By Derek Elles
Today we recognize two extraordinary female missionaries.
Born in Aberdeen in 1848, Mary Slessor became missionary to Nigeria under the United Presbyterian Church’s Foreign Mission Board. At age 28, she sailed to West Africa in August 1876 and was assigned to the Calabar region where the Efik people lived; a community that believed in traditional West African religions and had particular superstition of twins, who were often killed or abandoned.
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Slessor saved hundreds of children during her time in Nigeria; even adopting one young girl as her own daughter. She also travelled to dangerous regions where previous male missionaries had been killed, and was known for her pragmatism and sense of humor. She championed women’s rights, and set up a mission hospital for the local people.
Slessor suffered from serious bouts of malaria and other tropical diseases, and was forced on more than one occasion to return to Scotland to recover. Mary died in Calabar in 1915 at the age of 67.
Gladys Aylward was a British evangelical Christian missionary to China in the 20th century. Having been raised in North London in a working-class family, she initially worked as a housemaid, but had a long-harbored dream of becoming a missionary, and was convinced of her calling to China.
She was rejected by the China Inland Mission after failing to pass the necessary exams, but agreed to work for a 73-year-old missionary, Jeannie Lawson, who was looking for a young woman to carry on her work in the country. When Lawson died, Aylward ran the mission alone.
Gladys went on to serve in the Chinese government as a ‘foot inspector’ – visiting women all over the country to make sure they were following the new law against foot-binding – which she saw as part of her missionary work. She also adopted a number of orphans, leading around 100 to safety during the Japanese occupation, and became known as ‘Ài Wěi Dé’, meaning ‘Virtuous One’. She died in 1970 at 67 years old, and her story was made into a film – ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness’.
#missionsmonday #missionaries #womeninmissions
Until next week. Blessings in Yahweh’s grace, mercy, and peace.