God Faithfully Fulfills His Promises
By Rosalind Goforth, Missionary To China (1888 - 1934)
In October 1887, my husband, Jonathan Goforth, was appointed by the Canadian Presbyterian Church to open a new field in the northern section of the province of Honan, China. We left Canada the following January, reaching China in March 1888. Not until then did we realize the tremendous difficulties of the task before us.
Dr. Hudson Taylor, of the China Inland Mission, writing to us at this time said, "We understand North Honan is to be your field; we, as a mission, have tried for ten years to enter that province from the south, and have only just succeeded. It is one of the most anti-foreign provinces in China...Brother, if you would enter that province, you must go forward on your knees."
A few months after our arrival in China an old, experienced missionary kindly volunteered to conduct Mr. Goforth and his colleague, who had just arrived, through North Honan, that they might see the field for themselves.
Traveling southward by cart, they crossed the border into Honan early one morning. As my husband walked beside the carts that morning, he felt led to pray that the Lord would give that section of Honan to him as his field. The assurance came that his prayer was granted. Opening his daily textbook, he found the passage for that morning was from Isaiah 55:8-13. Like a precious promise of future blessing for that field came the words:
"As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void."
For six years, however, our faith was sorely tested. Of all places, Changte seemed most determined to keep out the missionary. And there were other difficulties in the way. A presbytery had been formed as others joined us, and all matters had to be decided by that body. Two stations that had been opened, where a foothold could first be gained, required all, and more than all, the force we then had.
So for six years the door to Changte remained fast closed. But during all those years, my husband never once lost sight of God’s promise to him nor failed to believe it.
Again and again, when Mr. Goforth and his colleague visited the city, they were mobbed and threatened, the people showing the utmost hostility. But the day came, at last, when the long-prayed-for permission from the presbytery to open Changte was granted. The very next morning found Mr. Goforth enroute for Changte to secure property for a mission site.
Often has he told how, all the way over that day to Changte, he prayed the Lord to open the hearts of the people, and make them willing to give him the property most suitable for the work. Within three days of his reaching Changte he had thirty-five offers of property, and was able to secure the very piece of land he had earlier chosen as most ideal for the mission. Thus the Lord did break in pieces the gates of brass which had kept us so long from our promised land.
A year later I joined my husband there, with our three little children. It was arranged that our colleague should take care of the outside evangelism, while we opened work at the main station.
To understand what it meant for us to have our need supplied, there should be some knowledge of what that need was. We decided from the first that no one should be turned from our doors. Mr. Goforth received the men in the front guest room, while the women and children came to our private quarters. During those first weeks and months hundreds and thousands crowded to see us. Day by day we were literally besieged. Even at mealtime our windows were banked with faces.
The questions ever before us those days were, how to make the most of this wonderful opportunity, which would never come again after the period of curiosity was past; how to win the friendship of this people who showed in a hundred ways their hatred and distrust of us; how to reach their hearts with our wonderful message of a Savior’s love.
All that was in our power was to do, day by day, what we could with the strength that was given us. From early morning till dark, sometimes nine or ten hours a day, the strain of receiving and preaching to these crowds was kept up. My husband had numbers of workmen to oversee, material for building to purchase and to see to all the hundred and one things so necessary in building up a new station.
Besides all this he had to receive and preach to the crowds that came. He had no evangelist, Mr. Wang being then lent to another missionary. I had my three little children and no nurse or Bible woman. When too exhausted to speak longer to the courtyard of women, I would send for my husband, who though tired out would speak in my stead. Then we would rest ourselves and entertain the crowd by singing a hymn. So the days passed. But we soon realized that help must come, or we would both break down.
One day Mr. Goforth came to me with his Bible open at the promise, "My God shall supply all your need" (Philippians 4:19), and asked, "Do we believe this? If we do, then God can and will supply us with someone to help preach to these crowds, if we ask in faith."
He prayed very definitely for a man to preach. With my doubt-blinded heart, I thought it was as if he were asking for rain from a clear sky. Yet, even while he prayed, God was moving one to come to us. A day or two later there appeared at the mission the converted opium fiend, Wang Fu-Lin.
For many years Wang Fu-Lin’s business had been that of a public storyteller; but when Mr. Goforth came across him, he was reduced to an utter wreck through opium smoking. He accepted the Gospel, but for a long time seemed too weak to break off the opium habit. Again and again he tried to do so, but failed hopelessly each time.
The poor fellow seemed almost past hope, when one day my husband brought him to the mission in his cart. The ten days that followed can never be forgotten by those who watched Wang Fu-Lin struggle for physical and spiritual life. I believe nothing but prayer could have brought him through. At the end of the ten days, the power of opium was broken, and Wang-Fu-Lin came out of the struggle a new man in Jesus Christ.
Now Wang Fu-Lin appeared at the mission. No one could have looked less like the answer to our prayer than he did. Fearfully emaciated from long years of excessive opium smoking, racked with a cough which three years later ended his life, dressed in such filthy rags as only a beggar would wear, he presented a pitiable sight. Yet the Lord seeth not as man seeth.
After we consulted together, Mr. Goforth decided to try him for a few days, believing that he could at least testify to the power of God to save a man from his opium. Soon he was reclothed in some of my husband’s Chinese garments; and within an hour or two of his entering the mission gate, practically a beggar, he was seated in charge of the men’s chapel, so changed one could scarcely have recognized him.
From the first day of his ministry at Changte there was no doubt in the minds of any who heard him that he had indeed been sent to us by our gracious God, for he had in a remarkable degree the unction and power of the Holy Ghost. His gifts as a speaker were all consecrated to one object--the winning of souls to Jesus Christ. He seemed conscious that his days were few and always spoke as a dying man to dying men. Little wonder is it, therefore, that from the very beginning of his ministry in our chapel men were won to Christ. God spared him to us for the foundation laying of the church at Changte, then called him higher.
Mr. Goforth’s need was relieved by the coming of Wang Fu-Lin, but not mine. The remarkable way God had sent him, however, gave me courage and faith to trust God to give me a Bible woman. Those who know anything of mission work in China will agree with me that it is far more difficult to find women than men who are able to preach the Gospel, or if able, who are free for the work.
But I was beginning to learn that God is limited only from the human side and that He is always willing to give beyond our asking, if the human conditions He has so plainly laid down in His Word are fulfilled.
A short time after I had begun to ask my heavenly Father definitely for a Bible woman, one of the missionaries came in from a tour; and his first words were, "Well, Mrs. Goforth, I believe we have a ready-made Bible woman for you!"
Then he told me how he had come across a widow and her son in a mountain village. They had heard the Gospel from a recent convert out of one of the other stations. This man had been a member of the same religious sect as the widow and her son. When he found Christ he at once thought of his friends and went over the mountain to tell them. Mrs. Chang received the Gospel gladly. She had been a preacher in that heathen sect and had gained the fluency in speaking and power in holding audiences so necessary in the preaching of the Gospel.
The way was soon opened for her to come to me and she became my constant companion and valuable assistant in the women’s work during those early years. She witnessed a good confession in 1900 --being strung up by her thumbs when refusing to deny her Lord. Faithfully she served the Lord as a Bible woman, until the time of her death in 1903.