IS THIS HOW YOU TREAT A MISSIONARY, LORD?
by Mariane Holbrook
I couldn’t believe it!
I took hold of her withered, heavily-veined eighty-year-old hand and wept. Lying there in the dingy state-managed nursing home with a faded drapery separating her from her roommate, Miss Harriet Beardslee, my childhood idol, my forever wannabe, tried to stay awake for my brief visit.
I was a college student at home for the weekend. Miss Beardslee had spent her missionary furlough every four years in my hometown in upstate New York where she attended our church. She retired before I was born but she quickly became my idol, my forever wannabe, as I listened to her missionary stories
growing up in the church.
Miss Beardslee knew as a teenager that God wanted her to prepare for missionary service in India. After working her way through Bible College, she applied to several missions boards, only to be turned down because she had no financial backing.
Her call was so strong in 1890 that our small church bought her a train ticket to New York but couldn’t raise nearly enough money for transportation to India. I am told that every member of the church huddled around her at the depot to pray for her and sing aloud the old gospel favorite, “God Will Take Care Of You.”
Five hours later she was standing near the boarding ramp of the ship bound for Africa. A well-dressed man whom she did not recognize approached her and asked her name. He explained that God had spoken to him during the night, telling him to be at the dock at 10 a.m. with money for her ticket to Africa.
Because God had blessed his various businesses, he was eager to follow God’s leading at times like this. Stopping by the bank, he withdrew the appropriate amount of cash and hurried to the dock.
Miss Beardslee thanked him profusely, asked for his name and address, and after a few brief moments of conversation, rushed up the gangplank, one of the last to board.
One of the first things she did was to write to her benefactor, thanking him for his more than generous gift, and promise to “stay the course.”
She “stayed the course” for over fifty-five years with the backing of a missions board which the gentleman at the boat dock had immediately contacted in her behalf.
Her missionary career was as varied as it was outstanding. She opened several orphanages in some of the most remote outposts of India. Under her direction, clinics and schools were built to fit the needs of that particular community.
She opened a leprosarium and ministered personally to those whose faces, hands and feet had been eaten away by this dreadful plague.
But her overriding mission was to win men and women, boys and girl to Jesus Christ. Thousands had come to know Him through Miss Beardslee’s ministry of every age and station in life.
But on this particular afternoon, looking down at her frail, emaciated body, in a dark room that appeared less than clean, that had an overpowering odor of urine, for the first time in my life I questioned God.
Excusing myself, I went into the hall and leaned onto a windowsill. I turned my face toward heaven and cried, “Is this the way you treat those who’ve given their lives to serve You? Is this the kind of reward you planned for your choicest, most committed servants? If so, I’d hate to see what you have in mind for those who were luke-warm in their commitment to You and hadn’t brought even one person to a saving knowledge of your Son?”
I was beyond disappointment and walking into an area I’d never known before: doubt and un-belief. I had never questioned the very existence of God before but in those moments, I entertained some very unholy thoughts.
I walked slowly back to Miss Beardslee’s room, my face still wet with bitter tears. I had to get out of there.
But lying there against her pillows, she motioned me to her bedside. She studied my face and I felt a cool cloth of understanding gently wipe my hot tears away.
She knew intuitively what I was thinking. I could feel her clear blue eyes of love boring deeply into mine.
“My dear,” she said softly, taking both of my hands into hers. “What you see is very temporary. He is right now preparing a mansion for me, something way beyond my imagination and certainly beyond my worth. But in the meantime, “The eternal God is my refuge and underneath are His everlasting arms.”
I listened as she talked about the magnificence of God, that this facility would have been considered a proverbial palace in India. Scripture verse after Scripture verse poured like an unstoppable stream from her bulging memory box.
Then she began to “whisper-sing” with her hands lifted just slightly toward heaven:
“No one ever cared for me like Jesus,
There’s no other friend as kind as He.
No one else could take the sin and darkness from me;
Oh, how much He cared for me.”
I drank deeply from the well of restored faith that she pressed to my parched lips until I was full and over-flowing.
I kissed her weathered cheeks, then her hands, thinking “If only those precious hands could talk…” and told her goodbye for the last time.
It wasn’t long, I believed, before she walked through a line of friends seemingly stretching for miles, each person she had won to Christ wanting to be first to greet her in heaven.
All this for an outstanding woman who never questioned God’s calling but was eager to see what doors He would open and how He would provide.
And He did!
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