Ella Mary Schenck
Photo by cottonbro studio

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5

“I can think of nothing that would make death more welcomed than to meet it here, to die for these dear children as my Saviour died for me. It is the suffering and dying Saviour that melts the stony heart. So with us – that which our lives cannot do, our deaths may do.”

These were the words of Ella Mary Schenck when two of her missionary associates in Sierra Leone died. Ella too would go on to give her life in the Lord’s service in the troubled West African country in 1898.

A qualified teacher, Ella had felt a strong call to use her teaching skills in Africa and set off on her first missionary journey to Sierra Leone in 1891. She worked as a matron at a girls’ school where she won the affection and respect of the pupils, as well as using her teaching gifts in various ways at church and meeting people in their homes. After three years she returned home to the USA, and after completing Bible and evangelistic training, felt compelled to return to Sierra Leone. As her ship set sail in 1897, hostility against British rule was rising in Sierra Leone and would soon become a violent and bloody revolt. At first, the rebels slaughtered the British and Creole, but soon turned their attention to American missionaries, who had been left unharmed during earlier conflicts.

Seven months after they had left their homeland, Ella and four other members of her mission station in Rotufunk were captured and hacked to death. The mission buildings – the church, school, barracks and hospital – were torched. Two years later, however, the station was rebuilt and the work that Ella and her team had started went on to flourish with five new mission stations later established.

Lord Jesus, you suffered for me – what am I suffering for you?

Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983)

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is the International Director of Barnabas Fund and the Executive Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life.