Jonathan And Rosalind Goforth In China (Part 4)
By Rosalind Goforth
In this series of articles a pioneer missionary wife and mother tells of the faithfulness of God to hear and to answer prayer during the very difficult days at the end of the 19th century when China was being opened to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
During the first two or three years at Chang Te Fu we lived in Chinese style houses, which were low and damp. It was therefore thought best that we should have a good semi-foreign house built for us. The work at this time was so encouraging – converts being added weekly, sometimes almost daily – that we feared lest the new house would hinder the work, and become a separating barrier between ourselves and the people. We therefore prayed that God would make the new house a means of reaching the people – a blessing, and not a hindrance. The answer to this prayer, as is often the case, depended largely upon ourselves. We had to be made willing to pay the price that the answer demanded.
In other words, we came to see that in order that our prayer could be answered we would have to keep open house every day and all day, which was by no means easy. Some assured us it was wrong, because it would make us cheap in the eyes of the Chinese. Others said it was wrong because of the danger of infection to the children. But time proved these objections to be unfounded. The very highest as well as the lowest were received, and their friendship won by this means. And, so far as I can remember, our children never met any contagion because of this way of receiving the people into our house.
The climax in numbers was reached in the spring of 1899, when 1,835 men and several hundred women were received by us in one day. These were first preached to in large bands, and then led through the house. We have seen evidences of the good of this plan in all parts of our field. It opened the hearts of the people toward us, and helped us to live down suspicion and distrust as nothing else could have done.
Simple, Childlike Faith
During those early pioneer years, when laying the foundation of the Changte Church, my own weak faith was often rebuked when I saw the results of the simple, childlike faith of our Chinese Christians. Some of those answers to prayer were of such an extraordinary character that, when told in the homeland, even ministers expressed doubts as to their genuineness. But, praise God, I know they are true. Here are two concrete examples.
Li-ming, a warm-hearted, earnest evangelist, owned land some miles north of Chang Te Fu. On one occasion, when visiting the place, he found the neighbors all busy placing around their fields little sticks with tiny flags. They believed this would keep the locusts from eating their grain. All urged Li-ming to do the same, and to worship the locust god, or his grain would be destroyed. Li-ming replied: "I worship the one only true God, and I will pray Him to keep my grain, that you may know that He only is God."
The locusts came and ate on all sides of Li-ming’s grain, but did not touch his. When Mr. Goforth heard this story he determined to get further proof, so he visited the place for himself and inquired of Li-ming’s heathen neighbors what they knew of the matter. One and all testified that when the locusts came, their grain was eaten and Li-ming’s was not.
The Lord Jesus once said, after a conflict with unbelief and hypocrisy: "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes" (Matt. 11:25).
At another time, our little Gracie became ill with an enlarged spleen – a terrible fatal disease so common in malarious districts. The doctors pronounced her condition quite hopeless. One day a Chinese Christian woman came in with her little child, of about the same age as our Gracie, and very ill with the same disease. The poor mother was in great distress, for the doctor had told her also that there was no hope. She thought that if we would plead with the doctor he could save her child. At last Mr. Goforth pointed to our little Gracie saying: "Surely, if the doctor cannot save our child, neither can he save yours. Your only hope and ours is in the Lord Himself."
The mother was a poor, hard-working, uneducated woman, but she had the simple faith of a little child. Some few weeks later she called again, and told me the following story:
"When the pastor told me my only hope was in the Lord, I believed him. When I reached home I called my husband, and together we committed our child into the Lord’s hands. I felt perfectly sure the child would get well, so I did not take more care of him than of a well child. In about two weeks he seemed so perfectly well that I took him to the doctor again, and the doctor said that he could discover nothing the matter with him."
That Chinese child is now a grown, healthy man. And our child died. Yet we had prayed for her as few, perhaps, have prayed for any child. Why, then, was she not spared? I do not know. Does this case of unanswered prayer shake my faith in God’s willingness and power to answer prayer? No, no! My own child might just as reasonably decide never again to come to me with a request because I have, in my superior wisdom, denied a petition. Is it not true, in our human relationships with our children, that we see best to grant at one time what we withhold at another? "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter" (John 13:7).
And one of the most precious experiences of God’s loving mercy came to me in connection with our little Gracie’s death. We had been warned that the end would probably come in convulsions. Two of our dear children had been so taken. Only a mother who has gone through such an experience can fully understand the horror of the possibility that such might come again at any time.
One evening I was watching beside our little one, when suddenly the child said very decidedly: "Call Papa; I want to see Papa." I hesitated to rouse her father, as it was his time to rest, so I tried to put her off with some excuse. But again she repeated her request, and so I called her father, asking him to walk up and down with her until I returned.
Going into the next room I cried in an agony to the Lord not to let Gracie suffer, but, if it was indeed His will to take the child, then to do so without her suffering. As I prayed, a wonderful peace came over me, and the promise came so clearly as if it was spoken: "Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear" (Isa. 65:24). Rising, I was met at the door by Miss P_____ who said: "Gracie is with Jesus."
While I was on my knees our beloved child, after resting a few moments in her father’s arms, had looked into his face with one of her loveliest smiles, and then quietly closed her eyes and had ceased to breathe. No struggle, no pain, but a "falling on sleep." "Like as a father pitieth …so the Lord pitieth" (Psa. 103:13).
Ever-darkening clouds gathered about us during the months following Gracie’s death; and while the storm did not burst in all its fury till the early summer of 1900, yet the preceding winter was full of forebodings and constant alarms.
On one occasion thousands gathered inside and outside our mission, evidently bent on serious mischief. My husband and his colleagues moved in and out all that day among the dense crowd which filled the front courtyards, while we women remained shut within closed houses, not knowing what moment the mob would break loose and destroy us all.
What kept them back that day? What but trustful prayer! And the Lord heard prayer that day, and wonderfully restrained the violence of our enemies. We did not know then, but those experiences were preparing us for the greater trials and perils awaiting us all....
After many more years of proving God’s faithfulness, Rosalind Goforth wrote: As the past has been reviewed and God’s wonderful faithfulness has been recalled, there has come a great sense of regret that I have not trusted God more, and asked more of Him, both for my family and the Chinese. He is truly wonderful! But the wonder is not that God can answer prayer, but that He does, when we so imperfectly meet the conditions clearly laid down in His Word.
– Taken from God Answers Prayer by Rosalind Goforth.