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Missionary Saves Lives of Twins

An article syndicated in the Agence France-Presse told of a town in Southwest Nigeria that calls itself "The Land of Twins." Why the odd nickname? The majority of families in that region have at least one set of twins, a phenomenon that baffles fertility experts. The only possible explanation scientists have come up with is the vast amount of yams the people consume. Yams contain a natural hormone that stimulates the ovaries to produce twins. However, another possible explanation is found in a short sentence tucked away in the middle of the story.

In pre-colonial times, the people of that region of Nigeria would often kill twins and their mothers. The people believed twins were an evil omen and that the mother must have been with two men to bear them. The article follows this startling piece of historical background with this single sentence: "A Scottish missionary is credited with ending this practice." The rest of the article goes into greater detail about other issues from history and how scientists continue to scratch their heads over the matter. The Scottish missionary is never mentioned again—despite the fact that history shows she may have a little more to do with the matter than a pile of yams.

If you do a little digging, you'll find that the name of the Scottish missionary is Mary Slessor (1848–1915). According to the Christian biography website www.wholesomewords.com, Slessor was a missionary to the Calabar region in Nigeria. She traveled throughout the many villages along the Calabar River, meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the people she encountered. In these communities, twins were indeed cruelly murdered and mothers were driven into the jungles because of supposed immorality. Through proclaiming the gospel, Slessor opposed such practices and saved the lives of countless babies.

Mary could have easily turned around and gone back home after seeing the horrors of some of these rituals, but the Wholesome Words site sums up her life story, saying, "Mary Slessor, seeing beneath the surface, was far more interested in the work of saving babies' lives, relieving sorrow, [and] hunting for opportunities to spread the knowledge of the Prince of Peace throughout the blood-drenched villages and hamlets of the natives"—a region of Nigeria now called "The Land of Twins."

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