Monday, December 12, 2016

Jonathan Goforth-I Spoke Chinese and My Words Made Sense

By Mary Vee
Year: summer 1889
Jonathan Goforth-30 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. 

This is the third week of Advent for you, Reader. A time to remember what God has done for us and taught us. That is exactly what I plan to do, today.

Last week, I told you about the terrible outbreak of dysentery here in northern China. Rosalind is still very ill, but the doctors says she should recover. She's sleeping a lot and when she's awake nurses are caring for her. While she rests I use the time to study and practice. 

As a thirty-year-old man, I wouldn't have thought learning a language to be that difficult especially when the person really wanted to learn and the person lived in the country. My survival is dependent on learning this language. I've practiced when shopping, or dressing, or eating, or doing anything. I only speak English when I can't figure out the Chinese word...which seems to be a lot of the time.

I came to China a year before Donald McGillivray, my best friend from Knox College. We met up for a short time at a mission and were both being sent to serve in northern China. But because we had more to move to our next location, Donald went ahead. After my baby girl, Gertrude died of dysentery, Donald helped me take her back to the mission for her burial. I was so thankful for his friendship, especially since Rosalind was too sick to go. So much happened to Rosalind and me in a short time. Our first house in China had burned to the ground, we lost all our possessions, later we lost our baby Gertrude to dysentery, and we didn't have any family in China to share our sorrow. Donald helped both Rosalind and me more than we could have hoped.

After the funeral, Donald and I hurried back to Linching, where Rosalind was under medical care. I honestly didn't know if she would still be alive or not. My heart was so broken. I prayed for her the entire two days it took to sail back. 

I must admit my sorrow hampered me from learning Chinese. I tried so hard, but nothing I did seemed to help the words stick in my head. On top of this, Donald picked up the language quickly and had learned more than me...with one less year of study. 

Of course, to add to my embarrassment, when chapel time came, Donald and I took turns reading Scriptures and explaining the passage to local Chinese people. He went first then walked to his seat as I stood for my turn. The Chinese people begged me to sit back down and Donald to come back. I don't know, they said something like they could understand Donald better.

In truth, I couldn't blame them. I knew Donald spoke Chinese better than I did. What I didn't understand was how it happened. I studied just as hard as he did, maybe harder. I practiced. But if I couldn't master the language what kind of missionary would I make?

Several months passed by with me spending long hours studying. I didn't like when even the nicest Chinese person. who sat patiently while I bumbled my words, couldn't understand me. 

The walk to the chapel took me about twenty minutes. That morning I prayed the entire way, asking God to help me understand the language. I didn't beg or plea or want to be better than Donald, I just asked God to give me understanding so I could be His witness in China.

At the chapel, I stood when my turn came to read the Scriptures. I read them and paused. Words appeared in my head. Sentences formed. All in clear Chinese. I couldn't believe what I heard me say. I looked at the Chinese people and saw them listening. They didn't have confused looks on their faces. They understood my words!

When I finished, I stepped away and Donald stood. The audience shouted for him to stay seated and for me to keep teaching.

I couldn't wait to go home and tell Rosalind my news. I spoke Chinese and my words made sense! 

I felt like a little child who just received the best Christmas gift ever.

Thank you, Jesus.

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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