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…

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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Mary was so like the great David Livingstone - Scottish, poor, 2nd of seven children, hard worker in a textile mill - and yet she remained chained in her own fears...

     Before Corrie's wise older sister Betsie eventually taught her how to hold the attention of her Sunday School class Corrie had some misadventures.
     Once she wanted to explain to the children the meaning of 'Feed My Lambs', so she asked them if they had ever seen a flock of sheep. A boy piped up, 'My father butchers lambs!' This stark vision startled Corrie so much she forgot what she wanted to say.
     Another time when she was explaining the role of the fishermen Peter and Andrew her children began an exchange of fish yarns, wildly flinging their arms out to emphasize the 'big fish' they or their relatives had caught!

Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)

     Corrie ten Boom's first venture into the adult world at the age of 18 was dismal. She worked as a domestic in a wealthy home. There she was molested by the master of the house. Shaken, she returned home. She helped at home and began studies at a Bible school. Typically she attacked what seemed to be their entire curriculum at once: ethics, dogmatics, church history, Old Testament, New Testament, Old Testament history and New Testament history.  She studied very hard in her moments outside of housework. What would she do at the age of 22 with her fistful of diplomas? Why, teach the Bible, of course.
     After two years she was sure she was ready for her final exams. Failure never entered her mind. A prayer never crossed her lips. The first part of the examination at Bible School was to give lessons to students and answer their questions. This she did with ease. After all, she had been giving Bible lessons for several years now anyway. She was very able with students of every level. She had even taught mentally handicapped children - and very effectively too.
     The second part of the exam was in Haarlem's revered Saint Bavo's Cathedral. Corrie had spent many wonderful hours there. But the exam was held in a conference room off the one of the pillared corridors. Several ministers sat at a massive oak table. Their faces were cold as stone. The room was cold too. Corrie stood in front of a lifeless fireplace. This conference room seemed truly like a tomb. Worst of all it seemed God had deserted Corrie.
     They began her oral examination with ethics. 
     "You studied only the teachings of Mr. Johnson?" asked one of the ministers, not hiding his displeasure.
     "He's one of my instructors," she answered lamely. Corrie sensed trouble. Was she in the middle of some faculty dispute? Her brain began to curdle. Too late she realized God had not deserted her but she had deserted God. Why hadn't she asked for his help? Was she so proud of her learning? The subjects rose one by one. All seven. Her mind remained blank. At the end of the day she had a perfect record. She had not passed one subject. She had failed utterly and completely!
     At home her sister Betsie said, "You just had a bad day. You must take the exam again as soon as possible."
     But Corrie could not do that. The defeat was too stinging. She couldn't look at those tombstone faces again. Maybe she had attempted too much…

In My Father's House by Corrie ten Boom with Carole C. Carlson, 1976, and Corrie ten Boom: Her Life, Her Faith by Carole C. Carlson, 1983]

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