It is so true that “God will be no man’s debtor.” When He asks for and receives our all, He gives in return that which is above price — His own presence. The price is not great when compared with what He gives in return; it is our blindness and our unwillingness to yield that makes it seem great. The following story has been asked for many times. Believing that it has a lesson for others, I give it, though to do so means lifting the veil from a very sacred part of my life. After the Boxer experience, my husband returned to China in 1901; and, with my children, I left for China in the summer of 1902, leaving the two eldest children at the Chefoo schools, en route to Honan. Mr. Goforth met me at Tientsin, and together we traveled by river-boat inland a journey of about twenty-four days. During those long, quiet days on the river-boat my husband unfolded to me a carefully thought-out plan for future mission work. He reminded me that six missionaries, from a mission station which had been destroyed by the Boxers, were now permanently stationed at Changte; and that the main station, now fully equipped, no longer needed us as before. He felt that the time had come when we should give ourselves to the evangelization of the great regions north and northeast of Changte — regions which up to that time had been scarcely touched by the Gospel, because of lack of workers. His plan was that we — husband and wife, with our children — should go and live and work among the people.
To make this possible a native compound would be rented in the center, where we would stay a month for our ﬁrst visit, leaving behind an evangelist to carry on the work; and we would revisit this and other places so opened as many times as possible in the year.
What this proposition meant to me can scarcely be understood by those unfamiliar with China and Chinese life. Smallpox, diptheria, scarlet fever, and other contagious diseases are chronic epidemics; and China, outside the parts ruled by foreigners, is absolutely devoid of sanitation.
Four of our children had died. To take the three little ones, then with me, into such conditions and danger seemed literally like stepping with them over a precipice in the dark and expecting to be kept. But, on the other hand, I had the language and the experience for just such work, the need was truly appalling, and there was no other woman to do it. In my innermost soul I knew the call had come from God, but I would not pay the price. My one plea in refusing to enter that life was the risk to the children. Again and again my husband urged that “the safest place” for myself and the children “was the path of duty”; that I could not keep them in our comfortable home at Changte, but “God could keep them anywhere.” Still I refused. Just before reaching our station he begged me to reconsider my decision. When I gave a final refusal, his only answer was, “I fear for the children.”
The very day after reaching home our dear Wallace was taken ill. For weeks we fought for his life; at last the crisis passed and he began to recover. Then my husband started off alone on his first trip! He had been gone only a day or two when our precious Constance, a year old, was taken down with the same disease that Wallace had. From the first there seemed little or no hope. The doctors, a nurse, and all the little mission circle joined in the fight for her life. Her father was sent for, but arrived just as she was losing consciousness. A few hours later, when we were kneeling round her bedside waiting for the end, my eyes seemed suddenly opened to what I had been doing — I had dared to fight against Almighty God.
In the moments that followed God revealed Himself to me in such love and majesty and glory that I gave myself to Him with unspeakable joy. Then I knew that I had been making an awful mistake, and that I could indeed safely trust my children to Him wherever He might lead. One thing only seemed plain, that I must follow where God should should lead. I saw at last that God must come ﬁrst. Before the precious body was laid away preparations for our ﬁrst trip were begun.
Was God faithful to the vision He had given me? Or did He allow the children to suffer in the years that followed, when months each year were spent with them right out among the people? As I write this, eighteen years have passed since we started on that first trip, and none of our children has died. Never had we as little sickness as during that life. Never had we so much evidence of God’s favor and blessing in a hundred ways — as may be gathered from the deﬁnite testimonies which follow.
Without one exception, every place in which we stayed for a month, and opened as my husband had planned, became in time a growing church.
And I found, to my surprise, that I was able to give more time to the children, that I was able to guard them better when on those trips than when in the Changte Station. For the mission compound was large, and often the children were out of my sight for hours at a time; whereas the outside native compounds we lived in were so small the children were always within sight and reach. Even when groups of women were listening to the Gospel, I was able to direct the children’s lessons. As I look back on that time, my heart is ﬁlled with overﬂowing gratitude to God for the wonderful grace and strength He gave for that life.
—Rosalind Goforth, How I Know God Answers Prayer