I mentioned Rosalind Goforth in the second post of this series and the unique ways God answered her very human and what we might consider mundane but serious needs for clothes for her children. After she had written Goforth of China, a biography of her husband, and How I Know God Answers Prayer (all or most of the text of this book is here, and it is free for the Kindle for a time here), she was asked to write something about her own perspectives and struggles after nearly a lifetime on the mission field. The result of that request is Climbing, her own story of answered prayer and personal struggles, one of my top three favorite missionary books. Being of like passions as we are, she very honestly and transparently writes of such things as overhearing two Chinese women talking about her quick temper and impatience and wishing she would live more as she preached. At first she was angry, but then realized it was all too true. She struggled with this for years, until much later the Chinese servants who had wanted to avoid her now wanted to be around her and serve her, wondering what had caused the change in her.
She tells of the work of God in many a life, of many funny experiences as well as trying ones, of multitudes of direct answers to prayer for helpers, for monetary and health needs, for protection, for grace and strength, even for everyday practical things like help to find a proper hat (after being criticized, sadly, by probably well-meaning women when she came home on furlough.)
Like any mother with young children, she struggled to have time alone with the Lord. She writes:
A devoted Christian missionary, Mrs. S, was holding a series of special meetings for our Christian women at Changte. On one occasion, this dear woman, who had no children, told me that I could never have the peace and joy I longed for unless I rose early and spent from one to two hours with the Lord in prayer and Bible study.
I longed intensely for God’s best — for all He could give me, not only to help me live the true Christian life but also for peace and rest of soul. So I determined to do what Mrs. S. had advised.
The following morning, about half-past five o’clock, I slipped as noiselessly as possible out of bed. (My husband had already gone to his study.) I had taken only a step or two when first one and then another little head bobbed up; then came calls of, “Mother is it time to get up?”
“Hush, hush, no, no,” I whispered as I went back, but too late; the baby had wakened! So, of course, the morning circus began an hour too soon.
But I did not give up easily. Morning after morning I tried rising early for the morning watch, but always with the same result. So I went back to the old way of just praying quietly — too often just sleeping! Oh, how I envied my husband, who could have an hour or more of uninterrupted Bible study while I could not. This led me to form the habit of memorizing Scripture, which became an untold blessing to me. I took advantage of odd opportunities on cart, train, or when dressing, always to have a Bible or Testament at hand so that in the early mornings I could recall precious promises and passages of Scripture (pp. 75-76).
One day when she was especially busy, she received a note from another missionary lady who was supposed to take a women’s meeting but found out she couldn’t and asked Rosalind to at nearly the last minute. She needed to nurse her baby, and she set her Bible up where she could see it. Her husband came in just then and said, “It puzzles me how you can address a meeting with so little preparation.” She responded, “Jonathan, if I had time like you, I could not expect to get a message in so short a time, but the fact is the Lord suits His help to me as a mother!” (p. 112). I’ve benefited from her studies on what God does with our sin and conditions for receiving strength.
I’ve been convicted along with her as she shares. During most of the time the Goforths ministered, the Chinese were quite suspicious of and disdainful toward “foreign devils.” To try to alleviate those feelings and establish relationships with the Chinese, the Goforths would allow crowds of the curious into their home to look around and to talk with them. This resulted in some agitation and disruption as well as theft of some of their belongings, but over all they felt it was worth it. Of one particular day, Rosalind writes:
The day had been an unusually strenuous one, and I was really very tired. Toward evening, a crowd of women burst through the living room door and came trooping in before I had time to meet them outside. One woman set herself out to make things unpleasant. She was rough and repulsive and– well, just indescribably filthy. I paid no attention to her except to treat her as courteously as the rest. But when she put both hands to her nose, saying loudly, “Oh, these foreign devils, the smell of their home is unbearable!”, my temper rose in a flash and, turning on her with anger, I said, “How dare you speak like that? Leave the room!” The crowd, sensing a “storm,” fled. I heard one say, “That foreign devil woman has a temper just like ours!”
Now, I had not noticed that the door of my husband’s study was ajar, not did I know that he was inside, until, as the last woman disappeared, the door opened and he came forward, looking solemn and stern. “Rose, how could you so forget yourself?” he said. “Do you realize that just one such incident may undo months of self-sacrificing, loving service?”
“But Jonathan” I returned, “you don’t know how she — “
But he interrupted. “Yes, I do; I heard all. You certainly had reason to be annoyed; but were you justified, with all that is hanging in the balance and God’s grace to keep you patient?”
As he turned to re-enter his study, he said, “All I can say is I am disappointed!“
Oh, how that last word cut me! I deserved it, yes, but, oh, I did so want to reach up to the high ideals he had. A tempestuous time followed alone in our inner room with my Lord. as I look back now, it was all just one farther step up the rocky hillside of life — just climbing! (pp. 45-46).
Though the Goforths faced many personal hardships and losses, “Sometimes when letters would reach us from the homeland expressing pity for us, how my husband would laugh as I read them to him. ‘Pity,’ he would say, ‘why this is the most glorious life possible!’ Yes, it was indeed!” (p. 69).
(You can see a list of other posts in the 31 Days of Missionary Stories here.)
(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)