Hudson Taylor's Thoughts
We continued to sail toward Africa, with periodic problems.
I now understand why the journey by sea from England to China took months. The wind. Should a breeze fail to fill the sail, the ship sat like a child, refusing to move.
We lost a lot of time near the equator waiting for even a puff of wind then sailed swiftly around the Cape of Good Hope of Africa and on to the Archipelago where we slowed again. Eventually our ship, the Dumfries, captured enough wind to transport us to the northern coast of Papua, New Guinea.
It was a Sunday morning during a church service I held on deck when the next problem poked up its ugly head. The captain left his seat several times and walked to the rail, He stared at the sea for a few minutes then returned to his seat. I didn't understand the problem.
After services I went to him. "You seem concerned."
"The Dumfries could tolerate sitting in the sea waiting for a wind to tickle the sails, but she cannot survive a demanding drift." He walked to the rail and pointed in the direction of the coast. "Between sunset and sunrise these last few days, the wind has touched the sails, no more. It's kept the ship from sliding toward the coast, somewhat."
"What do you mean, somewhat?"
"Each day the drift carries us closer to land than the wind pushed us away. We're losing position with this four knot current and are doomed to hit sunken reefs before the this evening's breeze comes."
He didn't stand around.The captain usually had a new idea. After lunch he sent all available crew members into the long boats to tug the bow away from the current's course. The men used every bit of muscle and failed.
After hours of trying, the captain ordered the long boats stowed. He shook his head while staring out at the sea. "We've done everything possible. Now we wait for what is to come."
I looked at the sea with him. I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but an idea popped into my head. "There is something we can do. There are four Christians on board. Lets each go to our own cabins and ask God to bring a wind, immediately."
"Agreed. You set it up, I'll head to my cabin." His words may have said yes, but his face and shoulders didn't show he believed it would do any good.
"I will, Captain."
I spoke with the other three Christians. Each man went to his cabin and closed the door to pray alone. After only a few minutes, I sensed God's decision to send the saving wind. Why stay in my cabin? I wanted to watch God at work. I went up on deck and asked the first officer to lower the sails for the coming breeze.
He looked at me as if I had gone crazy. "What good is that? There isn't a breeze."
"Well, I and three other men, including the captain have been praying for the needed wind, so please drop the sails. We can't loose any time with the reefs close by."
"I'd rather see a wind then hear of it!" As the words tumbled out his mouth he glanced up at the royal sails.
I looked with him. The corner of the sail moved. "See! The breeze is coming. Lower the sails."
He rolled his eyes. "Its only a cat's paw." A cat's paw is a puff of wind.
"What does that matter? Let the sails down to capture any wind coming our way."
He finally saw the logic and ordered sails to be lowered. The crew's running on the deck captured the captain's attention. He appeared on deck in seconds to see what had happened. He gazed up at the sails filling with wind. Moments later the ship moved at six or seven knots an hour away from the reefs.
Since I'd never sailed before, I hadn't fully realized the dangers of no wind for a ship. This has shown me to pray for every need...even a puff of wind.
J. Hudson Taylor
Missionary on My Way to China
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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Research resources: J. Hudson Taylor, An Autobiography by J. Hudson Taylor; It is Not Death to Die, a new biography of Hudson Taylor by Jim Cromarty; Hudson Taylor Founder, China Inland Mission by Vance Christie; J. Hudson Taylor, A Man in Christ, by Roger Steer, and Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret by dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor.