Life in parts of Africa had little value in the late 1800s especially if one was a woman or a slave. Human sacrifices and cannibalism were common. If a family had too many children, the unwanted child would be left in the bushes to die. If twins were born, they and their mother would be murdered.
Mary Slessor (1848-1915) was a Scottish missionary to Nigeria. Her determined work and strong personality earned her acceptance by the locals and she became trusted as “The White Queen” in the Calabar area of Nigeria.
People were moved to tears as, on furlough, she told of a chief’s death when, according to their custom, 25 of his household were beheaded. At the death of another chief, 60 people were killed and eaten. Mary was accompanied by four of the children she had saved and she told how she had rescued hundreds of baby twins and other babies who had been thrown in the forest to die of hunger or to be eaten by ants or leopards.
Mary ventured into areas where no white person had been. She was warned she would be killed but she went and she became a fearless peace-maker between different groups, often standing ground firmly between them and defying them. Chiefs built her schoolrooms and she became an honoured person
Mary fought bouts of tropical diseases but worked long hours. At times, with sometimes dozens of babies at a time, she found it difficult to get sleep.
Then she remembered that naturalist S L Bastian had told of a spider that builds its web/nest in the branch of a tree or bush and hatches its babies in that delicate enclosure. If the nest is disturbed, the babies rush out in fright. At once, the mother is alerted to their potential danger because each has a silken strand attached to it and the threads are joined to the body of the mother. When the babies scurry off, the mother feels the line tug and within a split second they are pulled back to the nest.
Mary’s babies didn’t flee but she tied a cord to each of the babies’ little hammocks and from her bed, she could pull the cords to rock the hammocks as each baby needed soothing. The babies were comforted and Mary was able to get greatly needed sleep and rest.
The prophet Hosea tells us that WE are linked to God with cords of love –
cords that cannot be broken.
When we stray He pulls us back to Himself.
I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love
When we fear, He gently rocks us and gives us peace
My peace I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled or afraid.
He has given to us the gift of everlasting life.
I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish
He has guaranteed His everlasting presence
God Himself has said ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’
He loves us with an everlasting love
Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you
He holds us in His everlasting arms
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
He shows us His everlasting kindness
With everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you
He is to us an everlasting Light
The Lord will be to you an everlasting light
God binds us to Himself with cords of love.
Should not we who have received so much from Him show His love to the unlovely, as Mary Slessor did to the murderous people of Calabar?
Should not we who have received so much from Him bind ourselves together with cords of love?
Is there any excuse for an unloving spirit?
By this all will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.