Monday, November 21, 2016

Jonathan Goforth-Fire Rained

By Mary Vee
Year: summer 1888
Jonathan Goforth-29 years old

Jonathan Goforth's Journal

Photo Courtesy Chinese Dai house architecture
with bamboo sides and thatched roof 
My name is Jonathan Goforth. My wife, Rosalind and I are missionaries in China. Well, we're new here and still need to learn the language, but I'd consider that good enough to be called missionaries.

We arrived in Chefoo, a village in northern China where we will study Mandarin. The amount of time we spend here will depend on how quickly we learn the language. Once we have a firm grasp we'll move north to begin our work showing Chinese men and women there is a God who loves them.

I rented us a thatched roofed home, and while Rosalind unpacked, I hired a Mandarin tutor to teach us the language. 

The home was long and narrow and had plenty of space for us to live. I didn't really care where anything was put, I first wanted to learn the language and left the organizing to Rosalind. She took her time, working slow because of her pregnancy, and seemed happy with her work. Our baby would come in August, only a few months away.

I really liked my tutor. He made learning the language easy. Rosalind liked our new home and enjoyed cooking the evening meals. I came home from study one night to a wonderful dinner. As I took the last bite, a loud crowd noise came from outside our front door. 

I opened the door and walked into the street to see what excited the people. Rosalind followed me out. I didn't have to ask anyone. They stood laughing, cheering, and pointing to my roof. Orange flames chewed the back roof sending sparks into the air. Pieces of thatch fell into the house. 

"O God, help us." I glanced at Rosalind who stood frozen with shock in her eyes. "Stay here," I ordered her. "I'm going back in to see what I can rescue."

I didn't have time to think what to save first or second. Who really can answer a question like that in a time of panic. I ran through the living room to our bedroom and grabbed my Bible and the money jar, the two most valuable possessions we had, and rushed through thickening smoke outside. 

It took a moment to find Rosalind in the crowd. I pushed the Bible and jar into her hands. "Hold these, I going back for more."

I sprinted a few steps and heard a ruckus behind me. I looked back and found Rosalind running in circles away from Chinese men who closed in on her. Great. I shouted, "For goodness sake, Rosalind, settle down and hold on to that jar and Bible. They'll steal it right from you."

My tone seemed to snap her from her panic. She stood still and hugged the money jar and Bible close to her.

I ran back in the house. The thick cloud of smoke made seeing nearly impossible. I coughed. My throat and eyes burned. Clumps of burning thatch rained around me. I grabbed the sewing machine and my Mandarin language study notes. The thatch snapped and crackled louder. In seconds the roof would surely collapse. I couldn't save anything else and get out alive. 

I ran outside, coughing and kneeling to the ground to catch my breath. Rosalind curled next to me with the Bible and jar still cradled in her arms. We sat on the ground, together, and watch everything we owned fizzle in flames. All our wedding presents, a portrait of Rosalind's father that he painted himself, her mother's china, a shawl for the coming baby hand knitted by her sister, our clothes. 

We had almost nothing left.

I coughed a few more times then turned to Rosalind. My wife of less than a year. This beautiful woman who willingly came to China to help me with missionary work. I wrapped my arm around her and hugged her. The poor thing needed a soft word. "Don't worry. Those were just things. We have each other and the baby."

She touched her belly and found her smile.

That night we stayed at the China Inland Mission boarding school. We bathed and had fresh clothes given to us. The missionaries living there helped us so much. 

The next morning we walked back to our home and found nothing left but a pile of ashes. Rosalind stood there silently. I had to think of something to cheer her up. So I said the first silly thing that came to mind: "Huh, remember how we tried to figure out a way to bring that beautiful organ with us and couldn't come up with a good answer? Good thing we had it shipped."

She looked at me with raised eyebrows. "You are so weird. It's going to be a long time before I can see good in strange things like you can, Jonathan Goforth."

Well, at least she smiled. Talk about a dramatic start to our ministry! No way would I let this tragedy even spark an idea of quitting.

Two weeks later we moved out of the boarding school into a second home ready to get back to work.

Jonathan has many stories to share. Come back each Monday to find out what happened next.

Resources Used for This Series
Being, Janet, and Geoff Benge. Jonathan Goforth: An Open Door in China. Seattle. WA: YWAM Pub., 2001.Print
Doyle, G. Wright. Builders of the Chinese Church: Pioneer Protestant Missionaries and Chinese Church Leaders. Eugene Oregon: Pickwick Pub, 2015. Print.
Goforth, Jonathan, and Rosaline Goforth, Miracle Lives of China, London" Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1931, Print.
Goforth, Jonathan. "By My Spirit" Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1942. Print
Goforth, Rosalind. Climbing; Memories of a Missionary's Wife. Chicago: Moody Pub, n.d. Print
Goforth, Rosalind, How I Know God Answers Prayers; The Personal Testimony of One Life-time, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1921. Print
Goforth, Rosalind. Jonathan Goforth. Minneapolis, MN: Bethan House, 1986. Print
Goforth, Rosalind, How God Answers Prayer: The Mighty Miracles of God from the Mission Field of Jonathan Goforth. USA: Revival, 2016. Print Original copyright not stated.
Jackson, Dave, and Neta Jackson. Mask of the Wolf Boy: Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1999. Print.
McCleary, Walter. An Hour with Jonathan Goforth: A Biography. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1938. Print.
Meloche, Renee Taft., and Bryan Pollard. Jonathan Goforth: Never Give up. Seattle, WA: YWAM, 2004. Print.


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