Emily, wife of America’s first foreign missionary, Adoniram Judson, wrote home from Moulmein, Burma, in January 1847:
“This taking care of teething babies, and teaching natives to darn stockings and talking English back end foremost … in order to get an eatable dinner, is really a very odd sort of business for Fanny Forester [her penname-she was a well-known New England writer before marrying Judson] …. But I begin to get reconciled to my minute cares.” She was ambitious for ”higher and better things,” but was enabled to learn that “the person who would do great things well must practice daily on little ones; and she who would have the assistance of the Almighty in important acts, must be daily and hourly accustomed to consult His will in the minor affairs of life.”
About eighty years ago, when James 0. Fraser was working as a solitary missionary in Tengyueh Southwest China, his situation was, “in every sense, ‘against the grain.”‘ He did not enjoy housekeeping and looking after premises. He found the houseboy irritable and touchy, constantly quarreling with the cook. Endless small items of business cluttered up the time he wanted for language study, and he was having to learn to be “perpetually inconvenienced” for the sake of the gospel. He wrote after some weeks alone:
“I am finding out that it is a mistake to plan to get through a certain amount of work in a certain time. It ends in disappointment, besides not being the right way to go about it, in my judgment. It makes one impatient of interruptions and delay. Just as you are nearly finishing – somebody comes along to sit with you and have a chat! You might hardly think it possible to be impatient and put out where there is such an opportunity for presenting the Gospel–but it is. It may be just on mealtime, or you are writing a letter to catch the mail, or you were just going out for needed exercise before tea. But the visitor has to be welcomed, and I think it is well to cultivate an attitude of mind which will enable one to welcome him from the heart and at any time. ‘No admittance except on business’ scarcely shows a true missionary spirit.”
There is nothing like the biographies of great Christians to give us perspective and help us to keep spiritual balance. Here are two well worth reading. It was J.O. Fraser who so inspired Jim Elliot with missionary vision that Jim decided he would name his first son after him. The above quotations are from Courtney Anderson: To the Golden Shore, Zondervan, p. 473; and Eileen Crossman: Mountain Rain, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, pp. 32, 33.
One more quotation – this from an out-of-print book, The Life and Letters off Janet Erskine Stuart: Says one who was her assistant for some years, “She delighted in seeing her plans upset by unexpected events, saying that it gave her great comfort, and that she looked on such things as an assurance that God was watching over her stewardship, was securing the accomplishment of His will, and working out His own designs. Whether she traced the secondary causes to the prayer of a child, to the imperfection of an individual, to obstacles arising from misunderstandings, or to interference of outside agencies, she was joyfully and graciously ready to recognize the indication of God’s ruling hand, and to allow herself to be guided by it.”
This excerpt was orginally published in the May/June 1988 Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter.