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Dr Margaret MacKellar
Chapter V - The Missionary Call

MISS MacKELLAR was constantly impressed with the thought that God wanted her to do something more for Him. At the close of the spring season of 1884 she yielded her life to God to be a missionary if He so willed. Before her lay a testing-time. It was not due to the encouragement she received at the. beginning of her career that we have her, a pre-eminent missionary on the field to-day. God has ways of testing His soldiers as Gideon's were tested, that the faint-hearted may be weeded out, and in Margaret MacKellar's experience a period-of hard training had to be undergone before she was ready for her place in the forefront of the fighting line in India.

Mr. Tulloch, who was minister of Dresden and a Queen's man, wrote of Miss MacKellar to Principal Grant, telling him of her purpose to become a missionary, of her lack of education, and of her determination to go back to school to fit herself for mission work. Dr. Grant wrote in reply that he thought this was the best thing she could do. Miss MacKellar also communicated her intentions to Dr Ballantyne, who had been her minister in Paris. He wrote to Dr. Wardrope, the Foreign Mission Secretary, who replied that there were other names that would have to be considered before that of Miss MacKellar:

She saw clearly that the return to school was the first step to be taken, and wrote to her friends, the MacKellars, then in -Ingersoll, to ask if she might come there to attend school. Mr. MacKellar replied that she would be most welcome, and that as long as he had a home, he would be glad to have a Maggie MacKellar in it. Her sister Annie, to whom she told her intention, was not surprised. She had always thought something like this would happen, and declared herself ready to do all she could to forward her sister's plans.

On arriving in Ingersoll in the summer of 1884, Miss MacKellar called on Mr. F. W. Merchant, the Principal of the High School (now Dr. Merchant, Director of Technical Education in Ontario). She explained her position and asked his advice. Mr. Merchant, a keen educationalist and an earnest Christian, was much interested in the would-be missionary. Though she had not passed the Entrance Examination to High School he said he would take her into the first form of the High School. After buying her books Miss MacKellar had just five dollars left, but she had plenty of faith and determination. At the beginning of September she started to High School, but after two or three weeks she realized that the work was too hard for her: there were so many new subjects and she had not learned to concentrate her attention, so it took her a long time to prepare her lessons. She went again to Mr. Merchant and suggested that she had better go back to the Public School. Mr. Merchant knew well what that would mean, and advised her to try again. But after a week or so more she was utterly discouraged—almost ready to give up. Then the Lord stood by her and strengthened her with the message, "My grace is sufficient for thee." Taking her courage in both hands she decided to go back to the Public School, only praying earnestly that the children among whom she would be sitting might not make fun of her. Not only was her prayer answered, but one of the High School pupils, who afterwards offered to go as a missionary, said that as she met Margaret MacKellar day by day going to the Public School, she thought "Surely this girl has some great purpose in her life. I would never have the courage to do what she has done."

Thus at the age of twenty-two Miss MacKellar returned to the Public School. The first day when dictation was given from an unseen passage, she had twenty-two mistakes in spelling out of forty-two words. But, nothing daunted, she was willing to go back to a still lower room if necessary. The principal of the Public School wrote as his contribution to her autograph album: "The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong." "Labor omnia vincit."

So great was her desire to make progress in her preparation that she decided to devote Saturday to the study of Church History, but she found it better to give undivided attention to her school work. She was only absent from school twice in two years. Her progress may be judged by the fact that she passed the Entrance examination at Christmas, and in the fall of 1886 the matriculation examination for Queen's University.

During her stay in Ingersoll she took part in Sabbath School work, and with Miss Maggie Nichol, a school teacher (who afterwards volunteered for Foreign Mission service) conducted one of the cottage prayer meetings in a section of the town. She made many good Christian friends in Ingersoll, and when she left for college they presented her with a purse containing fifty dollars in gold. With this she bought a gold watch, which has been in use ever since that time.


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