Rosalind Bell-Smith, born in London in 1864, was twelve
years old when she heard a sermon on John 3:16 at a revival
meeting. The love of God was presented with such fervor
and intensity that she yielded herself absolutely to Christ
and stood up, along with others, to confess Him publicly
as her Lord and Master.
Her father having been an artist, she grew up with a
great love for art and went to art school in Toronto. But
there was a strong pull in two opposite directions: Should
she give her life to painting or should she serve the Master to whom she belonged? In her mind the two were mutually exclusive.
When she was twenty she began to pray that if married
life was what God wanted for her, He would give her a
husband "wholly given up to Him and His service. I wanted
One day in June 1885, she joined a group of art students bound for a picnic at Niagara Falls. On the same boat as they crossed the lake was another party, headed
for a Bible conference. She envied the latter group—her
heart was more with them than with her own crowd.
On the return trip that evening both groups were on the
boat again, plus others who had been at the Bible
conference The Bible teacher recognized Rosalind as the
organist in the church where he had spoken the previous Sunday and invited her to join a mission group the
following Saturday—We are to have a workers' meeting and tea, and I would
like you to meet them all." She was on the point of saying this was impossible when
her brother whispered, "You have no time. You are going
Partly to show her brother that she would do as she
pleased ("and what a trifle can turn the course of a life!"
she said later), she accepted the invitation on the spot.
As the teacher turned to leave, he called to a friend who
looked to Rosalind like "a very shabby fellow." He was
introduced as Jonathan Goforth, "our city missionary."
"I forgot the shabbiness of his clothes, however, for the
wonderful challenge in his eyes!" she wrote.
"The following Saturday found me in the large, square
workers' room of the Toronto Mission Union. Chairs were
set all around the walls, but the center was empty. Just as
the meeting was about to begin, Jonathan Goforth was
called out. He had been sitting across the corner from me
with several people between. As he rose, he placed his
Bible on the chair.
"Then something happened which I could never explain,
nor try to excuse. Suddenly I felt literally impelled to step
across, past four or five people, take up the Bible and return
to my seat. Rapidly I turned the leaves and found the Book
worn almost to shreds in parts and marked from cover to
cover. Closing the Book, I quickly returned it to the chair,
and returning to my seat, I tried to look very innocent. it
had all happened within a few moments, but as I sat there,
I said to myself, 'That is the man I would like to marry!'
'That very day, I was chosen as one of a committee to
open a new mission in the east end of Toronto, Jonathan
Goforth being also on the same committee. In the weeks
that followed 1 had many opportunities to glimpse the
greatness of the man which even a shabby exterior could
not hide. So when, in that autumn he said, 'Will you join
your life with mine for China?' my answer was yes, without a moment's hesitation.
"But a few days later when he said, “Will you give me
your promise that always you will allow me to Put my Lord
and His work first, even before you?” I gave an inward gasp
before replying, “Yes, I will, always,” for was not this the
very kind of man I had prayed for? (Oh. kind Master, to
hide from Thy servant what that promise would cost!)
"A few days after my promise was given, the first test in keeping it came. I had been (woman-like) indulging in dreams of the beautiful engagement ring that was soon to be mine. Then Jonathan came to me and said, 'You will not mind, will you, if I do not get an engagement ring?'
He then went on to tell with the greatest enthusiasm of
the distributing of books and pamphlets on China from,
his room in Knox [College]. Every cent was needed for
this important work. As I listened and watched his glowing face, the visions I had indulged in of the beautiful"
engagement ring vanished. This was my first lesson in real
The next morning, Mother came to me and said sternly, “This slum work is to cease at once. You are to get ready and leave for England without delay!”I replied quietly, but ﬁrmly, “Mother, it is too late; I promised Jonathan Goforth last night to be his wife and to go to China!” Poor Mother! She almost fainted! It is not necessary to give the details of the week that followed. Sufﬁce it to say, Mother gave me the choice of obeying Father’s dying wish or leaving home. For six weeks, I stayed with a brother in a distant city. Then came a letter from my sister pleading with me to return, as Mother was sobbing day and night and seemed failing fast. On reaching home, I was shocked at the change in Mother. She would not speak to me and seemed broken-hearted. My distress was now very great. Could it be God’s will for me to break my Mother’s heart?
At last, one day, as I listened to her pacing her bedroom ﬂoor, weeping, I could stand the strain no longer and determined to ﬁnd out God’s will so plainly I could make no mistake. Going down to the parlor, where the large family Bible rested on a small davenport or desk, I stood for a moment crying to the Lord for some word of light. Then I opened the Bible at random, and the ﬁrst words my eyes lit on were: Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit. (John 15:16). I knew at once God was speaking His will to me through these words, and in an instant the crushing burden was gone. Running to Mother’s room, I begged her to hear what I had to say. Unwillingly, she unlocked the door and stood while I told her of my prayer and answer. For a moment only she hesitated, then with a cry I could never forget, she threw her arms about me, saying, “O my child, I can ﬁght against you, but I dare not ﬁght against God.” From that moment till her death eighteen months later, Mother’s heart was entirely with me in the life I had chosen.
Rosalind and Jonathan Goforth were married in October of 1887, sailed for China in February of 1888 and served there until 1935.