During those early pioneer years, when laying the foundation of the Changte Church, my own weak faith was often rebuked when I saw the results of the simple, child-like faith of our Chinese Christians. Some of those answers to prayer were of such an extraordinary character that, when told in the homeland, even ministers expressed doubts as to their genuineness. But, praise God, I know they are true. Here are two concrete examples.

Li-ming, a warm-hearted, earnest evangelist, owned land some miles north of Chang Te Fu. On one occasion, when visiting the place, he found the neighbors all busy placing around their fields little sticks with tiny flags. They believed this would keep the locusts from eating their grain. All urged Li-ming to do the same, and to worship the locust god, or his grain would be destroyed. Li-ming replied: ‘I worship the one only true God, and I will pray him to keep my grain, that you may know that he only is God’.

The locusts came and ate on all sides of Liming’s grain, but did not touch his. When Mr. Goforth heard this story he determined to get further proof, so he visited the place for himself, and inquired of Li-ming’s heathen neighbors what they knew of the matter. One and all testified that, when the locusts came, their grain was eaten and Li-ming’s was not.

The Lord Jesus once said, after a conflict with unbelief and hypocrisy: “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes”.

Our little Gracie became ill with a terribly fatal disease, so common in malarious districts – enlarged spleen. The doctors pronounced her condition quite hopeless. One day a Chinese Christian woman came in with her little child, of about the same age as our Gracie, and very ill with the same disease. The poor mother was in great distress, for the doctor had told her also that there was no hope. She thought that if we would plead with the doctor he could save her child. At last Mr. Goforth pointed to our little Gracie, saying: ‘Surely, if the doctor cannot save our child, neither can he save yours; your only hope and ours is in the Lord himself’.

The mother was a poor, hard-working, ignorant woman, but she had the simple faith of a little child. Some few weeks later she called again, and told me the following story: ‘When the pastor told me my only hope was in the Lord, I believed him. When I reached home I called my husband, and together we had committed our child into the Lord’s hands. I felt perfectly sure the child would get well, so I did not take more care of him than of a well child. In about two weeks he seemed so perfectly well that I took him to the doctor again, and the doctor said that he could discover nothing the matter with him’.

That Chinese child is now a grown-up, healthy man. And our child died. Yet we had prayed for her as few, perhaps, have prayed for any child. Why, then, was she not spared? I do not know. But I do know that there was in my life, at that time, the sin of bitterness toward another, and an unwillingness to forgive a wrong. This was quite sufficient to hinder any prayer, and did hinder for years, until it was set right.

Does this case of unanswered prayer shake my faith in God’s willingness and power to answer prayer? No, no! My own child might just as reasonably decide never again to come to me with a request because I have, in my superior wisdom, denied a petition. Is it not true, in our human relationships with our children, that we see best to grant at one time what we withhold at another? ‘What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter”.

And one of the most precious experiences of God’s loving mercy came to me in connection with our little Gracie’s death. We had been warned that the end would probably come in convulsions; two of our dear children had been so taken. Only a mother who has gone through such an experience can fully understand the horror of the possibility that such might come again at any time.

One evening I was watching beside our little one, Miss P----- being with me, when suddenly the child said very decidedly: ‘Call Papa; I want to see Papa’. I hesitated to rouse her father, as it was his time to rest; so I tried to put her off with some excuse; but again she repeated her request, and so I called her father, asking him to walk up and down with her until I returned.

Going into the next room I cried in an agony to the Lord not to let Gracie suffer; but, if it was indeed his will to take the child, then to do so without her suffering. As I prayed a wonderful peace came over me, and the promise came so clearly it was as if spoken: ‘Before they call I will answer; and while they are yet speaking I will hear’.

Rising, I was met at the door by Miss P---- who said: ‘Gracie is with Jesus’. While I was on my knees our beloved child, after resting a few moments in her father’s arms, had looked into his face with one of her loveliest smiles, and then quietly closed her eyes and had ceased to breathe. No struggle, no pain, but a ‘falling on sleep’.

“Like as a father pitieth, …. so the Lord pitieth”.


Rosalind Goforth (Mrs Jonathan Goforth)

Missionary in China


From Rosalind Goforth, How I know God answers prayer, Philadelphia, The Sunday School Times Company, 1921, pages 37-41


Rosalind Goforth (1864-1942):


Rosalind Bell-Smith Goforth was born near London, England, and moved with her parents to Montreal, Canada, three years later. Her Dad was an artist, and Rosalind graduated from the Toronto School of Art in 1885. In 1887 she married Jonathan Goforth. They served together as missionaries in China and Manchuria. They were married for forty-nine years and had eleven children (Gertrude, Donald, Paul, Florence, Helen, Grace, Ruth, William, [Amelia] Constance, Mary, and [John] Frederick), five of whom died as babies or very young children. She was the author of How I Know God Answers Prayer (1921), her husband's biography, Goforth of China (1937), and Climbing: Memoirs of a Missionary's Wife (1940).