I'm 42 pages into another missionary book, called God's Adventurer, about Hudson Taylor, missionary to China.
I have the Sonlight Homeschool program to thank for my new interest in missionary books. We bought several this year as part of the Eastern Hemisphere studies, and I picked up a few more from the prolific Benge series, Christian Heroes Then and Now.
Each new missionary book tugs at my heart a little more, pulling me into a place of deeper faith and greater reliance on God. This deeper faith swirls in my heart, eager to be set free, compelling me to ask, "What can I do for you, God? How can I grow your Kingdom?"
It's confusing, this stirring within me. Most missionaries either have missionary college degrees, or some other strong recommendation or training. I only have my faith to offer, and my imperfect love.
On a spiritual gifts inventory 10 years ago, faith was one of my top five gifts, but an inventory last summer revealed that on faith I got the highest score possible for any single gift. What does this mean, and what can I do for God?
In the current book, God's Adventurer, about Hudson Taylor, an entire chapter was devoted to how this young man tested God in the months before leaving for China. Hudson wanted to learn to rely entirely on God for everything, so he refused to accept any start money from his parents, or from the missionary organization he signed with.
There were several instances covered in the first chapter in which Hudson found himself in dire straights financially, and once with his health. He prayed each time, knowing God would provide.
He was required to obtain medical training before leaving for China, and during the training period he lived quite poorly, physically speaking. Once he gave an entire half crown piece to a family who was starving, even though it was the only money Hudson had, and back at his rented room, he had only enough oatmeal for two more meals, after which he would be destitute and starving himself.
He found it very hard to give up the coin from his pocket. Several times he wished it could be split up, giving some to the starving family, and keeping some for himself, to last until his physician's assistant payday.
But God didn't give him any other option; he had to give it all.
As soon as it was out of pocket, young Hudson felt joyous and free. While fingering it over and over in his pocket, he'd felt wretched, in contrast.
In a euphoric state of mind, he walked back to his room, marveling at how wonderful it feels to depend on God for everything.
Still, waking the next morning and eating his second to last meal? It was hard. He knew that if God didn't provide by the end of the day, he would go hungry the next day.
Once again, he prayed with faith.
In the middle of his oatmeal, the landlady brought him a letter, surprising him, because he never got mail on Mondays. He opened it and a coin dropped on his table, enough to last him until payday. He had no idea who it was from, so he rightly assumed God sent it.
I can't wait to finish this book. I can't wait to marvel at the creative, seemingly impossible ways God provides. He worked another miracle in our own lives just today--one that will grow my children's faith, particularly. The more we pray and rely on him for every single thing, the more he delivers, along with new challenges to grow our faith.
The coin in Hudson Taylor's pocket, the one he fingered nervously for so long, was a symbol for every Christian. The minute we give up what we think we desperately need, spiritual blessings flow. The "coin" is different for every Christian, but in truth we all hold something back from God.
Tight-fisted, we limit what God can and will do, for us and through us.
He wants to free us. He wants us to walk in joy, but first we must open our hands and let go.