Let me give you some background to this first. I love missionary stories and biographies. I have read many of them in my lifetime. In fact, one of my favorites is a missionary by the name of Mary Slessor that served in Africa in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. When the crew filled out the form to be possible reviewers for YWAM, we were given a choice of many “Heroes of History” and “Christian Heroes:Then and Now” and the YWAM Biography titled Mary Slessor: Forward into Calabar written by Janet and Geoff Benge was on the list. I debated and debated. I really wanted to pick that biography, but I thought perhaps I was being selfish. Maybe the biography of Davy Crockett would be of more interest to my kids. Finally I couldn’t resist and put Mary Slessor as my first choice and Davy Crockett as my second and prayed that God would give us the one that He wanted to give us. Well, I soon found out that God chose Mary’s biography for us and, of course, God always knows what he is doing. And boy, He sure knew what He was doing this time! Mary Slessor’s life has made a lifelong impact on my children!
We were very blessed to receive both the biography, Mary Slessor: Forward into Calabar and the accompanying Mary Slessor Unit Study Curriculum Guide. First let me tell you a little about the biography and then I will fill you in on the fantastic unit study.
As I said above, I have read two or three biographies of Mary Slessor and also have told the missionary story of Mary Slessor to my Bible club kids so I knew quite a bit about her, her life, and her ministry. I wasn’t expecting to learn many new things. However, I was very pleasantly surprised with Janet and Geoff Benge’s version. Although it was written on a level that my kids could understand, it was also very informative and brought out a few new things that I didn’t know about this great lady.
Mary Slessor was born in Scotland in 1858 and, largely due to the “Missionary Record” that told about the happenings of missionaries around the world, and due to the life of David Livingstone, Mary, from a young age, aspired to be a missionary and work in the jungles of Calabar in what is now known as Nigeria, Africa. Her mother had always dreamed that one of Mary’s brothers would become a missionary and Mary’s dream was to go along as the brother’s assistant. When both brothers died before begin able to go, Mary thought that her dream would never come to pass. However, God has other plans. Mary was to be the one to do God’s work in Africa.
This excellently written biography, part of YWAM’s Christian Heroes: Then and Now series, chronicles Mary’s tough early years living with an alcoholic father and a Godly mother in the slums of Dundee to how she was saved at a young age and began working for the Lord when she was yet a youngster and then how she received the call to go to Calabar and become a pioneer and one of the first missionaries, man or woman, to roam deep into the jungles to reach the fiercest of tribes. There is a lot of exciting stuff – adventure, drama, sadness and laughter – that kept my ADHD/Autistic kid’s interest so I’m sure it will keep your children’s interest as well.
If you think that the biography is good, wait until you see the Mary Slessor Unit Study Curriculum Guide also written by Janet and Geoff Benge! It’s eight chapters, listed below, contain a wealth of topics to explore that all have to do with Mary Slessor’s life, Scotland, Africa and missions.
The Chapters include:
1. Key Bible Verses – Bible verses that your children can memorize that go along with the story.
2. Display Corner – Ideas for how you can make a display that reflects the story.
3. Chapter Questions – always four questions – a vocabulary question, a factual question, a comprehension question and an open ended question that seeks you child’s opinion or interpretation.
4. Student Explorations – A variety of activities for all ages.
5. Community Links – How you can use people from your community to enhance your unit study,
6. Social Studies – Naturally a biography like this lends itself to many, many social study projects.
7. Related Themes to Explore – How you can pull other school subjects into you unit study.
8. Culminating Events – Things you can do to wrap you study up or end your study with,
Appendix A – Books and Resources – This was one of our favorite sections – you’ll find out why in a moment.
Appendix B – Answers to Chapter Questions
We dabbled in every one of the chapters, but there were three chapters and the two appendixes that we used the most.
One thing that we did after reading every chapter was to do the chapter questions. They are very well done and provoked many interesting discussions. I was thrilled out how much vocabulary my kids were learning and I was very pleased with how much of the story they were absorbing and understanding.
We also used the Social Studies ideas a lot. My middle child, Joshua, loves Geography and really got into this part of it, and this was a great introduction for Jacob, my youngest. We used the pull out maps that came with the Unit Study and other maps from the the internet extensively as we followed Mary Slessor’s adventures.
We used many of the Student Explorations ideas to enhance our study as well. One of the suggestions was to study the life of David Livingstone, the missionary that inspired Mary when she was younger. We found a great video about his life that the boys loved and are now begging me to buy the YWAM biography of David Livingstone, also written by Janet and Geoff Benge along with the accompanying Unit Study Curriculum Guide.
I would say that the section that excited us the most was the Appendix that gave us a lot of Books and Resources to use. It was a plethora of information! The authors listed other biographies of Mary Slessor along with a small blurb about each one. We are planning on buying one or two in the near future. The most exciting things that we found, though, were the websites listed for further exploration. There is an actual recording of Mary Slessor speaking Efik, the native tongue in Calabar in her day! There were also actual pictures of her with many of the natives and other missionaries that she was involved with. We could see pictures of the people that were being talked about in the book! It added so much to our study.
So, how much did we actually like YWAM Publishing’s Mary Slessor: Forward Into Calabar and the Mary Slessor Unit Study Curriculum Guide? Let me tell you what happened at the end of the book. I, of course, knew what was going to happen. Me, being the usually softy teared up many times during that last couple of chapters. At one sad point I looked up to see Jacob with his hands clutched together and a worried look on his face and Joshua wiping his eyes. Joshua saw me looking and quickly said, “I’m not crying, Dad. My eyes were just itching.” Later, my big 14 year old boy admitted that he indeed was crying but only just a little.
These books made a huge impact on my children. As I am typing this, there are tears filling my eyes not necessarily because I am remembering the great biography, but because of how much my children learned and how much more excited about missions my children now are. We are full time missionaries ourselves, so they have an understanding and a love for missions already, but this brought it into a whole new realm.
Mary Slessor: Forward into Calabar and Mary Slessor Unit Study Curriculum Guide are two books that I think every family should have. I have a brand new respect for the job the YWAM Publishing is doing with their series of books Christian Heroes: Then and Now and Heroes of History. And speaking of those two series. Many of the other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed books from both of those series and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. To go to the YWAM website itself, just click on any of the highlighted links above. You won’t regret it at all! Happy Homeschooling!