Article: Triumphing over Superstition, by Miss Slessor, Okoyon. Published in the “Women’s Missionary Magazine” [May 1901] [May 1901]
Dundee City Archives
This would appear to be part of a letter by Miss Slessor telling of the unusually happy outcome after the birth of twins in a nearby town.
Article from the “Women’s Missionary Magazine”, May 1901 or 1907, page 109. It includes a photograph of “A Rescued Twin”.
Triumphing over Superstition by Miss Slessor, Okoyon
My heart has been singing, and has been so light these days that it has been like renewing my youth. Three weeks ago a messenger came from a place where I have not worked much, because it so far off, to tell me that twins had been born there, and to ask me to go and take them away. The people of that place had been the last to give up marauding and old customs. I sent Mana and Janie to try and help the mother and save the bairns; when they came back with a bonnie baby boy, and the news that the other twin, who had died, had been decently buried by the father, that the latter was sitting near the mother, and had made a comfortable place for her, and that when she was stronger, she might come to see her baby, we were all cheered.
The mother had formerly lived near our old home, and had heard the Gospel. Her husband is a young chief whose half-brother is a member of our native court of justice. He is good-looking, and evidently has a mind of his own, and is wishful to give up the ways of Okoyon, and learn the new ones. He drinks rum, but I have not come into “close grips” with him about that yet, for, from infancy, drink is to these people like their food, and only the Spirit of God can convince of sin and implant loathing for it.
My surprise, almost consternation, can be imagined, when I heard that he was at the back door with his wife, and wished me to go to him, as he did not wish to face Okoyon – my yard in front being crowded with people. When I went round I found the couple sitting in an outhouse, where Mana had taken them to rest, and, after greetings, the husband said, “Ma, I have come with Arigi to see our child, Efik Idiom, will you bring him to us?” When he was brought, the mother held out her arms, and the father rose and bent over him. I put the child into his arms, and he held him. It was not a scene for words!
The couple, their children and slaves, stayed in the outhouse, tidied it up, and improvised partitions and doors. They lived just like white Christians, and were delighted and never wearied of the bairns, and the preaching. The father stayed for four days, then went home for a day or two, and came back.
When I called for the heads of the houses to which Etok and his wife belong, we had a most interesting meeting. I spoke to them not as a white woman, but as a mother, and said that they ought to take my advice and keep their twin mothers and children, without the use of force from the Consul. I reasoned about the evils of the old customs from every point of view; the goodness of God in sending the Gospel to them before he sent the Consul; and lastly, and most strongly, about the relation of human life to God’s creating, and especially His redeeming sovereignty. When I asked them to express their opinions, there was only a silence, that became unbearable in its intensity. I broke it, and begged them to let me know what was in their hearts. I told them that I would stand by the parents and their right to take their children home, and that no one must forbid friends to visit them should they wish to do so, and that if trouble or calamity befell them, and they dared to blame the twin house-hold for it, I would stand by the innocent.
The old chief of the town and district kept his head in his hands. When I proposed to him that he should come out of the wood into the daylight, and look on the sunlight of God’s love, his face broke into a wintry sort of smile, and he said, “Ma, what can I say? I have nothing to answer you, you have given your advice and commands, and I can only obey them.”
The tension was broken, and relaxed into talk, but the old chief rose and went away without having spoken to the father or to anyone, except “goodbye” to me. The young men spoke to the father, however, but not one asked to see or speak to the mother. Her people have been taught, and they went to her, and sat outside. They said that they did not wish their woman to make strife in Okoyon, but if her husband wished to keep her, they had nothing to say, they would not cast her off or hinder her nursing the child.
Mana and Janie went home with the father, and mother, and baby, and had a little meeting with the household. I gave Etok a parcel of clothing for every wife and child in the house, as well as for Arigi and her baby. All were made alike, so that the home-going might make a break in the tension of fear and jealousy, the mingled and doubtful atmosphere of a heathen home. I had told Mana to read the 91st Psalm, and to speak about the safety of the Christian. When she came home, she said that she “was surprised till all the strength left her body,” when she saw Etok go deliberately to the altar and lift “the plates of god” and the broken dishes, etc., and carry them all to the back-yard. He said, “Now I have done with Okoyon! I will pray to the God of heaven, and, whatever comes, I have done it, and I mean to stand by it. God will help me!”
Etok and his household live near Akom. Is it her prayers that are being answered thus? “I will make all the places round about My hill a blessing.”