Mary Slessor (1848-1915)
Mary Slessor's heart thumped within her. "Oh, reverend, I couldn't do that."
"But why?" he asked. "You speak to children all the time. I've heard you. You know the Scriptures well. Surely you won't mind going up on the platform to speak to our adult Fellowship on 'The common people heard Him gladly'."
Mary glanced shyly around the meeting hall. "Perhaps I may speak to them just as I am, reverend? I mean right here. To as few as want to listen."
So on the floor of the meeting hall that February night of 1874 Mary spoke to the Fellowship gathered around her - nervously avoiding eye contact with men. She elaborated on the Twelfth Chapter of Mark and how Jesus was confronted first by the learned Pharisees, and next by the aristocratic Sadducees, before once again he and his good news were received with joy by the common people.
"Very well explained, Mary," enthused the reverend.
"I'm only repeating that which I read in the Gospel," said Mary shyly.
She left the hall to scurry home. There were few about in the dark winter-chilled slums of Dundee, Scotland, but the few who were about were known well enough by her to worry her. She still ached from her refusal to speak from the platform. She had a hundred reasons to be self-conscious. At 25 she was unmarried. She was short. She had a face peppered with freckles. Her hair was carrot red. She was poor. She had no formal education. And she carried her dead father's shame. He drank himself to death. Who was she - the daughter of a drunk - to rise above the others to speak? Yet her timidity made her heart ache.
"Oh Lord, how I wanted to be like Doctor Livingstone," she sighed.
The great Scottish missionary David Livingstone was Mary's hero. She had read Missionary Travels, hardly stopping to breathe. A second time. A third time. He was a Scot, just like her. He was second oldest of seven children, just like her. He had been poor, just like her. He had even worked in a textile mill many years, just like her! How many times had she told herself, 'We share so many similarities. Why then can not I be a missionary just like him? Yes, to Africa just like Livingstone!'
And yet here she was. When Livingstone was 26 he was in London, finishing his medical degree and missionary studies just before leaving for Africa! Mary at 26 still labored on a loom in the factory, terrified of men, frightened to even speak…
[source: Mary Slessor of Calabar: Pioneer Missionary by W. P. Livingstone, 1916]
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Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1912-alive)
Alexander Solzhenitsyn 's anecdote is available HERE.
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