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Scripture Memory: Shining as Lights.

VERSE : Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

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O Worship the LORD in the Beauty of Holiness 

14 June 2015

8am & 11am: Worship Service

Dr Carl Martin (The Role of Women in the Church, Titus 2:1-8)

6:00 pm Evening Service

Rev Gabriel Gan (A Soft Answer, Prov 15:1)

21 June 2015

8am & 11am: Worship Service

Dr Carl Martin (Serving as Godly Fathers in a Pluralistic Age, Jos 24)

6:00 pm Evening Service

Eld Chia Ah Lak (The Eyes of the Lord, Prov 15:3)

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THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN MISSIONS (Part 9)

(Extracted from Jerusalem to Irian Jaya – A Biographical History of Christian Missions, by Ruth A. Tucker)

Mary Slessor

The exploration and missionary work of Livingstone and Stanley inspired scores of others to embark on Africa – women as well as men. Most of the women, not surprisingly, envisioned their ministry sheltered within the confines of an established mission station such as Kuruman where Mary Moffat spent most of her life. Exploration and pioneer work was not even an option for a single female missionary – at least not until Mary Slessor arrived on the scene.

The story of Mary Slessor, as much as the life of any missionary in modern history, has been romanticized almost beyond recognition. The image of her as a Victorian lady dressed in high-necked, ankle-length flowing dress, pompously escorted through the African rain forests in a canoe by painted tribal warriors, is far-removed from the reality of the barefooted, modestly-clad, red-haired, working class woman, who lived African-style in a mud hovel, her face at times covered with boils, and often without her false teeth.

Yet her success as a missionary pioneer was amazing, and the oneness she felt for the Africans has been equaled by few. She held the distinction of being the first woman vice-consul in the British Empire, but the greatest tribute she ever received was paid to her before her death by fellow missionaries who knew her well and, in spite of her faults and eccentricities, honored her for the great woman of God she was.

Mary Mitchell Slessor, the second of seven children, was born in Scotland in 1848. Her childhood was marred by poverty and family strife, due largely to the sporadic work habits of her alcoholic father, who had been known to throw Mary out into the streets alone at night after he had come home drunk.

At age eleven, Mary began working alongside her mother at the textile mills as a half-timer while she continued on in her schooling. By the time she reached 14 she was working ten-hour days to support the family due to her mother’s confinement in the birth of her seventh child. For the next 13 years Mary continued in the mills and was the primary wage earner in the family.

Though she later referred to herself as a “wild lassie,” Mary’s early years were spent mainly at work, both at the mills and at home. There was little time or opportunity for leisure in the crowded, polluted working-class district where her family lived.

Fortunately, church activities provided a fulfilling outlet from her miserable home life. Converted as a youngster through the concern of an elderly widow in the neighborhood, Mary soon became very active in her local Presbyterian church. She taught Sunday School, and after the death of her father, she volunteered for home missionary work. When she was in her twenties she began working with the Queen Street Mission, which provided practical experience for her future missionary endeavors. Many times she had to stand up to foul-mouthed thugs and bawdy street gangs who sought to break up her open-air meetings. The courage she would need in later years was developed in the blighted neighborhoods of Dundee.

Foreign missions, since early childhood, deeply interested Mary. Missionary meetings were a common occurrence in her church, and furloughed missionaries pleaded for workers. The progress of the Calabar Mission, established two years before her birth, was followed with lively interest, and Mary’s missionary-minded mother hoped her only living son, John, would become part of the foreign missionary force. His death, when Mary was 25, shattered her mother’s dreams. But for Mary, it was an inducement to escape the mills and to take her brother’s place. The Calabar Mission had always made room for women, and Mary knew she would be a welcome addition to the staff. The death of David Livingstone clinched her decision, and all that was left was to sever the close physical ties she had with her family.

In the summer of 1876 she sailed for Calabar (located in present-day Nigeria), long known for its slave trade and deadly environment. Mary’s earliest years in Africa were spent at Duke Town, where she taught in a mission school and visited with the Africans, picking up the language as she went. She learned the language quickly, but she was dissatisfied with her assignment. As a mill girl she never felt quite at ease with the social niceties and ample lifestyle of the several missionary families comfortably stationed at Duke Town. Life was too routine. She wanted more out of her missionary career than what she was offered at Duke Town. Only a month after her arrival she had written, “One does not need a special grace to enable one to sit still. It is so difficult to wait.” Her heart was set on doing pioneer work in the interior, but for that “privilege” she would have to wait.

After less than three years in Africa and weakened by several attacks of malaria (and many more of homesickness), Mary was allowed to furlough to regain her strength and reunite with her family. She returned to Africa refreshed and excited about her new assignment at Old Town, three miles further inland along the Calabar River. Here she was free to work by herself and to maintain her own lifestyle – living in a mud hut and eating local produce that allowed her to send most of her mission salary to her family back home. No longer was her work routine. She supervised schools, dispensed medication, mediated disputes, and mothered unwanted children. On Sundays she became a circuit preacher, trudging miles from village to village, sharing the gospel with those who would listen.

Evangelism in Calabar was a slow and tedious process. Witchcraft and spiritism abounded. Cruel tribal customs were embedded in tradition and almost impossible to subdue. One of the most heartrending of these customs was twin-murder. Superstition decreed that a twin birth was a curse caused by an evil spirit who fathered one of the children. In most cases both babies were brutally murdered, and the mother was shunned by the tribe and exiled to an area reserved for outcasts. Mary not only rescued twins and ministered to their mothers, but also tirelessly fought against the perpetrators of this heathen ritual, sometimes risking her own life. She courageously intervened in tribal matters and eventually gained a respect unheard of for a woman. But after three years, Mary was once again too ill to remain on the field.

On her second furlough Mary was accompanied by Janie, a six-month-old twin girl she had rescued from death. Though she desperately needed rest, Mary was inundated with speaking requests. She and Janie were a sensation, and so great was the demand for their appearance that the mission committee extended Mary’s furlough. Mary was further detained by obligations to her sickly mother and sister, but finally in 1885, after nearly three years’ leave, she returned to Africa, determined to penetrate further into the interior.

Soon after she returned, Mary received word of her mother’s death, and three months after that of her sister’s. Another sister had died during her furlough, and now Mary was left alone with no close ties to her homeland. She was despondent and almost overcome with loneliness: “There is no one to write and tell all my stories and troubles and nonsense to.” But along with the loneliness and sorrow came a sense of freedom: “Heaven is now nearer to me than Britain, and no one will be anxious about me if I go up-country.”

“Up-country” to Mary meant Okoyong, an untamed area that had claimed the lives of other missionaries who had dared to penetrate its borders. Sending a single woman to Okoyong was considered by many to be an exercise in insanity, but Mary was determined to go and would not be dissuaded. After visiting the area a number of times with other missionaries, Mary was convinced that pioneer work was best accomplished by women, who, she believed, were less threatening to unreached tribes than men. So in August of 1888, with the assistance of her friend, King Eyo, of Old Town, she was on her way north.

For the next quarter of a century and more, Mary would continue to pioneer missions in areas in which no white man had been able to survive. For 15 years (minus two furloughs) she stayed with the Okoyongs, teaching them and nursing them and arbitrating their disputes. Her reputation as a peacemaker spread to outlying districts, and soon she was acting as a judge for the whole region.

In 1892 she became the first vice-consul to Okoyong, a government position she held for many years. In that capacity she acted as a judge and presided over court cases involving disputes over land, debts, family matters, and the like. Her methods were unconventional by British standards (often refusing to act solely on the evidence before her if she personally was aware of other factors), but they were well suited to African society.

Although Mary was highly respected as a judge and had influenced the gradual decline of witchcraft and superstition, she saw little progress in bringing Christianity to the Okoyongs. She considered herself a pioneer and she viewed her work as preparatory and was not unduly anxious about the fact that she could not send glowing reports back home of hosts of converts and thriving churches. She organized schools, taught practical skills, and established trade routes, all in preparation for missionaries (ordained men being her preference) to follow.

She saw some fruit from her evangelistic endeavors, but it was mainly in her own family of adopted children. In 1903, near the end of her term at Okoyong, the first baptism service was held (with seven of the eleven children baptized being her own), and a church was organized with seven charter members.

Mary’s life as a pioneer missionary was a lonely one, but she was not entirely without social contacts. Furloughs back to England and periodic trips to Duke Town reacquainted her with the outside world. During one of her sick leaves to the coast she met Charles Morrison, a young missionary teacher, 18 years her junior, serving in Duke Town. As their friendship grew, they fell in love, and Mary accepted his marriage proposal, providing he would work with her in Okoyong. The marriage, however, never took place. His health did not even permit him to remain in Duke Town, and, for Mary, missionary service came before personal relationships.

Mary was not really suited for marriage anyway. Her living habits and daily routine were so haphazard that she was better off by herself. Single women had tried to live with her, but usually without success. She was careless about hygiene, and her mud huts were infested with roaches, rats, and ants. Meals, school hours, and church services were irregular – all much more suited to Africans than to time-oriented Europeans. Clothing, too, was a matter of little concern for her. She soon discovered that the tightly fitted dresses of Victorian England were not suited to life in an African rain forest. Instead she wore simple cotton garments.

Though Mary often failed to take the most basic health precautions and “live native” (as other missionaries were prone to say), the fact is that she outlived most of her fellow missionaries who were so careful about health and hygiene. Nevertheless, she did suffer recurring attacks of malaria, and she often endured painful boils that appeared on her face and head, sometimes resulting in baldness. At times, however, she was surprisingly healthy and robust for a middle-aged woman. Her many children kept her young and happy, and she could heartily say that she was a “witness to the perfect joy and satisfaction of a single life.”

In 1904, at the age of 55, Mary moved on from Okoyong with her seven children to do pioneer work in Itu and other remote areas. Here she encountered great success with the Ibo people. Another woman missionary was able to take over the work at Okoyong. For the remaining decade of her life, Mary continued doing pioneer work while others followed behind her – their ministry made much easier by her pioneering efforts.

In 1915, nearly 40 years after coming to Africa, she died at the age of 66 in her mud hut, a great testimony to Christian missions in Africa.          (To be continued)

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Life BPC Family Day@Zoo>

(Registration Open from 7 June to 28 Jun 15)

Date: 25 Jul 15;  Time: 9am to 1pm

Venue: Singapore Zoo

Fees 
Senior Citizen        :           SGD   5.00 (60 years old & above) 
Adults            :          SGD 10.00 (13 to 59 years old) 
Child              :          SGD   5.00 (3 to 12 years old) 
Friends of the Zoo :           SGD   5.00 (above 3 years old) 
Transport (One way)          :           SGD   2.00 (per head) 
   (Love gifts to defray the cost of this event are welcome !)

 

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Parenting Seminars organised by FEK

“A Wise Son Makes A Father Glad”. All are welcome! 

Dates: 11 July & 12 Sep 15.    Time: 0900h - 1200h

Speaker: Pastor Tan Soon Yong.     Venue: Life BP Church

Registration is open for 11 July 2015 seminar at www.lifebpc.com/fekedu/fekseminar.htm

Topic: Teach Them Diligently

Register before 21 June 2015 to enjoy Early Bird Rate. Closing date for registration: 30 June 2015

Electronic flyer is available on FEK website (www.lifebpc.com/fekedu/)

 

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1) Church Camp 2015. Campers going for the church camp are kindly reminded to meet tomorrow (15 Jun 2015) in church at 7.30am or at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal at 8.45am. Please be punctual and do remember to bring yourpassport along.

2) Pastoral Help: Members who need pastoral help during the church camp week (15-18 June) may contact Rev Peter Chua at 9838 7010.

3) Catechism Class for Anniversary Baptism on 18 Oct 2015 commences on 12 Jul 15 at Beulah Centre Rm 2-1, 9.30am. Please pre-register by emailing Church Office or filling up the form available at the front counter. Those seeking baptism, reaffirmation of faith and transfer of membership must attend the catechism class. Closing date: 29 Jun 15.

4) Mission Trip to Grace B-P Church, Medan, Indonesia from 10-17 Aug 15 to be led by Rev Colin Wong  and Dn Mark Heah. Those interested, please contact Rev Wong (9665 8160) and Dn Heah (9739 1638).

5) “The Believer’s Daily Remembrancer”: Daily Devotional by Rev James Smith, Vol 3 (Jul to Sep 2015). Available at the front counter. The same devotions are available online at http://www.lifebpc.com/devotions.

6) Our deepest condolences to Judy Fong and family on the homegoing of her mother, Bouy Yab Lee (88 years old) on 10 Jun 15. Funeral today at 2.15 pm, Blk 29 Jalan Bahagia conducted by Rev Colin Wong.

Preaching appts: Rev Seet at Indonesian Service, 4.00 pm.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25