant of her beloved Saviour who cared more for the souls of the lost than for any personal recognition or comfort in this life. Her unselfish work is responsible for numerous Africans coming to know the Lord.


[1] Livingstone, W. P., Mary Slessor of Calabar Pioneer Missionary (London:  Hodder and Stoughton, 1923), p. 32

[2] Livingstone, p. 35

[3] Livingstone, p. 51

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