Title: Mary Slessor: Forward into Calabar
Author: Janet & Geoff Benge
Series: Christian Heroes: Then and Now series
Major Themes: 19th Century, Mary Slessor, Biography, Africa, Missionaries, Christian Missions
Synopsis: The story of the first missionary to go inland in Western Africa.
As with all the books in this series, Mary Slessor: Forward into Calabar is a great retelling of the life of a famous Christian. Mary is shown as an 11-year-old whose family moves to the city of Dundee, Scotland to make a better life. Instead, her father slides farther into drunkenness and within a few years only half of the family is still living. Mary’s life is a constant round of drudgery in the cotton mills, until she becomes a Christian and begins teaching Sunday school to children in the slums. After she gives up all hope of becoming a missionary, when her last brother dies (she was to be his assistant on the mission field), she hears of David Livingstone’s death and God calls her to become a missionary to Africa. All her life, she has been reading stories of missionaries in Calabar, in what is now known as Nigeria, and is thrilled when the missionary society sends her there!
Life in Calabar is not easy, either, but Mary knows it was where God had called her and she never regrets going there. She becomes known, eventually, as the White Ma, and makes an incredible difference in the lives of countless Africans who had been enslaved to their ancient customs. She boldly stands up to chiefs and witchdoctors who oppose her and never allows her focus to waver from the calling God has given her.
WARNING: Drunkenness is mentioned a few times; Mary’s father was an alcoholic and it was a major problem in Calabar as well. Several of the native customs in Calabar are described, to show the difference Jesus made in the people’s lives; parents may wish to preread the following chapters to make sure their children are ready for this. Chapter 8 mentions the native practice of killing twin babies because it was thought they were cursed. Chapter 9 describes a whipping. Chapter 10 talks about the twin killings again. Chapter 13 describes a woman telling Mary about the witchdoctor divining to see which wife had “killed” her husband. Chapter 14 shows more of the local witchcraft, and in Chapter 15 Mary has to act fast to stop a dozen innocent people being killed as a result of a local chief dying from illness.
Read Aloud—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above