For two centuries after the Reformation, Protestants weren’t all that concerned with cross-cultural evangelism, besides a few exceptions. In the nineteenth century, though, Protestants began to expand their missionary work to the rest of the world. From the very start, single women could be found in the thick of missionary activity.
One woman, who’s name was Mary Slessor (1848-1915), left her poor Scottish home and became a leading missionary in what today is Nigeria. After quickly learning the local language, she became a fixture as a teacher in the region. She combined religious instruction, medical assistance, advocacy for the oppressed (such as orphans or abandoned twins) in ways that made her beloved by the Africans and respected by the British.
But Mary was a trouble maker—not in the sense that she was being ugly to anyone, but she did stray from the conventional wisdom and common tradition of her day for the gospel. You see, Mary went so far in identifying with her new environment in an attempt to reach people with the gospel of Jesus that she stopped wearing hats, and she didn’t even wear shoes! This was in breach of common missionary practice.
Can you believe her audacity?
Yet, her willingness to give over her entire life to the gospel of Jesus led many people to Christ and provided much need care for people created in God’s image. May we follow Mary in taking off our hats, kicking off our shoes, and doing whatever we can to spread the good news of Jesus to the world around us.
(Historical and biographical information taken from Turning Points by Mark A. Noll)