One of the greatest necessities and challenges for Christians is to genuinely love those whom we serve. Such Christlike love makes our service much more effective, and enables us to faithfully serve even when ministering to difficult people or under trying circumstances. Rosalind Goforth, who served with her husband Jonathan as a missionary in China for forty-seven years, learned that love lesson from a fellow missionary and sought to live it out through her many years of faithful service.
About nine months after arriving in China in 1888, the Goforths moved to an inland mission station in Shantung Province. One of the missionaries serving there was a Mrs. S., who was widely known for her success in ministering to Chinese women. One day Rosalind went to visit her shortly after she returned from teaching in the neighboring villages. “Mrs. S., I wish you would tell me some of your experiences that might help me in reaching the women.”
“I think something I went through today might help you,” the veteran missionary responded. She then related the following incident:
“This morning I went to a distant village where the Christian women of that section were to meet in a certain house for study. But it began to rain, and no outside women came. So I started to read with the Christian woman at the home. We were sitting close together on the kang [a brick platform bed]. I had my arm around her as we read. Suddenly she began to cry, saying, ‘O Mrs. S., don’t let us read any more! My heart is so full I must talk to you.’
“So I drew her closer while she told me her troubles. The woman went on to say: ‘My sister died some months ago, and since then I have had to care for her children as well as my own. Besides all the regular work of meals, sewing and so on, I have to weave cloth late into the night. And for weeks I have had no time for lice hunting. I and the whole family are just crawling with them. Even the bed we are sitting on is just alive!’ ”
“O Mrs. S.,” Rosalind gasped,” didn’t you jump off the kang?” She replied: “Mrs. Goforth, listen! I felt like it. But just as I was about to do so the words flashed through my mind, ‘The love of Christ constraineth us’ [2 Corinthians 5:14]. And instead I just drew the woman closer to me.”
When Rosalind heard this, tears flowed freely as she cried in her heart: “O God, give me such love for my service in China!” She would later write: “Never was the lesson forgotten, and in years to come it was often needed as like experiences were gone through.”
In 1890, after moving to the town of Chuwang in Honan Province, Rosalind needed to put that lesson into practice in what proved to be one of the greatest tests in all her missionary experiences of properly loving people. The people of Chuwang were initially quite hostile toward the Goforths as foreigners.
Rosalind had given strict instructions to the amah (nanny) of their infant son Paul never to carry the child outside the gateway of their home’s “fairly large courtyard with trees.” But one day as Jonathan and Rosalind were leaving to have lunch with a neighbor missionary, she turned to wave goodbye to the baby in his high chair. His face had a strange expression on it, and he was wriggling back and forth violently. Rosalind ran to her son, fearing something was hurting him. When she lifted his shirt, she discovered his entire back was covered with eighty big lice! (They counted them later.) She immediately stripped the child and put him in a bath.
Some hours later, Rosalind conducted “a council of war” to determine the cause of what had happened. It was learned that, against her orders, the amah had taken the child into a Chinese home nearby. A Chinese teacher then spoke up to reveal further: “We must tell you the truth. It is not an uncommon thing for a woman who is jealous of another’s child to gather all the vermin possible and put it on the little one!”
Rosalind afterward related both her initial reaction and her eventual victorious response to this situation: “Oh, the horror of it! For days I went about simply loathing the thought of getting in close contact with the women again. But as with Mrs. S., divine love conquered, and from that time I felt a love for the women such as I had never realized before. A miracle? Yes, truly, the miracle of divine grace!”
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Rosalind Goforth wrote several inspiring books, including her autobiography Climbing, Memories of a Missionary’s Wife. I believe that volume is no longer in print, but can easily be found online through various used book sources. It is well worth the effort to track down and read the work, in which Rosalind honestly and humbly relates her own beneficial (and oftentimes remarkable) experiences of growing in her relationship with and service of the Lord. Reading that book may very well lead you to read several of her other works, as I have.
Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie