Jonathan And Rosalind Goforth In China (Part 3)
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.A few months after our arrival in China an old, experienced missionary kindly volunteered to conduct Mr. Goforth and his colleague 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 cart, 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. 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 the force we had. So the door to Changte remained fast closed – but during all those years Mr. Goforth never once lost sight of God’s promise to him.
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 en route for Changte to secure property for a mission site.
All the way 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. 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 months hundreds, nay 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 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 Mr. MacG—. I had my three 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. 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" (Phil 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, whose story we spoke of earlier.
No one could have looked less like the answer to our prayers 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 consulting 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 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, 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 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. It is little wonder, therefore, that from the very beginning of his ministry 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 faith to trust God to give me a Bible woman. 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, Mr. MacG— came in from tour, and his first words were: "Mrs. Goforth, I believe we have a ready-made Bible woman for you!"
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 fluency in speaking and power in holding audiences.
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.
(To be continued)
Taken from God Answers Prayer by Rosalind Goforth.