Missionary Stories

  "Chief Sechele's Daughter" (Africa)

    From Missionary Stories with the Millers, Chapter 4

     By Mildred A. Martin

“There is the king’s own hut.” Mebalwe pointed to a huge cone-shaped building made of thatch. David Livingstone, the quiet slender missionary, stood at his black friend’s shoulder. Silently he studied the capital city of Chief Sechele, in central Africa.

The common people’s huts were uniform in size and laid out in orderly patterns, the grass roofs shining golden yellow in the sunlight. The earthen streets were swept clean and beaten hard by the passage of many bare feet.

“Here come the guards to meet us!” David exclaimed. A faint prickle of tension was mixed with his excitement. “Brother, shall we pray?” He said softly to Mebalwe. Briefly, both men bowed their heads as they stood on the trail. 

“Thank You, Lord, for moving Chief Sechele to send for us,” David prayed. “Help us to win him into Your kingdom.”

A dozen muscular guards, with towering plumed headdresses and sharp tasseled spears, escorted the two Christians into the village. Their black faces were somber, and as David walked down the street between the rows of huts, he realized that something was wrong here. “Why are the people so sad?” he asked.

“The chief’s only child is dying,” came the African’s reply.

“I am a doctor,” David stated. “Take me to Chief Sechele quickly, and perhaps I will be able to help!”

There were three small fires burning before the Chief’s hut, and near the middle one squatted the weird, wrinkled figure of the witch doctor. He rocked back and forth and muttered a low chant between his toothless gums. Strange decorations hung from strings all around his neck, waist, and arms: dried snake skins, a leopard’s claws, the skull of a dead monkey, and some crocodile teeth. Now he took a pinch of dried herbs from a small antelope-horn cup and threw them into his boiling pot, without looking at the visitors.

“Hail! Sechele, Great Elephant of the Bechuana!” David and Mebalwe politely called out the correct greeting as they approached the chief.

Chief Sechele rose from his wooden throne in the doorway of his hut. His face under the headdress of blue heron plumes was stern, and his eyes were troubled. “I have sent for you, White Doctor,” he announced, “because I have heard that you are skilled in healing. I command you to give my daughter some medicine.”

“I will be glad to do whatever I can,” David answered simply. “But it is God in heaven Who does the healing. Where is your daughter?”

The witch doctor jumped to his feet and glared resentfully at David. “O Great Chief Sechele,” he whined. “I am ready to give your daughter my strongest medicine! We do not need any help from this foreigner. If he touches your daughter, she will surely die!”

An expression of fear flitted across the face of Sechele, but he stood firm. “Come,” he told David, and the missionary doctor followed him into the big hut.

As David’s eyes adjusted to the dim light inside, he could see the form of a little girl lying on a rug made of leopard skins. Her knees were drawn up to her belly, and she moaned in pain as her mother and several other women stood helplessly by.

“Where does it hurt, princess?” David asked softly. With gentle hands he felt her feverish head and examined the sore stomach. Then he turned to Chief Sechele. “Her appendix is infected,” he told the father. “It is a small thing inside her belly that has become bad. Now I must cut her belly and remove the appendix quickly, before it bursts open and kills her. See,” and David opened the pouch of medical equipment he always carried, “here I have a small sharp knife. And with this medicine,” he held up a tiny bottle, “I will put her to sleep so she will feel no pain. Then I will close the hole in her side with these,” he held up a needle and thread, “and in a few days, she will be well again.”

The women gasped at the sight of the knife and began to wail and cry. Chief Sechele frowned. “If you kill my child, I will kill you!” he growled.

“If I don’t cut out the bad thing, she will die,” David pleaded. Seeing that Sechele was wavering, he added, “If she dies, I die too. All right?”

Slowly the chief nodded his head in a gesture of agreement. “Do the thing quickly,” he whispered harshly.
David stepped out of the hut into the blinding sunlight once more and beckoned to Mebalwe. “My instruments must be cleansed in the hot water,” he told his companion. “While they are boiling, let us pray.”

“Are you sure you should take this chance?” Mebalwe questioned softly in English. “If you fail, we will be killed like dogs.”

“I believe this opportunity is from the Lord,” David replied confidently. “With His help, the operation will succeed. Then Sechele’s tribe will be open to the Gospel at last!”

Together the men knelt beside the fire. Hundreds of curious eyes were upon them as David and Mebalwe bowed their heads. “Almighty Lord God,” David prayed, “Give my hands the skill to do this operation successfully. Please grant healing to the daughter of Sechele that all his people may know You are the one true God!”

The Africans crowded in closely around as David bent over his little patient. Carefully he gave her just two drops of laudanum from the small bottle, then picked up his sharp knife. Quickly he cut a small gash deep into the child’s belly, and removed the diseased appendix. “Just in time,” he murmured to Mebalwe. “This thing was about ready to burst!” He closed the cut he had made and bandaged it lightly, then felt the little girl’s pulse.

“I have finished,” he said to Chief Sechele. “The child will sleep awhile longer. When she awakens, we will know how she is.”

One by one the curious onlookers left the hut, to take their own naps in the heat of the day. Chief Sechele and his wife squatted on one side of their sleeping daughter, while David kept watch at the other side.

They did not speak, and as David sat silently, his mind ran back over the events that had brought him here to this place. He thought of his boyhood in Scotland. His parents had been so poor that David had needed to leave school and go into a factory to work at the age of ten.


From six o’clock in the morning until eight at night, he had worked in a hot room in the spinning mill, mending broken places in the cotton ropes. He had been responsible to watch one-hundred and sixty ropes at once, and often needed to walk more than twenty miles a day as he hurried around and around the whirring machines. In every spare moment, though, he had read all the books he could; especially books about science, and travel in other countries! At the age of twenty, he had decided to become a missionary doctor...

David raised his head now and looked at the sleeping girl, daughter of an important chief. Sechele had been angry and threatening toward the Christian missionaries until now. Would the operation save his daughter’s life, and open his tribe’s hearts to the Gospel of Jesus?

David gently counted the heartbeats once more as they passed through the child’s limp wrist. All seemed to be well and he sat back again with closed eyes to rest and wait. Also to remember another time when his courage had been tested by great danger!

Lions had been terrorizing a little African village close to the mission, and the people had appealed to David for help. “If we can kill one of them, the rest will leave this area,” they told the missionary. “Will you come with us?”      

David had agreed, and that night the men formed a circle. David and Mebalwe had guns, the others held spears. Everyone was silent and tense as the clouds drifted back and forth in front of the moon. Lions had crept toward the cattle pens, then charged the ring of men. David had fired at a lion, then reached down to reload his gun.

Suddenly Mebalwe shouted a warning! Out of the darkness the wounded lion rose up right in front of David! It reared over him like a cat pouncing upon a mouse, with the ruff of its enormous mane fully erect. In the light of the flaming torches, it’s eyes glowed a bright ferocious gold. The lion opened its jaws and roared an ear-shattering gust of sound.

David’s own yell was lost in the roaring of the enraged animal. He had one glimpse of long, white, cruel fangs in that gaping red mouth and then the charging beast’s jaws closed upon David’s shoulder. Growling horribly, the 400-pound lion shook the missionary as a dog shakes a rat!

The remaining lions broke through the circle of screaming men and vanished into the darkness, as Mebalwe fired his gun into the air. Instantly the lion that was attacking David dropped him and sprang at Mebalwe instead, only to fall dead at last on the bloody sand.

David smiled, remembering. That time the doctor had to have the operation himself, he thought. He had needed to give directions to the African Christians as they sewed up his wounds and set the splintered bones in his shoulder. But God kept me alive to work for Him, David mused. And now I am trusting God to keep this child alive, too.

Sechele’s daughter stirred on the leopard-skin rug and her eyes fluttered open. “Mother?” she asked weakly. “Father? I’m thirsty.” David felt her forehead. It was cool! Her heartbeat was strong and steady. There was gladness in David’s eyes as they met the eyes of Chief Sechele.

“Give thanks to God,” he said triumphantly. “Your daughter will live!”

The Chief rose to his feet. “Come,” he told David in a husky voice. “I will have my servants bring you food. After we have eaten, then you shall tell me all about your God. I am ready to listen.”

Historical Note: David Livingstone was one of the grandest missionary heroes of all time. He spent 33 years in Africa as a pioneer explorer, traveling many thousands of miles in places where no white man had ever been before.
       Africa in those days (mid-1800’s) was called “The Dark Continent”, because no one had ever made any maps of it or had any knowledge of its geography. David Livingstone blazed the trail, opening the country to Christianity. Many new mission stations were later planted all through the regions of Africa where David had explored.
       Chief Sechele did believe on the Lord, was converted and baptized. As soon as possible, he learned to read, and became a missionary to his own people.
      Mebalwe, who saved David from the lion, was a close friend of David’s for the rest of his life. He also was an able preacher who brought many of his people to Christ.

To order this wonderful book, Missionary Stories with the Millers, please contact Don L. Martin at Green Pastures Press.

Email: greenpastures@emypeople.net

Phone 717-436-9119


Copyright 1993. Published on this website by permission of Green Pastures Press. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may reproduced in any manner without written permission from the publisher.

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