On this day in 1888, Jonathan Goforth and his new wife of only three months, Rosalind, set sail for China.
While Jonathan attended Knox College in Toronto preparing to go to China, Rosalind was at the Toronto School of Art, preparing to be an artist like her father. But Rosalind was never truly satisfied with her life. In her own words, she described the inner struggle:
From that time, and increasingly as the years passed, there seemed to be two elements contesting within me, one for art, the other—an intense longing to serve the Master to whom I had given myself. In the early part of 1885, when still in my twentieth year, I began to pray that if the Lord wanted me to marry, He would lead to me one wholly given up to Him and to His service. I wanted no other.
But since Rosalind never found a man, she continued on her art career. She finished her schooling in Toronto and began preparations to go to London to further her education. But just weeks before she left, she went to a meeting at a mission to play the organ. Here, she found a man who had a heart, commitment, and love for the Lord: Jonathan Goforth. For the next two years, Jonathan and Rosalind spent time together and worked together at different missions across Toronto. In the end of October of 1887, they were married. In February, they set sail for China.
This young couple, completely sold out to God, would see God use them in a might way. When they arrived, they made their home in the northern Henan Province, which was to be their home for decades to come. They faced hardships and challenges, trials and temptations, but they continued to look to the one who sent them. Slowly, the work grew. But all this time, the Lord was simply molding and preparing his servants for the great task that was ahead.
By the end of his life, Jonathan was leading revival meetings all over China. Often he would preach for eight hours a day, to crowds of up to 25,000 people. Thousands of sinners experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and multitudes of Christians were awakened to a more vital relationship with God. The meetings were often characterized by public confession of sin and repentance.
The Goforths were some of the greatest missionaries of their time. But they never forgot their beginning. They knew they were really nobodies and that it was simply the spirit of God working through them. Whenever someone would praise the work the Goforths were doing and elevate them to a high level, Jonathan would smile and tell this little story:
Friends, if you and I take glory to ourselves which belongs only to God, we are as foolish as the woodpecker about which I shall tell you. A certain woodpecker flew up to the top of a high pine tree and gave three hard pecks on the side of the tree as woodpeckers are wont to do. At that instant a bolt of lightning struck the tree, leaving it on the ground, a heap of splinters. The woodpecker had flown to a tree nearby where it clung in terror and amazement at what had taken place. There it hung expecting more to follow, but as all remained quiet it began to chuckle to itself saying, “Well, well, well. Who would have imagined that just three pecks of my beak could have such power as that!