I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to start a short series telling about answers to prayer from classic missionary biographies in hopes that it would encourage us in our faith and in our praying.
I wanted to start off with something close to home. Missionaries don’t spend all their time on the front lines fighting spiritual battles or out on the streets witnessing to everyone they meet. They have to deal with the same mundane affairs of life that we all do, and often those mundane affairs are more complicated than they are in America. That was especially true in previous centuries.
The Goforths were missionaries to China in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Mrs. Goforth has written Goforth of China, a biography of her husband; How I Know God Answers Prayer (I was delighted to find what appears to be all or most of the text of this book here); and Climbing, which includes many anecdotes she was requested to share as well as some of her own personal struggles. The following comes from Climbing.
The Goforths had just escaped from the Boxer Rebellion in China to Shanghai. Until a ship left that they could find passage on, they had to stay in an empty house with little furniture. In the ten days they were there, her husband and son Paul bought some ready-made clothes, and she was able to have one dress made.
But the other three children! They were in rags given by the Chinese on the journey. How could I, without materials, without a machine, get an outfit made for even one, and the ocean voyage just ahead! Alone with the baby one morning I cast myself down by the little one and cried again and again to the Lord to send someone to help me. My distress was great. Help I must have, but I knew no one to whom I could turn. Then suddenly, while I was praying, the doorbell rang. On opening the door I found two women outside. They introduced themselves and told of having seen our names among those of the refugees. They were in charge of a Chinese girls’ school, but on account of the Boxer troubles, all the girls had been sent home. They then said, “We have nothing to do and thought you may need help.” Scarcely able to speak, I told them rapidly my story; how I was on my knees pleading for help when they rang the bell. A few moments followed in which we stood clasping hands, weeping, just too full for speech. Then they went away to get materials, for there was no time to lose.
In a very short time, they returned with a pile of materials of from three- to five- yard lengths. I cut out and gave directions for a number of garments. The women took all away and, with the help of some friends, made practically everything needed except for the baby, who, in the rush of getting others provided for, was forgotten! The day we sailed, I gathered a quantity of material together, planning to make the most necessary things for him on board ship. Then came the most beautiful proof of God’s overshadowing care.
We had been passing through the Inland Sea and were nearing Yokohama. I had been trying my utmost to get some necessary things ready for baby W., but my hands trembled so I could scarcely hold the needle. I struggled on, realizing my strength was going, but kept sewing til I could no longer see the needle. Rising, I folded the work, and, going down to the cabin, put it quietly, numbly into the trunk, saying, “Lord, I have done all I can. I can do no more. As you provided for the others, do so now for baby.” I then went on deck and lay down on a long chair exhausted. How long I lay there I do not know, but suddenly someone touched me and said, “There’s a large bundle come off the lighter for you: it is in your cabin.” Dazed at first, I could not take it in. Then it flashed into my mind, “It’s the answer.”
In the cabin, I found a letter attached to the bundle from Mrs. O. E., of the China Inland Mission, whose husband was at that time risking his life in China, seeking to bring out to safety women of the mission who were in peril. The letter stated that her little son, the same age as my baby, had died some months before and she felt it laid upon her to send me, for my child, his outfit. I opened the bundle to find not only a most beautiful, complete outfit for my little one, but also many things I needed for myself and the other children. It was indeed one of the Lord’s exceedingly abundant answers. Is it any wonder that those words written so long ago by the psalmist have always had a deep thrill of response in my heart?
I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. – Psalm 116:1-2.