December 14, 2017


“We didn’t have travel insurance or life insurance. We had only the call of the Lord. But He is faithful”. That and love was all it had taken for 19 year old Mary to leave all she had known behind and board a ship for the Congo to share the gospel of Jesus.

Only two years earlier – two years! – she had hurriedly raced home to tell her mother, “Oh Mom. I’ve been saved!” Her mom had given her one scornful look and replied “What utter nonsense! You have never been lost! Go and make tea…”. Her Jewish mom must have had no idea what to think when two years later Mary had married the Irish missionary, Jim Mullan. They had met on the Monday. He had proposed on the Friday. And three months later they were aboard the Winchester Castle bound for Africa. Those Victorians didn’t wait around!

It had been only 30 years since Josef Conrad’s classic “The heart of Darkness” had been published. The book, set in the Congo, had described something of the horror that European colonialism had wrought on the continent of Africa. But it had also powerfully articulated the deep seated fear Europeans held for the uncharted quarters of the so called ‘Dark Continent’. Africa was a symbol of everything untamed, dangerous and even contagious about the world. And it was straight to this ‘heart of darkness’ that this nineteen year old girl from Brighton was blithely headed. Mary’s mother was right to fear – but not for those reasons. The survival rate of missionaries to the Congo at that stage was less than 50/50. They would never meet again.

And yet Europe’s dark heart of fear could not withstand the fire of revival burning through Europe in the 1900’s.

The Spirit of God had lit an incandescent flame in the hearts of believers across Britain. And so many had left to share the amazing message of Jesus. Like Jim and Mary, they were a generation filled with the urgency of Heaven, desperate to see God’s saving power reach the nations. It was revivalist George Jeffrey’s who had married Jim and Mary at a ceremony in Clapham, London. And it was W. F. P. Burton who had invited James to leave Britain for Congo five years earlier. Now it was Mary’s turn to join the work…

ps Pharrell himself would have been pleased with this hat.