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It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

1. This week we were able to enjoy the fellowship of a family temporarily here until their immigration papers come through to serve in ministry elsewhere. It was a blessing to get to know them a little this week. We’ve also had a fellow minister and occasional teacher at the college staying with us this week. He is a blessing to our family in every way and we always enjoy having him in our home.

2.Freshly returned from their honeymoon to Rome, our daughter and son-in-law regaled us with stories of their travels and explorations of the City of the Seven Hills at our weekly family night dinner. It was so much fun to discuss special places we discovered on our visit there a few years ago and learn what’s the same and what has changed.

3.This week I began rereading some of my missionary biography collection. I was looking to source a quotation which I thought was from Amy Carmichael’s God’s Missionary and ended up reading the whole thing. It’s a booklet, so not hard or long to read, but Amy Carmichael’s writing tends to be introspective and somewhat mystical so it requires some contemplation, evaluation, and simplification when reading her works. I did not find the quote I was looking for so began perusing Elisabeth Elliot’s work on Amy Carmichael, A Chance to Die. Still haven’t found my quote, but I shall persevere! (Ahem * Grumpy Grammar Lady reminds you that this word is pronounced “per-se-vere.” Do not be bamboozled, hornswoggled, or flimflammed into saying “per-ser-vere.” There is no ‘r’ in the second syllable of persevere. But I digress…)

4.Someday some smart researcher will be able to definitively explain why cloudy days and stormy weather make some of us ache physically (my arthritis and fibromyalgia yell at me when it’s cloudy outside!) or feel down mentally. We’ve had a few of those days this week. I am grateful for every clear and sunny day and the positive influence they have on my outlook. More sunny days coming! Sunday is the first day of Spring.

5.I am grateful for brothers and sisters in Christ who willingly discuss thorny theological issues and controversial topics without judgement, but with an understanding that our mutual goal in any such discussion is to be made more conformed to the image of Christ.

I didn’t get much photography practice this week, but did get a few gloomy day pics of rural Alberta on Saturday.

Near Beaumont 2 Near Beaumont 5 Near Beaumont 7

What were some of your blessings this week?

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Old books, new treasures

While organizing my missionary books I came across a small volume (about 3” x 5”) entitled Missionary Daily Text Book, published by The Religious Tract Society. There is no author or compiler listed nor publication date, though by the looks of the binding, endpapers, and pages it was probably printed in the late 1800’s.

The book has entries for each day of the year and highlights missionary themed scriptures and quotes along with notable missionary events for each date.  I’d like to share a few entries from this week.

The Judsons

February 19 – Adoniram Judson sailed for India, 1812. Mark 10:27 With God all things are possible.

Judson and his wife Ann sailed for India, but God redirected them to Burma (modern Myanmar) where they endured privation, suspicion, false accusation, imprisonment, starvation, the death of children, and finally the death of Ann.

Bud God allowed the translation of the Scriptures to survive and eventually many Burmese were won to Christ.  Our friend pastors a church in Calgary where a number of the Karen tribe from Burma worship.  They trace their spiritual ancestry back to relatives who were won to Christ by the work of the Judsons.

Longfellow poem

February 21 – Longfellow poem (taken from Hymn for My Brother’s Ordination)
And evermore beside him on his way
The unseen Christ shall move,
That he may lean upon His arm and say
Dost Thou, dear Lord, approve?

James Gilmour and Mtesa – Answers to prayer  EmilyPrankard411px-Gilmourjames

February 22 – James Gilmour sails for China, 1870
Mtesa’s request for missionaries given through H. M. Stanley    

James Gilmour was used of God to share the gospel in China and Mongolia.  His had the blessing of ministering with Mr. and Mrs. Meech, but longed for a companion – a wife – to share in his life. Not having any prospects nearby, he asked God to clearly direct and provide a wife.  His coworkers opened their lives to him and often read letters from home to the bachelor.  After seeing a picture of Mrs. Meech’s sister, and hearing her letters read in his company, James, having never meet Emily, decided to write and ask for her hand in marriage.  She accepted and God gave them a number of years of joyful marriage and ministry together in Asia.

Mtesa was the King (or Emperor) of Uganda who was converted to Christ.  He sent a message back with H.M. Stanley (of Stanley and Livingstone fame) to send more missionaries.  God blessed that request by calling a number of missionaries to Africa.

The view from history

Sometimes in obeying God’s leading we feel like failures or as if we are wasting our time.  Nothing is happening!  God does not seem to be answering our prayers!  We’re enduring such opposition!  These entries remind us that sometimes we don’t see immediate answers to prayer in our spiritual efforts.   It is essential that we walk with God, obey His direction for each of our lives, and leave the results with Him.  History will better display the eternal effectiveness of our Christian labors than what we are able to observe in the here and now.

photos: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EmilyPrankard.jpg; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gilmourjames.jpg

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Reading about Gladys

This past week I have been reading the books from my library about Gladys Aylward.  I’m working on a series of missionary stories Gladys Aylwardfor kids, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but am realizing I won’t always be able to whip out a story a week as I had hoped.  Though I am using only the books from my own personal library as source material, I have multiple books on some of the missionaries and it takes time to read or re-read these books.

So many books, so little time

I have read seven books and three articles on Gladys this past week and have two more books to go. One of the benefits of doing this concentrated reading on one subject is that you can understand the person from more than one perspective.  I love seeing how God uses such a wide diversity of people to accomplish His purposes!

Gladys loved God

So what have I learned from reading about Gladys Aylward?  I have been reminded that it is not education, station in life or natural giftedness that God is looking for.  Gladys was a terrible student and may have possibly had a learning disability.  She was from a working class family and was unremarkable in appearance and abilities.  But she loved her God and obeyed His leading. Her friends thought she was crazy, the mission board she wanted to work under rejected her, and most in her circle of acquaintances thought she was irresponsible for heading off to serve God in China with little more than her certainty that God wanted her there.

Child-like faith

Over and over again in her life Gladys demonstrated sincere child-like faith in God and His abilities.  And over and over again God proved Himself faithful to Gladys.  Her story is remarkable and I have been blessed by reading it.  And remember, her God is our God and He is the same today as He was in her lifetime.

So I will soldier on reading my Aylward books and hopefully soon write a kid’s missionary story as well as an overview of her life for adults.  Thanks for sticking with me!!

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A godly family

William Waddell was born in Scotland in the mid-1800’s.  His parents loved God, helped in the church, and taught young William William Waddell 001about God and the Bible.  William’s mother loved to read missionary stories and eagerly retold them to her children.

Quiet and humble

William had a sensitive nature and was very quiet and humble.  He did not feel comfortable playing rough games with the other boys and they often made fun of him because of it.

William could build and fix things

Sickness kept William from attending school regularly.  He was not a very good student, but he was very good at figuring out how machines worked.  He spent many quiet hours in his workshop building with wood and rebuilding mechanical things. Neighbors soon learned that William had the exceptional skill of understanding how machines worked.  They brought their broken machines to William and he was happy to repair as many of them as he could.

Good, but still a sinner

William liked to be good, but just like everyone else he was a sinner.  At age fifteen he asked Jesus to save him from his sin.  Jesus did save him and will save you or anyone else who asks.

God made it clear that He wanted William to be a missionary in Africa.  But the boy wondered if that could ever be possible since he wasn’t smart like other young people and had such a hard time studying from books.

In those days someone who was not good at studying from books could be apprenticed to a tradesman who would teach him a specific skill.  William was apprenticed to a joiner, a type of carpenter, and became very good at his work.

To finish his apprenticeship William was sent to a ship building company.  The other men who worked there were crude and ungodly.  They did not like the young man’s quietness or his faith in God.  Many of them taunted and threatened William as he worked.

William stands up for God

But even though William was a quiet person, he was not afraid to stand up for God in front of these men.  God gave him a quiet confidence and helped him to know how to answer the mocking words.

One day William saw an advertisement looking for workers to build a church in South Africa.  He answered the ad and soon left for his new job.  Maybe God would lead him to missionary work once he was in Africa!

William settled in to his work and joined a local church.  Hi pastor became a close friend.  One day William’s pastor told him about a missionary nearby named Francois Coillard who was praying for a godly man to work with him.  He particularly wanted someone who could build and repair things.

A missionary in Africa

When the missionary met William he saw a quiet frail-looking man.  He was not sure the young man knew how hard the work would be in remote African areas.  “Do not come unless you are certain God is calling you to this work.”  But William was absolutely certain God wanted him to help the Coillards.   He was thrilled that God gave him exactly the right skills that the missionary group needed!

The missionaries traveled north to begin work in the area now called Zambia.  Sickness, tribal wars, bad weather, rough roads, and wild animals made it hard for them to travel quickly.  Finally they arrived!  William was able to begin building houses and other buildings for the mission station. Soon he was not only building, but making the tools they needed and repairing almost any tool, machine, or vehicle that broke.

Showing God’s love

The African people there had never heard of Jesus and did not seem interested when Mr. Coillard preached and taught them.  But a wonderful thing happened.  The young men who helped William cut down trees and build things were impressed with the quiet man’s bravery and skills.  As time went on he was able to show them God’s love.  These boys began to listen and some asked Jesus to save them from their sins.

William was very happy in his work and he and Francois became close friends.  Both men loved God and God used the different abilities of each man to establish a mission station.  These men showed the love of God to the Africans in many ways.  Because the African people saw that they were loved and not just preached at, some were willing to listen to the gospel and become Christians.

Back in Scotland but not forgotten

After many years of serving God in Africa, William became ill with a tropical disease.  The disease made him so sick he had to return to Scotland where he was told he would never get better.  The last years of his life William could no longer be with his beloved African friends.  But God’s work continued in Zambia and his friends and helpers never forgot the quiet man who could build anything and who showed them the love of God by the way he lived.

Verse: Isaiah 30:15 In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.

Ten Questions for young readers:

  1. What kind of a person was William?
  2. Was William a good student?
  3. What did he spend time doing?
  4. Was William a sinner?
  5. Where did God want William to serve as a missionary?
  6. Was he afraid to stand up for God when other people mocked him?
  7. What does it mean to be an apprentice?
  8. Do you have to be a preacher to be a missionary?
  9. How did God use William on the mission field?
  10. What did William show the African people that helped them want to be Christians?

Bibliography: MacConnachie, Rev. John.  An Artisan Missionary on the Zambesi:  The Story of William Thomson Waddell.  Edinburgh and London:  Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1910.

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Missionary Stories for Kids are written for preschoolers or young readers and are suitable for family devotions, Bible clubs, or Sunday School.

Jennie Atkinson was a shy girl

Jennie Atkinson was a shy, timid girl who lived a long time ago. When she was very little her mama died and her new stepmother OldDesignShop_OscarPletschShynessloved her and took care of her. But one day her stepmother also died and soon Jennie’s father was going to marry again.  For some reason that Jennie did not understand, her father and his new wife decided to send eight-year-old Jennie away to be adopted by some distant cousins. “What is wrong with me that my own father does not want to keep me?” Jennie asked herself. 

The child was sent away alone on a big train. Before she left her father placed a nametag on her coat so the conductor would know her name and the train stop where she was going. Jennie got on the big train and left everyone and everything that was familiar to her.

The train conductor helped her get off at the right station. Jennie squinted as she stepped off the dark train into the bright sun. She looked around and waited expectantly but no one was there to meet a little girl.  Now she felt even more alone and insecure.  She waited as the depot agent contacted her cousin who finally came to pick her up after a long wait.

Would anyone ever really want little Jennie?

Jennie’s cousin and his wife were kind to her but they were very surprised that this little girl had been sent to them.  There must have been some mistake.  They were willing to adopt one of Jennie’s brothers, but they had not wanted a girl.  After talking it over they decided to keep her, but Jennie knew they were disappointed.  Would anyone ever really want little Jennie?

A few years passed when one day Jennie read in the newspaper that her very own father was going to be in a nearby town as a special speaker.  Oh how excited she was that she could see her father again!

After the lecture she went up front with other well-wishers to speak to her father. He reached out to shake her hand and casually asked, “Whose little girl are you?”  Jennie’s own father did not even know who she was.  How lonely and abandoned she felt!

God will never leave us or forsake us

But God was working in Jennie’s life and she opened her heart to the Great Heavenly Father Who would never leave her or forsake her.  She confessed her sins and asked Christ to save her.  Soon she began to understand that God was leading her to be a missionary to China.

After graduating from college Jennie was qualified to be a teacher.  She began teaching at a small school near her cousin’s home and was in charge of a Sunday School class of children.  She knew God had spoken to her about serving Him as a missionary in China but in spite of her love of teaching, she was timid and afraid at the thought of going to such a distant country as China.

Finally some leaders in her church asked for several highly-trained unmarried women to volunteer to work as missionaries in China.  God again whispered to Jennie that He wanted her to serve Him in China, and Jennie said “Yes” to God’s call.

The first time she saw a Chinese person was when she traveled to the west coast to meet the boat traveling to China.  Jennie was so shy and fearful she could not even speak to the man!  Soon she was aboard the ship that was taking her to China, but Jennie still struggled with timidity, insecurity, and fear.  How could she help the Chinese learn about Jesus if she was this shy?

Going to China

The ship docked in Shanghai where missionaries and Chinese Christians greeted the ladies with such kindness and warmth that Jennie no longer felt afraid.  She looked around at the thousands of people crowding the docks and streets of Shanghai.  Her heart was overflowing with compassion as she saw the Chinese people surrounding her. These dear Chinese needed Christ and God would help her tell them.

Chinese people find western names strange and hard to pronounce.  The Chinese place the surname first.  Where we would say Jane Doe, they would say *Doe Jane.  Jennie was given the name Kyung, which means gold.  Her first name became Tsung-sung, meaning Arouse-Music.  So Jennie Atkinson was now named Miss Kyung Tsung-sung or Miss Gold Arouse-Music!

Virginia Atkinson (Jennie)The Chinese language is intricate and complicated but it needed to be learned in in order to communicate with the Chinese people around her.   God gave Jennie the idea to learn Chinese like she had learned music – using rhythm and tones.  Because of this she became conversant in the Chinese language much more quickly than her fellow missionaries.

As her language skills improved Jennie was able to visit the different schools she was in charge of and teach the children hymns.  Her students loved her and soon she was invited to visit their homes where she could practice speaking Chinese with her students and their families.

Loved by her Chinese family

Over time many students came to know the Lord and became Bible-teaching women, pastors, school teachers and church leaders.  God used Jennie to help establish a church, to build many schools and to arrange training for many pastors and teachers.

Jennie’s students loved her and her shy ways and accepted both her and her teaching.  They could tell that she loved them and wanted to help them.  When Jennie returned to America for furlough her Chinese friends and family wept and begged her to ‘come back home’ soon.  She finally realized that God provided a home for her among the Chinese people she was called to serve.

Bible verse

Verse:  Hebrews 13:5 I will never leave you nor forsake you (based on Deuteronomy 31:6)

Ten questions for young readers:

  1. What does the word timid mean?
  2. What happened to young Jennie that made her feel unwanted?
  3. Who will never leave or forsake us?
  4. What job did Jennie train for?
  5. Where did God want Jennie to go as a missionary?
  6. Who would help Jennie tell the Chinese people about Jesus?
  7. What language was Jennie able to learn quickly?
  8. Where did God finally provide a home for Jennie?
  9. Can God use shy people to be missionaries?
  10. Where was Jennie’s true home and family?

Bibliography:  White, Mary Culler.  Just Jennie:  The Life Story of Virginia M. Atkinson.  Atlanta:  Tupper and Love, 1955.

*Suggestion:  When reading this to your children substitute the child’s name for Jane Doe.

Clip art from http://olddesignshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/OldDesignShop_OscarPletschShyness.jpg

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20130720_200311 - CopyGod’s provision

Years ago God gave me the opportunity to purchase second-hand missionary biographies very inexpensively.  We had a wonderful used book store in our city run by two retired sisters who had formerly served as missionaries in Africa.  Their burden was to get good resources into the hands of local pastors.  News spread, books were donated, and many, including my husband and I, were blessed and helped in ministry because of these dear ladies.

Church library

As a child I ransacked our church library and read as many missionary books as possible.  I loved reading about people from all walks of life, with all kinds of personalities, and many different skills and hindrances whom the Lord used to spread the gospel across the world.

Gleaning gems

When I learned that the used bookstore carried not only commentaries, but also biographies, I was thrilled.  Initially when I visited the bookstore I would stand and stare at the hundreds of missionary titles and wonder how to separate what was good from what was fluff.  A dear missionary mentor, Bettie Dreisbach, helped guide me in my selections.  She told me that reading missionary books was like mining for precious gems; sometimes you would come away with a gem or two, but sometimes you would glean a whole vault of gems from these books.

Family devotions

My husband and I had family devotions with our five children and would often read missionary stories in conjunction with Bible reading.  My husband would stop mid sentence at an exciting part or give a dramatic pause and finish with a cliff hanger so the kids would squirm in their seats and beg him to read more.  We discovered some good biographies written for youth, but not many written for preschoolers and very young readers, and so we compromised and edited as we read to keep our children’s attention.

Missionary stories for toddlers

A couple of years ago I was challenged by some friends, young couples with small children, to use my missionary books as references to write missionary stories for young children.  Tomorrow will be the first in what I hope will be a long series of stories written with my grandchildren and other toddlers in mind.  If you use these in family devotions or to teach your children, please pass on any feedback so that I can improve and refine the process as I write.

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Rose from Brier

Amy Carmichael was an invalid the last twenty years of her missionary life.  She wrote Rose from Brier – a collection of thoughts 7-13-10 The Garrique roses 9and lessons from one sufferer to another.  She understood suffering – it was her lot in life for over twenty years.

I have been reading this book and sharing some of the wonderful poetry and thoughts with Louise as she continues her fight with cancer.  Maybe these words will bless and encourage others who are suffering.

My grace is sufficient

From chapter 3 in the book:

“Hardly a life that goes deep but has tragedy somewhere within it; what would such do without Job?  And who could spare from his soul’s hidden history the great words spoken to St. Paul, My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness?  Such words lead straight to a land where there is gold, and the gold of that land is good.

I shall come forth as gold

Gold – the word recalls Job’s affirmation, When He hath tried me I shall come forth as gold; and St. Peter’s The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire;  and the quiet word in Malachi, He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.  I have often thanked God that the word is not gold there, but silver.  Silver is of little account in the East, and we feel more like silver than gold.  But He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, so who need fear?

How do you know when it is purified?   Melting_crucible.jpg large

This picture of the Refiner is straight from Eastern life.  The Eastern goldsmith sits on the floor by his crucible.  For me, at least, it was not hard to know why the Heavenly Refiner had to sit so long.  The heart knows its own dross.  Blessed be the love that never wearies, never gives up hope that even in such poor metal He may at last see the reflection of His face.  “How do you know when it is purified?” we asked our village goldsmith.  “When I can see my face in it,” he answered.”

Can others see Christ in us, even in our sufferings?

Maintain a constant victory

This poem is from a beginning chapter titled ‘The Rose’

Before the winds that blow do cease,
Teach me to dwell within Thy calm;
Before the pain has passed in peace,
Give me, my God, to sing a psalm.
Let me not lose the chance to prove
The fullness of enabling love.
O Love of God, do this for me:
Maintain a constant victory.

Before I leave the desert land
For meadows of immortal flowers,
Lead me where streams at Thy command
Flow by the borders of the hours,
That when the thirsty come, I may
Show them the fountains in the way.
O Love of God, do this for me:                                                                                                                                                                                                          Maintain a constant victory.

crucible picture credit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Melting_crucible.jpg

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