Monday, January 9, 2017

Jonathan Goforth-Figuring Out How to Blend In With the Chinese

By Mary Vee
Year: fall 1889
Jonathan Goforth-30 years old

Jonathan Goforth's Journal

My name is Jonathan Goforth. My wife, Rosalind and I are missionaries in China. 

I have a decent enough grasp of the language to survive and to preach. I'm getting better at learning the culture and idioms, too, you know, the sayings and jokes that people living in one area understand. 

People even dress slightly different from place to place.I know, pictures from the time I'm living here, the 1890's, show most common Chinese people dressing the same. Both men and women wearing long, plain shirts over simple pants. Actually, the dress did vary a bit in different places.

Rosalind and I had been assigned to a northern region called Honan along with Donald Macgillivray. Three other new missionary couples arrived to help us. While the new ones spent their days studying, I set out to see the region. I wanted to know where other Christians might be, what the cities looked like, and along the way, tell the people I met about the God who loved them.

The biggest problem I saw was the fear and anger Chinese people had for what they called foreign devils. It didn't matter where the person was from, if they weren't Chinese the person would be called a foreign devil. 

I had read Hudson Taylor's books and decided he had a great idea. Dress like the people. I bought clothing for Rosalind and myself. We changed our hair and practiced walking like Chinese. We ate Chinese food and did activities like they did as long as the activities did involve worshiping idols. 

Some of the new missionaries who came treated the work like a vacation. They wanted to be carried around on sedans (the chairs on poles), or ride on donkeys and pay servants to wait on them. This didn't make any sense to me and showed me these men and women were not true missionaries.

I made a rule to fix the problem. Any missionary who came with me would: 1. walk five miles toward the next destination before stopping for a simple breakfast; 2. buy a simple wheelbarrow to carry the Bibles and other books we needed and pay a local a good wage to push it; 3. walk eight to ten hours in one day scouting the region for needs; 4. stay in the cheapest inns to cut down costs. With these savings, we toured the region for only fifty cents a day, and I knew who was wiling to live a life of sacrifice to tell Chinese about the God who loved them.

The inns along the way had one large heated surface for travelers to share for sleeping. I paid for my space then, while the other missionaries rested, found a spot where men and women travelers could gather. I started telling them a Bible story. Gradually the travelers gathered around me to hear the story. When I finished, I taught them about the God who loved them. After about an hour and a half, one of the missionaries who came with me got up from his rest and took over. At this time, I drank and took off my boots to rest.

I really felt like I was blending in with the Chinese people. Learning their ways. They listened to what I said and didn't yell at me. 

Yes, this is good.

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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  1. Mary! This is great! It is so wonderful to hear of some of the other Chinese missionaries whom God used to spread the Good News!! I am in the process of completing some script work for the production on Gladys Aylward's life. If you find yourself traveling in late April, let me know! Would love for you to see it. I will be using some of your research, per our previous conversation, to aid in that writing! May you continue to be RICHLY blessed for GOD's glory in your work!!

    1. Natalia, I would love to see the production. email me with details: Seriously. I will create a trip to be there.


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