Dying to Serve Others
Scottish missionary Alexander Mackay came to Africa in 1876.
He had been trained as an engineer at the University of Edinburgh, and later in Berlin, but felt the call of God to preach the gospel and to share the message of Christ in Africa.
Ruth Tucker, in her biographical history of missions, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, states that Mackay (and seven others) came here in response to a request from King Mtesa of Uganda, who had asked for missionaries.
Mackay successfully influenced King Mtesa to stop providing his people as slaves to the Arab slave trade, which made him a direct target for both threats and numerous actual attempts on his life.
But Mackay worked hard on a translation of the Bible and on preaching the gospel. He was finally able to baptise new converts in 1882 and the church grew to 86 members. These numbers sound almost silly by comparison to the huge numbers who now make up the Christian Church in Africa. But Mackay and those like him were the pioneers – and not without cost.
When Mackay and the other missionaries prepared to leave England in 1875 he had declared:
‘I want to remind the committee that within six months they will probably hear that some one of us is dead. Yes, is it at all likely that eight Englishmen should start for central Africa and all be alive six months after? One of us at least – it may be I – will surely fall before that. When the news comes, do not be cast down, but send someone else immediately to take the vacant place.’ [i]
He was right. Five of them died within the first year. By the end of the second year in Uganda Mackay was left alone. All of them gave their lives for Africa.
Mackay himself was deported from Uganda by King Mwanga, who was far more resistant to Christian influence than Mtesa. He moved to Tanganyika.
He had pioneered, laid the foundations for future church growth, and served the purpose of God in his generation. In 1890 he, like his companions before him, caught Malaria and, tragically, died. He was 40.
‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ Jesus (John 12:24)
© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides
[i] Quoted by Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Zondervan, p.157