“Whatever God orders and whatever God guides, he provides. God’s work, done in God’s way, never lacks for God’s supply.”―
We spent a couple of beautiful days in Niagara Falls, the roar of the spring-swollen river hurtling down into the gorge was, as always, awesome in its power. The tourist season was not yet fully underway, the weather warm and dry for the first time in weeks, and the tulips that had been delayed by cold and rain were blooming in all their glory. Perfect timing to make our visit, after several delays and changes in scheduling.
I look back over events in my life, and sometimes wonder about the timing then too, how I found myself in particular places at particular times, in circumstances I certainly did not engineer on my own.
As a child, I wanted to be a missionary. In those days it was considered a noble ambition, offering an exotic taste of adventure, to bring the knowledge of Jesus to the world. Unfortunately, these days we are living its legacy of cultural insensitivity. We knew our God so little that we failed to see that his truth was far wider than our limited experience, and so often killed joy and freedom by the very gospel meant to be good news.
I seem to be on a trail lately, following the story of missionaries who were not at all like that. My curiosity began with a group called Bible Study Fellowship, and the woman who first led it, Audrey Weatherell Johnson. After surviving a Japanese concentration camp in China during the war, she was hindered from returning. She would have been amazed to know that her faithfulness in teaching a small group of women at home would someday have an effect around the world, including China.
Intrigued, remembering another missionary named Eric Liddell also was incarcerated there in a concentration camp, I searched the internet and found information about the China Inland Mission, which included one of its founders, Hudson Taylor. Realizing that his European garb was a hindrance, he decided to dress in the clothing of the Chinese people. Like the apostle Paul, he encountered danger, violence, personal losses. To travel from England to China in those days required approximately months at sea, with all its attendant dangers. He influenced many others who would follow in his footsteps, including Audrey Weatherell Johnson, Eric Liddell, Jim Eliot, and Anne Graham Lotz.
Because I’ve always loved the movie Chariots of Fire, I then read more about Eric Liddell and discovered that his widow Florence was buried in a quiet rural cemetery in Hamilton-Wentworth. On the way to Niagara Falls, we stopped at the site, so far from her life with Eric Liddell, who she married in 1934 in China. She returned with their two small daughters to family in Canada when it became too dangerous to stay there, and their third daughter, who never met her father before his death in a concentration camp, was born here.
We traveled on, and, looking for parking in Niagara on the Lake, we found ourselves by Queen’s Royal Park. It was only by chance we came across this commemorative stone tucked into a inobtrusive corner in that beautiful park downriver from the Falls:
There’s history all around us. Hudson Taylor visited Canada in 1888 and established the China Inland Mission in North America at the Niagara Conference. Hudson Taylor spent 54 years of his life in China, despite all the obstacles and dangers, because his heart was with the Chinese people God loved.
We all have our mission field, though it may seem small and insignificant in comparison. Love of God overflows into love for all his people. Knowledge of God is a treasure to share with courtesy and respect among all peoples. Its essence is grace and mercy and truth, its justice rolls on like a river.