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Bold Peacemaker: The Life of Mary Slessor

The following story comes from the leader’s guide for the newest Torchlighters DVD, The Mary Slessor Story. (Edited and condensed.)

You can find the leader’s guide, a student guide, activities, and additional related resources at

The Mary Slessor Story
“The Africans have killed every missionary who went up the river to Okoyong. You’ll be the next,” friends warned Mary Slessor. “It would be worth dying if just one soul could be saved,” she retorted. Finally, fellow missionaries and government agents gave up trying to dissuade her. As far as they were concerned, Mary was living up to her headstrong reputation. “I will constantly pray for you,” said one friend, “but you are courting death.”

Trusting God every step of the way, Mary went upriver. In Okoyong she worked with some of the roughest people in the world. Many times they threatened her. Many times she faced dangerous animals. But she pressed on in faith.

Mary Slessor had dealt with rough people all her life. After becoming a Christian, Mary taught the Bible to young people in the worst slums of Dundee, Scotland. Tough boys harassed her. In one famous instance, she stood her ground while a gang leader whirled a lead weight at her head. When she did not flinch, he dropped the weight and attended her Bible class.

For years Mary’s family had thrilled to missionary stories, especially the reports from Africa of Scottish missionary-explorer David Livingstone. Her brother Robert planned to become a missionary. After young Robert died, Mary offered herself to the mission. Her hard work in Dundee proved she was up to the task, and the Presbyterian mission sent her to Calabar, a region of Africa within today’s Nigeria. After a few years working near the coast, Mary received permission to move farther north to Okoyong.

She devoted herself to teaching people about Christ and ending cruel practices. The people of Okoyong believed that one twin in each pair was inhabited by a demon; since there was no way to know which, their practice was to kill both babies, along with their mother. Mary rescued many twins from death and raised them herself.

Her many years spent learning the peoples’ culture and practices enabled Mary to settle many disputes peacefully. Gradually Mary brought about change. She made peace between warring tribes and encouraged trade. She improved the treatment of women and children.

But she was growing old. To compensate, she trained younger missionaries to carry on her work. One of them, Martha Peacock, was with her when she died of natural causes. The Africans whom she had been warned would take her life, mourned her instead.