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Archive for May, 2012

Vindicate the weak and fatherless:
Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:3,4

These verses are so appropriate today. No one is more needy or helpless than the unborn baby. The ones that are being abandoned to abortion are certainly “fatherless” as well. We work really hard to convince mothers to keep their babies, but we should also work to encourage fathers to take responsibility for the children they are creating.

My dear friends we are in a war to protect the helpless unborn, and if you were discouraged before, please take heart. The Father does care about the weak and the fatherless and I believe He is answering prayers now.

For many years it has seemed that those who would snuff out the lives of unborn babies for any reason have had the upper hand. I believe the tide is turning. I believe that those who would kill babies are losing ground, and those of us who love life are winning.

I say this for three reasons:
1.  God bless the younger generation because they are getting involved and there are many who are pro-life. The pro-death group is aging. They will not be able to sustain themselves without recruiting the next generation.

2.  The abortion rights people are desperate and they are finally admitting the truth about what goes on in their industry. Modern technology is against them. When women see the pictures of the unborn babies in their wombs, they are choosing life for them.

3.  Recent events have shown how the lines are drawn more and more between the abortion rights advocates and the pro-lifers. Old lines between the different religious groups are evaporating. Pro-lifers who were ambivalent about each other before, due to differences in religious persuasion, are now joining ranks and helping each other. It’s about time! If we can preserve a united front we will reverse the trend of the killing of unborn babies.

Here are some headlines and excerpts from recent articles that should cheer you up.
All of these were taken from LifeSiteNews.com. I encourage you to put yourself on their email list. There you will find many great articles on the subject of Life and other topics that concern all of us. Following each set of Great News for the side of Life, I include some headlines from the other side, admitting and lamenting the fact that the pro-lifers are making such great gains.

1. The Younger Generation
Here are some great headlines:

Silence will rock 1200 campuses tomorrow as students protest abortion”
(October 17, 2011) Students at 1,200 colleges, high schools, middle schools and home schools have pledged to remain silent in solidarity with unborn children killed through abortion.

Teenagers launch campaign to send one million pro-life letters to the White House
(March 5, 2012) It’s an ambitious project for a small, newly-formed group of teenage girls, whose involvement in pro-life work has so far been confined to the local level.

Hundreds of pro-life student groups sweeping across U.S. college campuses”
(December 9, 2010) For veteran pro-life activists, organizations like SFLA (Students for Life of America) are the answer to their most earnest prayers. No longer do they need to worry about whether or not there will be anyone to fill their shoes when they are gone. Thanks to SFLA, and other similar organizations, there is a whole new generation of smart, savvy, devoted, and energetic pro-life activists.

The above are exiting headlines. By way of contrast, see how the opposition has noticed this trend:

NARAL head: ‘intensity gap’ between pro-lifers and pro-aborts could threaten future of abortion”
(May 14, 2012) “I just thought, my gosh, they are so young,” Keenan said after seeing the March for Life. “There are so many of them, and they are so young. … If the pro-choice movement is to successfully defend abortion rights, Keenan contends, it needs more young people in leadership roles, including hers.”

I pray that young people will start avoiding the “pro-choice” movement, and that is why I am optimistic about the future. (Note the quote marks on “pro-choice”. That is because I believe that they are misnamed. WHEN THEY GIVE THE BABY THE CHOICE, then they can call themselves that.)

2. Modern Technology
Technology is on the side of the right to life for the unborn. Here are some recent exciting things that are happening:

Dynamic new pro-life video makes case against abortion using embryology”
(April 14, 2011) In a brand-new, fast-paced video, the pro-life site Abort73.com makes the “case against abortion” based upon the development of the pre-born child.

“How some kids with a van are changing the pro-life movement”
(March 7, 2012) “Save the Storks is an abortion clinic’s worst nightmare. Their new model will absolutely revolutionize the front lines of pro-life activism.” This article combines the way that the new technology is being used to save the lives of babies as well as more encouragement coming from the next generation. This innovative group uses a mobile ultrasound machine to show women that the being in their womb is a baby, not a blob of material.

Here is how the abortion advocates have responded:

Top pro-abort: ‘We’re not going to regain the ground we have lost’
(February 22, 2011) “We can no longer pretend the fetus is invisible,” said Frances Kissling, the former president of Catholics for Choice and a leading figure in the pro-abortion community.” Ms. Kissling further begs her fellow activists, “.. stop ignoring the humanity of the unborn child before the tidal wave of pro-life popularity washes away pro-abortion laws altogether.” At least someone is trying to be honest.

Let’s get the real issue out in the open. Make no mistake about it. Technology makes it impossible for the pro-death people to hide behind their lies.

Two pro-choice leaders, Kate Michelman and Frances Kissling, acknowledged three years ago that “antiabortionists” had gained a significant advantage. Supporters of abortion, they wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “have had a hard time dealing with the increased visibility of the fetus.” To “regain the moral high ground,” they must deal with “a world that is radically changed from 1973,” when the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide.”

3. Joining Together in the Battle
Pro-lifers have been working hard to get laws changed that will help save the lives of the unborn. There is so much exciting news on this front that I urge you to visit LifeSiteNews to get the many stories. Here are just a couple of examples:

Record number of pro-life laws passed by states in 2011”
(January 10, 2012) The Guttmacher Institute reports that 83 pro-life laws were passed in 2011, more than double the previous record of 34, enacted in 2005, and more than triple the 23 enacted in 2010.

‘Life List’ 2011 shows huge legislative gains for life in the 50 states
(January 20, 2012) AUL (Americans United for Life) called 2011 “a watershed year in the defense of life,” with 47 states considering more than 460 abortion-related measures, ultimately enacting more than 70 of them.

And joining together to oppose Obama’s mandate forcing employers to provide abortion drugs are thousands of Christians:

129 U.S. cities to join massive nation-wide protest against HHS mandate Friday
(March 20, 2012) Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League said that thousands – and possibly tens of thousands – are expected to join together in 129 U.S. cities against the mandate, including as many as 16 U.S. Catholic bishops.

This is wonderful news. Let’s keep it going.

Again, the opposition has noticed!!

‘Most difficult year in our history,’ laments Planned Parenthood President
(November 25, 2011) The past 11 months have indeed been tough for the abortion giant. According to the SBA List State by State Scoreboard, Planned Parenthood has lost over $61 million from 9 states after they cut tax-based funding to the abortion giant. The states include Florida, Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. In the wake of these defunding efforts, numerous Planned Parenthood clinics have been forced to shutter their windows in several states.

I say, “Praise the Lord, and let’s keep moving forward!”
Right to life for all babies is a goal that we can achieve if we keep on supporting the groups that are out there fighting for it. I am optimistic thanks to the zeal of our youth, the truth that is revealed with sonogram machines and other technology, and the fact that people are joining together like never before to achieve this victory.

Let me conclude with one last story from LifeSiteNews:
President Obama: The best thing to happen to the pro-life movement in years?
(May 23, 2012) Pro-lifers were shaken awake by the election of a man who advocated abortion with few restrictions.

We don’t like to think about this, but honestly weren’t we complacent back when we thought we had a pro-life president? Actually we should not blame all of the problems on one leader. We need to work for the lives of the unborn no matter who is president. Part of the reason that we have not outlawed abortion is our own infighting. So we must bear some of the blame.

But it is human nature not to get going until the going gets tough. Let us lay aside our difference and get going.

We should all work together. The unborn baby who is about to be butchered does not care what church you go to. Please find a pro-life group that is working toward an end to abortion and support it. We are in a war. We must forget petty differences and fight for the greater cause. There is only one real King; we serve Him (Psalm 2).

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“Dear sisters, even though sometimes your faith may be discouraged, and the flesh may fight against the spirit (I Peter 2:11), do not therefore be frightened away. It is a holy struggle, it must be thus: faith that is not tempted is not faith….Therefore you should constantly pray to the Father….”                                                       Katharina Schutz Zell

These words of advice and comfort are timeless, but they were written in 1524 by one of the most uncompromising women of the Reformation. Katharina Zell lived her whole life with only one desire: to follow God and to follow Him in truth and righteousness. She also had a call to teach others and this she did with perseverance and in spite of the criticism she received because she was a woman.

For more biographical data on Katharina please refer to an earlier posting on this blog, dated November 26, 2010 (Katharina Schutz Zell – Church Mother and Publisher). By way of summary, Katharina Schutz was born in 1497(8) and lived most of her life in Strasbourg. She married one of the foremost Protestant ministers in Strasbourg, Matthew Zell. They had two children who died very young. This saddened her, but she found consolation in ministering to others.

Katharina was excited about education. She lived during a time when the Reformation was in its infancy. She would live through these early years and then through the “second generation” of Reformers. Before her life was ended she would see the beginning of the sectarianism that she deplored. Throughout it all she would maintain the cause of the Gospel and the original Reformation ideals.

In this posting I would like to focus on her truly gifted writing.

Her first publication to appear in print was, “Letter to the Suffering Women of the Community of Kentzingen”, from which came the quote that appears at the top of this page. At this time, the Protestant men from Kentzingen were in exile with their pastor. They were persecuted as heretics by the local bishop. Their wives and children stayed behind in Kentzingen to face the hostility of the dictators. Katharina wanted to write a letter of praise for their courage and encouragement to continue in their suffering with faithful dependence on God.

Katharina was only 26 at the time, but she had been zealously following the Lord since she was a child. “Ever since I was ten years old I have been a student and sort of church mother, much given to attending sermons. I have loved and frequented the company of learned men, and I conversed much with them, not about dancing, masquerades, and worldly pleasures but about the kingdom of God.” Her concentration on only one thing – the Lord – would be evident in her writing.

One of the truly amazing things about this publication is the number of Scripture references in it. The whole letter practically reads like a summary of the Scriptures on consoling those who are being persecuted for their faith. As in the excerpt above, she included the references within the writing. This was important to her, because she believed that the Scriptures were the highest authority on any subject. Later, when she would be criticized for writing as a woman, she would say that the Word of God is its own authority. All saints of God, men and women, are expected to study and use the Scriptures. Her facility with the Bible shows just how much she had studied it.

Woven throughout her writing is her firm grasp of the Protestant religion. Remember, this is only 1524. Luther had posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg only seven years before this. He had also only recently (around 1522-3) completed his German translation of the Bible. That Katharina could read and understand the major theological doctrines in the Bible and even be able to express them clearly at such a young age, and so early on in the Reformation, shows what a truly gifted woman she was. Besides her grasp of the Bible, she also must have absorbed the words of the Protestant sermons that she had been listening to.

Katharina gave the Holy Spirit the credit for her wisdom and her calling. She believed that there was much work to be done in educating the people in the new Protestant religion. She worked by the side of her husband, Pastor Zell, to accomplish this. In fact, the next major work that was published was, “Katharina Schutz’s Apologia for Master Matthew Zell, Her Husband”.

Matthew Zell, as one of the first Roman Catholic priests to get married was under verbal attack by many critics. It was believed at the time that for priests to marry was immoral. At this time, the priests were allowed to have mistresses, and that was not seen as immoral, but as necessary because after all, “men are men”. How twisted and far from God’s holy ordinances is that!?! This was totally backward from the truth and Katharina wanted a chance to show that.

Katharina’s husband was not inclined to defend himself, but as the slanders grew nastier and nastier, Katharina took it on herself to write this defense of clerical marriage. She believed that it was her task, not only because she was the first respectable woman in Strasbourg to marry a priest, and wanted other women to understand the rightness of it, but because it also gave her a chance to show what the Scriptures have to say about marriage. Again, she is putting forth what would later be called one of the five “solas” of the Reformation – “Sola Scriptura”.

Her publication was outrageous and daring. The city councilors wanted it banned. It was not only because she was a woman, but because she dared to say publicly that the Roman Catholic bishops were knaves who profited financially in harlotry. The priests were allowed to pay a tax to keep their mistresses. Another fallout from this sinful practice was the fact that priests were not able to preach against adultery since they were all guilty of it. By recognizing the holiness of clerical marriage, the leaders could put an end to the wicked sinfulness of the system they currently had. In addition to this, of course, her husband would be vindicated in the eyes of others and God would be glorified.

Though she was very forthright and uncompromising in her presentation, Katharina ended her treatise with the plea for forgiveness from any whom she might have offended. Her desire was nothing other than that, “we may be saved together with each other. May God help us to do that, through Christ His beloved Son. Amen.”

Katharina also wrote many other things, including letters of consolation, devotional writings, biblical meditations, catechetical instructions, a sermon, the introduction to a hymnal, and lengthy polemical exchanges with male theologians.

An excellent book containing translations of some of her works is: “Katharina Schutz Zell: Church Mother – The Writings of a Protestant Reformer in Sixteenth-Century Germany”, edited and translated by Elsie McKee (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2006).

I highly recommend this book. It is a marvel how far ahead of her time Katharina was. At a time when many women did not feel brave enough to speak out, Katharina used her voice, her influence, and her sense of calling to speak as a Christian and as a woman.

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At the time of prayer, we should allow the soul undisturbed rest and put all our knowledge off to the side. Scholars will have plenty of time afterwards to serve the Lord with what they know. They will truly appreciate it then – so much so that nothing in the world will make them part with it, since they are using it in God’s service where it really is quite helpful. But before God himself, believe me, a little training in humility . . . means more than all the learning in the world. Instead of establishing proofs and drawing conclusions, we will get to see ourselves honestly for what we are and to remain in simplicity before God.      Teresa von Avila

Edith Stein was born into a devout Jewish family in Breslau, Germany, on October 12, 1891. She was precocious as a child, but she was blessed with incredible intelligence. Unfortunately for her she did not live in a relatively free country as Dorothy Sayers, who was her contemporary, did. Like Dorothy, Edith would move around in the intellectual circles that were usually filled with men, but unlike Miss Sayers, she would not be able to enjoy all of the fruits of her labor. They lived in very different circumstances.

Edith was born into a large family. Her father died when she was not quite two years old, leaving her mother to care for her and her many siblings. Her mother was able to provide for them by running the family lumber business. Edith was mostly raised by an older sister, but was very close to her mother, who was very devout in her Jewish faith. This would always have an effect on Edith.

Around age thirteen, Edith became an atheist, but did not confide this to her mother because of her great love for her. Edith went through a dark time, but eventually decided to work towards becoming a teacher. At the same time, she questioned the meaning and purpose of life.

Edith entered the University of Breslau when she was twenty years old. She hoped that studying psychology would give her the answers to her deep questions about life. At this time, psychological studies mostly involved research, statistics, and answers to questions that were strictly quantifiable. The “modern” German scholars of that day did not believe in spiritual things. Edith believed that there must be another dimension to life that was not just biological or chemical. She began to search for answers and came across the writings of Edmund Husserl.

Husserl believed that spiritual and mental events were real phenomena. He started the philosophical school called “phenomenology”. Edith entered the University of Guttingen in 1913 so that she could study with him. When he realized how brilliant she was, he took her on as his first assistant. Edith went on to make important contributions of her own to this field of study. Her doctrinal dissertation was on “empathy”, the study of how people establish community with each other.

In the meantime, Edith made friends with other student philosophers. They spent a lot of time together, and one of them, Max Schlerer, converted to Christianity from Judaism. He explained to Edith that the purpose in life was to know God. Much humility would be needed. One cannot just depend on his own fallible reason. Edith came to realize that there was something else missing in philosophy – the whole realm of values. Schlerer was teaching classes on religious values and students, including Edith were flocking to them.

Though not completely converted at this point, Edith admitted, “It was my first contact with a world that until then had been completely unfamiliar. I can’t say that it led me directly to faith. But it did open up a whole new realm of ‘phenomena’ that I wouldn’t’ be able to pass by blindly anymore.”

Complete conversion would take place later. Edith’s friend, Anna Reinach, asked her to come and help her sort through the philosophical papers of her husband Adolph, who had passed away. Edith discovered many references to Christ in his papers, and in order to understand them she decided she needed to read the New Testament. While studying the Scriptures, the Spirit awakened her mind to the fact that Jesus is divine. She knew now that Christianity was the true religion, holding all of the answers to the deep questions of life.

At this point, she had to decide which Christian church to join. After reading the writings of Teresa of Avila, she knew that she wanted to lead a life of prayer and so she joined the Catholic Church in order to become a nun. Teresa of Avila was also an intellectual who had experienced the freedom that comes with conversion to Christ. Edith had undergone the same intellectual struggles as Teresa who came to the conclusion that intellect, memory, and the essence of the soul were all real objects of experience, real phenomena. Furthermore, the experience of knowing the Lord was as real as any other experience, and “means more than all the learning in the world.” This was wonderful news for Edith, and she freely gave herself to God.

If we only talked about the incredible conversion of this remarkable woman, it would still be an amazing story of God’s goodness and mercy. But there is much more about Edith Stein that we can admire.

Though she converted to Christianity, she always felt a connection to “her people”, the Jews. Because of the love that she had for her mother, she did not take her vows in the convent until a few years had passed and her family could come to terms with her conversion. In the mean time, good friends convinced her to keep up with her work in philosophy.

Edith would have liked to spend most of her time in prayer, but she obligingly worked on things such as a translation of St. Thomas Aquinas’ “On Truth”. She was well able to add her own commentary. She went on to actually synthesize Aquinas’ philosophy with the philosophy of phenomenology, breaking new ground. She impressed others with her brilliance and was asked to deliver lectures many times.

Because she was a Jew, Edith found it difficult to get a position at a German university in the 1930’s. She had a position at the German Institute for Scientific Pedagogy until 1932, when the Nazi’s came to power. She was fired. What a great loss that was so needless.

Edith decided to go ahead and pursue her vows, and became a Carmelite nun in 1933. She had a chance to teach in South America, escaping the anti-Semitism that was rampant by then, but she refused. When studying the works of Thomas Aquinas, Edith developed a new attitude about faith. One should not keep it to themselves but “The deeper one is drawn into God, the more he needs to go out of himself – out into the world, that is, to carry the divine life into it.” She believed that the Jewish people needed her help. She decided to remain in Germany and fight for an end to their persecution. She was very open about her beliefs and came to the attention of the Nazi’s.

Eventually, after “Crystal Night” on November 9, 1938, Edith realized that she was a danger to her convent and so she went to a convent in Holland. A few years later, 1942, the Nazi’s began deporting the Jews from Holland to concentration camps. By this time, Edith’s sister Rose, who had converted to Christianity, had joined her. Edith had a chance to go to a convent in Switzerland, but she would not leave Rose behind when the Swiss convent said they had no place for Rose.

One Sunday night, August 2, 1942, the Nazi’s came looking for Edith. The mother superior who answered the door thought it was someone who came with information about Edith’s papers. She sent for Edith, who upon entering the visiting room was told by the Nazi’s that she had five minutes to pack and be ready to leave.

Though the sisters and a large crowd of angry people on the street tried to protest, Edith and her sister Rose were driven away. They went through several agonizing days and were eventually put on a train for Auschwitz.

Edith knew that this was the end of her life, but she spent every minute serving others. When young mothers fainted from the stress, she took care of their children. Her calmness amazed others and one survivor later wrote of her, “It was Edith Stein’s complete calm and self-possession that marked her out form the rest of the prisoners. …Edith Stein went among the women like an angel, comforting, helping, and consoling them.”

There is no complete account of Edith’s death, but she was very probably gassed in one of the windowless cottages that the Nazi’s used for the purpose of exterminating Jews on or around August 9, 1942. The horrible, wasteful, destructive symbol of human hatred, Auschwitz, became her end. The fact that Hitler and his Nazi’s were killing even Christian converts shows the irrationality of hatred and lust for power.

But Edith believed that love is stronger than hate, and the life of Edith Stein will go on being an inspiration to many. Her love for family, friends, and her people and her courage in defending them will be an encouragement for generations to come. In October of 1998, Pope John Paul II granted her the canonization of Sainthood.

When Edith joined the convent she took the name, Teresa Benedicta a Cruce, “Teresa, Blessed by the Cross”. Truly she took up her cross and followed her Savior to the end.

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More Books About Extraordinary Women

 

Summer is nearly upon us and I hope you will get some of the books that are listed here in this review. Check out my other postings under the “Reviews” section of this blog for more great books. They will keep you uplifted all season long.

Also check out the DVD reviews for some good quality entertainment for you and your kids who will be home all summer. Speaking of kids, there are more books by Simonetta Carr reviewed in the May 4, 2011 posting, “Books to Share With Young Friends”. These are mostly about young ladies, but the publishers have great books for young men too.

 

—  Herbstrith, Waltraud, Edith Stein: A Biography, (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, second edition, 1992).

Edith Stein (October 12, 1891 – August (6?) 1942) was a woman of remarkable intelligence and devotion. She trained as a philosopher in the early 1900’s as a student of the famous Edmund Husserl. She was born into a Jewish family, but lost her faith as a teenager. God marvelously won her to Himself after the death of a good friend.

Though she is remembered as a Christian martyr, her death was actually due to the fact that she was Jewish. In this exciting story you will see that she could have saved her own life several times when the Nazis came looking for her, but she refused to leave her beloved sister behind. She stood firm for the righteous cause that she believed in – freedom of worship for all people.

Edith Stein opposed the Nazis from a time even before Hitler had taken over the government. She knew that not only her people, the Jews, were in danger but that the church would suffer persecution as well. For her courageous stance against Hitler’s regime, she eventually lost her life at Auschwitz.

This biography by Waltraud Herbstrith of Edith Stein delves into her incredibly intelligent mind. Edith never put on airs, and she was always willing to serve others. What a loss to mankind her early death was.

 

—  Carr, Simonetta, Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata, (P & R Publishing, Phillipsburg, 2011).

This is the fifth book in “The Chosen Daughters Series”. The other four were reviewed on this blog May 2011. They are wonderful books for a student of history no matter what age she is. I especially like sharing them with my granddaughter. We talk about the character traits of these women and how they served the Lord.

Olympia Morata (1526 – 1555) was an incredibly intelligent girl. Her father, who was a professor of literature in an Italian university, recognized her gifts and saw to it that she was well educated. Olympia wrote poetry, songs, and other essays that were far ahead of her time.

When your daughter, niece, or granddaughter is out of school for the summer, encourage her to read this inspiring story or any of the others by Simonetta Carr.

 

—  Christian, Carol and Plummer, Gladys, God & One Redhead: The Courageous Story of Mary Slessor, Legendary Missionary to Africa,  (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, 1971).

Mary Slessor (December 2, 1848 – January 13, 1915) is still known as one of the most famous missionaries to Africa. Born into a poor family, she worked hard in the factories of her native Scotland until she was old enough to go out on her own.

Mary was a real fighter (today we might call her a “tomboy”) and her toughness would enable her to deal with the wilds of Africa where she faced death from disease, angry natives, and opposition from demons. She lived among the Africans, most of the time alone, in the bush for over thirty years serving with the Calabar Mission in West Africa. She was distinguished as the first woman magistrate in the British Empire.

This is a book that is not easy to put down. Mary led a very interesting life, full of fun, adventure, and dependence on God, and yet she also suffered from fevers, frustrations and personal losses. Believing that “God and one are always a majority,” Mary was able to accomplish the ending of many evil tribal practices including the putting to death of slaves, wives, and children due to superstition. Many thousands were grateful for her help.

 

—  Gordon, Anna A., The Beautiful Life of Frances E. Willard, (The Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association, 1898).

Frances E. Willard (September 28, 1839 – February 18, 1898) is most well known for her work with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Temperance was just one issue that she was concerned with. Frances also helped in the area of prison reform, anti-prostitution laws, and the right for women to vote.

I am really privileged to have a Memorial Edition of this book. It is beautifully done, containing many wonderful pictures and a section at the end with “Character Sketches  -Tributes” done by many famous people who had the privilege of knowing Frances Willard.

Lady Henry Somerset said of Frances Willard, “But I think the greatest evidence of how deeply she was rooted in Christianity was her power of forgiveness.” Frances did not waste time on bitterness, but spent all of her energy on making things better for those around her. Because of her character, she won over many people around her. Frances’ story should make us all feel guilty for our laxity. She is an encouragement to us for how much we can do with the help of God.

If you can’t get a memorial copy, get any copy of the life of Frances Willard. You will be uplifted as you read the story of this tireless, charitable woman.

 

—  Wilson, Dorothy Clarke, Dr. Ida: the Story of Dr. Ida Scudder of Vellore (McGraw Hill, New York, 1959).

Dr. Ida Scudder (December 9, 1870 – 1959, in India) is still remembered for her work in India. She was the daughter of long time medical missionary Dr. John Scudder and Sophia Scudder. She grew up in India and saw all of the famine and suffering and left for the United States to study, hoping to leave it all behind.

She studied at seminary in America and wanted to get married and stay in the United States; she was through with all of the poverty and helplessness she saw in India – or so she thought.

Her life would be changed forever after a tragedy. She had returned to India after seminary for a while. One night a high caste Brahmin stepped into her room and begged for help. His young wife was struggling with the birth of their child and would die if she didn’t come. He wanted a woman to come, since in their culture the people did not allow strange men around their female relatives. Without medical knowledge, she was unable to save his young wife who died in childbirth along with the baby. Two more women died in childbirth that night. Ida believed that God was telling her that she needed to return to America and study medicine and return to India to help the women.

She did this and eventually went on to found a hospital and a medical school for girls. This is an exciting story of faith and dedication to the cause of better health for the women in India. This is another fascinating book that will encourage your heart.

 

Happy Reading!!

 

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“God and one are always a majority.” Mary Slessor

My idea of Heaven is that it is a place where, besides eternal fellowship with God, we will be able to talk to all of the wonderful people that we have read about.

One woman that I especially want to meet is Mary Slessor.
Mary was born near Aberdeen, Scotland on December 2, 1848 and she died on January 13, 1915 in Nigeria. Up to her last illness, she worked among her beloved people, rescuing the helpless.

Mary had that kind of courage that nothing can stop. Even as a child she faced many difficulties head on. One of the saddest of these difficulties was growing up in the home of an alcoholic father. Mary displayed the characteristic that is often associated with red hair and let her temper show. Mary stood up to her father when he would come home drunk. Her mother would send her out into the street to protect her from getting a beating. It made Mary angry that her father spent the money that should have gone to caring for his family. She would always have this righteous anger against those who would abuse or take advantage of the helpless. Her life would be spent seeking justice for the weak.

As a child, Mary had to work long, hard hours in a factory. She lived during the time when the Industrial Revolution was just getting started. Children often went to work quite young, earning only a pittance. She did not let this discourage her, and she attended school when she could, learning the three R’s as well as geography, sewing, knitting, and music. All of these skills would help her later on the mission field.

After her father died, Mary began to do mission work in her neighborhood. She led many children to Christ in the Bible studies that she set up. Because of her toughness and courage she was seen as quite a “tomboy”. This would help her when she was evangelizing among the boys in her town. One time a group of boys who were sick of listening to her surrounded her on her way to a religious meeting. They threatened to beat her with a lead weight. As they circled in closer and closer to her, she stood her ground. The leader took a swing at her and grazed her face, but she didn’t flinch. The amazed boy dropped the weight and said, “It’s OK, boys, she’s game!” The whole gang attended the meeting with her that night.

Mary would face down grown men and the mission board later in her life. Once she was sure that the Lord wanted her to protect someone, she thought nothing of putting even her own life on the line. Her faith was so strong that she believed that God would protect her as she moved ahead with the Gospel. Certainty of the Lord’s protection while she was doing His work led her to the very real belief that “God and one are always a majority.”

When she was young, she dreamed about going to Africa to spread the Gospel. She especially was attracted to a very dangerous place, Calabar, where so many missionaries died that it was known as “the white man’s grave”. Why did she want to go to such a difficult place when there was much work to be done in Scotland? There was never any doubt in her mind that she wanted to go where no one had heard the Gospel. In Scotland there were many churches. There were none in the wilds of West Africa.

In 1876, Mary finally got to sail to Nigeria. She worked among seasoned missionaries for a few years in Duke Town. While she was there she learned about the cruel practices of the Nigerian people who lived in the bush. Again and again she would risk her life to rescue, especially women, from the deadly Satanic rituals of the natives.

There were many horrors. One was the trial by ordeal that people used to determine the innocence or guilt of a person suspected of wrongdoing. This could involve drinking juice with poison, or having boiling oil poured over their body. Supposedly, if the person was innocent, he would not be harmed because their gods would protect him. Of course, pretty much everybody was guilty with this method and it angered Mary. Once she took the boiling oil and ran after the accuser to pour it on him thereby showing him his guilt. The tribal people were all impressed with Mary and her courageous ways. The wonder is that no one killed her out of jealousy or hatred. God surely protected her because He had a special purpose for her.

Another horror was the killing of twins. It was believed that if a woman had twins, one baby was the child of the father and the other was the child of the devil.  Since no one could determine which was which, both were buried alive or thrown into the woods to die. The mother was driven off into the woods to die also. Mary rescued many of these babies and their mothers. She adopted a few as her own children, and took care of many others until they could be given to someone else to be cared for. Of course, this was not foolproof. The superstitious Nigerians would later kill some of the women and children that Mary cared for.

Mary also rescued many wives from cruel deaths. There were several ways that women were killed. If their husband died, they could be suspected of witchcraft and put on trial. During this ordeal, a chicken would be killed and depending on which way the head flopped, the woman was found either innocent or guilty. If the chicken flopped the wrong way, the poor woman could be buried alive with her husband. Slaves were also often buried alive with their master’s when they died.

There were many other dangers for Mary. Drunkenness was a constant problem and she often had to fight her way out of serious situations. Time and again, her courage and resourcefulness saved her.

At this time in history, the British were moving into Africa. They brought civilized ways with them. It’s not my purpose in this essay to discuss the right or wrong of this, but certainly many thousands of lives were saved as the British soldiers and missionaries helped the Nigerians see the wrongness of their superstitious practices.

Mary herself was glad to get the help, but each time a station would be set up, she desired to move deeper into the wild areas. She considered herself to be the “feet” of the missionaries, doing all of the ground work and preparation for the church planting that would come later. When “civilization” moved in on her, she moved further away where she could work alone. There were two main reasons for this.

Mary liked to live as the natives did. She believed that trust needed to be built up before the missionaries could force their ways on the people. By living among the natives, eating, sleeping, and dressing as they did for over thirty years, she earned their trust.

Mary also had her own way of doing things. She did not like to live by a schedule. She needed to be ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice when she heard about a woman who was undergoing a trial so that she could go and rescue her. As time went on, her own adopted daughter was able to see to the many babies who were living with them that Mary rescued, so that Mary could go on foot to the village where the atrocity was taking place.

As the years went by, Mary studied medicine, including folk medicine, and was able to save the lives of important chiefs. This also added to the respect that was building up for her among the people. When the British set up some governmental structures, Mary was appointed the judge for her area. She often held court and her verdicts were not questioned. Though she developed much patience over time, she never lost her temper when someone was doing wrong. If a witness was lying, she would box his ears!

One of the wonderful things that Mary was able to accomplish in the Court was the reversal of the practice of the “twin killing”. She would tell the husbands to take back their wives and children or face trial for desertion or non-support. One British official later wrote of her, “The result is a sign of the civilizing influence worked through the Court by that admirable lady, Miss Slessor.”

Malaria and other fevers plagued her all of her life. She returned home to Scotland several times to recuperate. She was always anxious to get back to Nigeria. She suffered a lot, but did not let that keep her from her work, especially if there was a woman or a child to rescue.

Finally, in 1914, after thirty-eight years of loving and serving, totally worn out and suffering from a high fever, she was taken to a hospital that was run by the government. She allowed herself to be taken there because she was concerned about dying in the bush, since she was so highly regarded by the people. Some of the more superstitious natives might attempt to use her skull or other body parts as magic and she didn’t want that.

She struggled on with her poor health until the beginning of 1915, when she quietly died at the hospital in the early morning of January 13. She was buried in Calabar in a cemetery that overlooks the harbor.

During her funeral flags were lowered to half-mast and schools and offices were closed. The people thronged to pay their respects to Eka kpukpru owo, “Everybody’s mother.”
Thanks to her efforts, many of the evil tribal practices had been ended. Fifty years after her death, her name was still great among the people in the districts where she had labored.

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