“[Abraham] went out, without knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8
I used to have a sign beside our front door which said, “Don’t ask God to guide your footsteps if you aren’t willing to move your feet.” It reminded me that God will show us where to go, but we must be in motion. Someone who is standing still cannot be led.
Abraham didn’t know where he was going until he got there, and God said, “This is the place I’m going to give you.”
When the Israelites prepared to leave Egypt they knew they were going to the Promised Land, but they didn’t know how. Many miracles resulted in the Egyptians giving them everything they wanted, and the Israelites found themselves standing beside the Red Sea, with the Egyptian army closing in on them. And God parted the sea! Amazing! He led them in a visible way with the tower of cloud by day and the tower of fire by night.
I love these kind of beginnings. Many Christian biographies and memoirs start similarly. God places a longing in someone’s heart for a particular place or work. He then works miracles to get that person into exactly the right place to begin the work. They meet just the right person, in a city of millions. Money is raised, slowly and faithfully over time, then suddenly all at once it is enough. Roadblocks and red tape vanish without human effort. What miracles did God work in the beginnings of your overseas story?
I believe these miracles are also to remind us of God’s character when those roadblocks and red tape or other challenges come up later and inexplicably thwart us. God constantly instructed the Israelites to remember what he had done for them, how he led them out of Egypt. Our faith is also strengthened by remembering what God has done for us.
In the first 4 chapters of Gladys Aylward’s book, The Little Woman, she tells about how she made the decision to move to China, how God provided for her to go, the overland (and sea) trip there, and her first year in China. It is not a lot of pages to read, but emotionally, it felt like a lot!
Gladys believed, “If I wanted to go to China, God would take me there; but I would have to be willing to move and to give up what little comfort and security I had.” She worked to earn money to pay her fare to China, but also God provided more and she saved up enough money more quickly than she expected.
Trouble started early – on the train journey through Russia. I knew she would get through it. She had to! Because I know she made it to China! I could see myself in that situation, frozen with indecision and confusion. Would I have had the courage to keep going? Or would I have given up and become a machinist in Russia? As she traveled Gladys asked, “Why should I worry about my journey when God is helping me all the time?”
Finally, she arrived in China, at the house of the woman she had connected with via letters, Mrs. Lawson. They began running an inn together, and Gladys wrote, “This was not at all the sort of life I had pictured for myself when I had been in England, but it was a splendid ‘battle course’ for what was to follow.”
That is so relatable! Many times, in different places and jobs, I knew God led me there, and I had some preconceived ideas about what it would be like. Then, it’s nothing like that at all. The work I thought I would be doing does not happen, is not even possible in some cases. The friends, coworkers, or family members I assumed I would be able to lean on aren’t there. Every plan gets changed. “Not at all the sort of life I had pictured.” The last part of that sentence is a bit ominous, though.
The best advice Gladys got before leaving for China was from Dr. and Mrs. Fisher, who told her, “’God never lets you down. He sends you, guides you and provides for you. Maybe He doesn’t answer your prayers as you want them answered, but he does answer them. Remember, no is as much an answer as yes.’”
Now, over to you. What did you relate to in these chapters? What good advice did you receive before arriving on the field?
Here’s the schedule for the rest of the book:
February 9: Ch 5-9
February 16: Ch 10-13
February 23: Ch 14-18