Posts Tagged ‘bicycles’

Thoughts on Bicycles and Pioneering Missionary Mary Slessor

June 25, 2011

The past week (18th -26th June) was National Bike Week in Ireland and I have been thinking about the history of the bicycle, which made its debut as early as 1817 when Baron von Drais invented a ‘walking machine’ to help him to get around the royal gardens. I have also been remembering a bicycle trip that I made between the east and west coasts of Ireland around twenty-five years ago now. It was an exhilarating journey; my husband and I camped here and there en route and cooked meals over a little camping gaz. Actually we didn’t have a car at the time and couldn’t afford a holiday, so this was the next best thing! Somehow cycling has a way of making you feel healthy, de-stressed and relaxed, although even little hills can be quite taxing. These days I have also been taking a long look at each passing bicycle, as my youngest daughter’s bicycle (pictured below) was stolen recently, much to our annoyance. Cycling, we are told, is healthy, safe, environmentally friendly and economical – but of course it can be dangerous on some busy roads where motorists are not so sympathetic to cyclists.

As I was thinking about bicycles this week, I remembered an old book in my possession, about the Scottish missionary Mary Slessor (1848-1915). There is a picture in the book of Mary Slessor on her bicycle, which always made an impression on me. Like many other pioneering missionaries in the continent of Africa, Mary used this method of transport to travel through wild terrain where superstition, barbarism, witchcraft and paganism reigned. In some regions when twins were born, they were either buried alive or left to die in the woods but Mary Slessor won the hearts of the leaders of African tribes and of the ordinary people she worked with, to the extent that many turned from this brutality to a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. At one point she nursed an African chief until he died and then with her own hands she made him a coffin and buried him.

Given that Mary Slessor’s father had been an alcoholic and she had worked hard to support her mother and the rest of the family when he died, it is truly amazing how the Lord subsequently used this young woman to reach remote regions in the continent of Africa. I have no doubt that she was followed by the prayers of her mother who (unlike her father) was a godly Christian who devoted her life to her children.

With bicycles in mind, I am reminded of this spiritual analogy: climbing the hills can be strenuous but what a beautiful view we have when we reach the summit! Mary Slessor’s life was burnt out in the service of her Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, often it must have been an agonising uphill struggle – but what a marvellous sight awaited her when, on reaching the summit of life, Mary passed into the Presence of her Saviour!

The Greatest Gift of All – A True Story

December 24, 2010

My Aunt Frances adored her children. There were five of them altogether – four girls like ‘steps of stairs,’ and finally a boy, all born in the 1940’s and 1950’s. She encouraged them educationally and when it came to the Christmas season, she ensured that each one wakened up on Christmas morning to a beautiful gift. This was quite an achievement, given that post-war times were hard and money was scarce in most households.

In those days she lived in a small town house, and I know (from experience) that under such circumstances it can be difficult to find extra storage space for those gifts we want to surprise our loved ones with on Christmas morning! Anyway, one particular year she bought many lovely gifts for her children, including a little iron and ironing board for one of the girls, but where would she hide them? At the time my parents, siblings and I lived in an old country house (where my aunt had lived previously) and although lacking in many modern conveniences, we had a little bit more space to hide the Christmas gifts and so my parents agreed to keep them for my aunt until Christmas Eve. As a child I loved Christmas, but somehow I recall that Christmas Eve was a busy, often stressful time – especially for women.

That year (as was the tradition for many years) it had previously been agreed that my parents would drive over to my aunt’s house with my cousins’ presents on Christmas Eve. When it came to the evening in question they did go over to visit her, but with all the activities and conversation – they completely forgot the real reason for their visit. They didn’t even think about those toys until they were back at home, preparing to go to bed and heard a knock at the door…

There standing in the cold December night was Aunt Frances with her bicycle, having cycled the entire distance from the town to our country house! In those days most people didn’t have a telephone in their homes (never mind a mobile ‘phone) and so, the only way she could get those essential gifts was to cycle out to us. That night my father packed my aunt’s bicycle into the car boot with the toys and drove her home, and then, in the quietness of the night while the children slept, she carefully laid out the surprises for the morning.

I was touched by this true story of a mother’s love for her children after hearing it from my own mother just recently, for I could also see some spiritual parallels. The miles that she cycled may not seem much nowadays for modern day cyclists who possess high-powered mountain and racing bicycles, but I am certain that my aunt possessed neither. Also, in her youth she had had an accident in which her legs had been badly injured, so that cycling may possibly have caused her some discomfort. What trouble she went to, for the sake of the happiness of her children!  In the Bible, a mother’s love is referred to in Isaiah 49v15, because it is normally one of the most unselfish and self-sacrificing of all the relationships between human beings. “Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.”

Therefore we learn that it is possible for even a mother to be lacking in love, but God’s love for us transcends all loves. In 1John 4v8, we learn that “God is love,” and in Romans 5v8 we are told: “But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” At this time of year gifts (large and small) are on our minds, but surely the Greatest Gift of All is that which God gave to us at Calvary? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3v16&17)

If my cousins had refused those beautiful gifts on Christmas morning, how heartbroken my aunt would have been; having gone to so much trouble over them. Jesus, the perfect Son of God having humbled himself to die on a cross has paid the ultimate price for our sins at Calvary. Today He still stands with outstretched arms, offering His gift of salvation to “whosoever will come.” All He desires is that we acknowledge our sin, repent of it and ask Him to come into our lives, so that He can make us “new creatures.” (2Cor. 5v17) Will you trust Him today? It is a decision you will never regret – for I have proved it in my own life! Remember tomorrow may be too late, for no one knows what tomorrow holds, and some day soon He will return to receive “His own.” (Matthew 24v44). Oh that you would be ready for His return and that you would know the joy of His presence in your life today!

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6v23) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast.” (Eph.2v8&9)