Posts Tagged ‘mary slessor’

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!

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