By Mark Ellis
James Hudson Taylor, the pioneering missionary to China, had his faith in God’s provision tested after he took over the operation of a hospital with no visible means of support during the early phase of his ministry.
It seems that Dr. William Parker, the medical missionary who established the hospital in Ningbo, was called back to Scotland after the sudden passing of his wife, which left four young children to raise. He supported the hospital through his private practice in China, but that funding ended when he left.
Dr. Parker approached Taylor to take over. It would be no small undertaking, with an average of 50 inpatients on any given day, plus many more accessing the pharmacy. All the care to the sick — along with the medicines dispensed — were free. But where would the money come from to support it?
After fervently seeking the Lord about it, Taylor agreed to take over, “relying solely on the faithfulness of a prayer-hearing God to furnish means for its support,” as recounted in the classic book, “Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret,” (Moody Publishers) written by Taylor’s second son, Howard.
In prayer, Taylor arrived at an important conclusion. “Had not God said that whatever we ask in the name of the Lord Jesus shall be done? And are we not told to seek first the kingdom of God – not means to advance it – and that ‘all these things’ shall be added to us?”
There were no electronic transfers of funds in 19th Century China; it took five months for a ship to make it from London to Shanghai. So even if a letter was sent expressing the urgency of the situation, it would take months to hear something. When Dr. Parker left, there were only funds on hand to cover the current month’s expenses.
Taylor called in his prayer team, the “Bridge Street Christians,” who summoned an amazing faith to see beyond the present circumstances. They were quick to remind Taylor about his own teaching to them — that God is a real Father who would never forget His children’s needs.
Soon the funds left by Dr. Parker were used up and Hudson Taylor’s own supplies ran low. Word about the hospital’s financial situation reached the patients, and they began to wonder what might happen.
Taylor went to the mat with God. He redoubled his prayers. Day after day passed and there seemed to be no answer. Then came serious news from the hospital’s cook, Kuei-hui: “The last bag of rice has been opened and it’s disappearing rapidly!”
The last bag of rice is disappearing rapidly!
Some might have been jolted by such news, but not Taylor. “Then the Lord’s time for helping us must be close at hand,” he told Khei-hui. Here one sees the essence of Hudson Taylor; He knew that God, as a loving Father, always responds to his children’s needs. While He seldom shows up early, He is never too late.
Before the last bag of rice was devoured, a letter arrived for Taylor that was among the most extraordinary he ever received. In the letter from a Mr. Berger in the U.K. was a check for 50 pounds — equivalent to $3,660 today when factoring in cost-of-living increases or $30,500 using average earnings increases.
The contents of the letter were even more remarkable. Mr. Berger’s father had just passed away and left him a substantial inheritance. Mr. Berger explained that he didn’t want to use the bequest to enhance his personal lifestyle. He was praying that the money would be used for kingdom purposes. He asked if Taylor could use more. Would Taylor pray about where he could use regular support from Mr. Berger?
Of course Mr. Berger had no way of knowing about the last bag of rice or the urgent needs of the hospital. The letter was sent five months earlier! But God knew. And Mr. Berger even asked if he could send more!
“Hudson Taylor was overwhelmed with thankfulness and awe,” son Howard noted. “Suppose he had held back from taking charge of the hospital on account of lack of means or lack of faith?”
There were shouts of joy amid the praise meeting held that night. But the praise and worship didn’t last all night; there were patients to be served in the hospital.
When the patients learned about the faithfulness of the Christian God, they too were amazed. “Where is the idol that can do anything like that?” some said. “Have they ever delivered us from our troubles or answered prayer like this?”
After Hudson Taylor returned home and began to communicate his God-sized vision to evangelize the interior of China, some were skeptical. When one man doubted God would provide for such a gargantuan task, Taylor replied:
“I am taking my children with me and I notice it is not difficult to remember that they need breakfast in the morning, dinner at midday and supper at night. Indeed I could not forget them if I tried. And I find it impossible to think that our heavenly Father is less tender and mindful of His children than I, a poor earthly father, am of mine. No, He will not forget us.”
Hudson Taylor founded China Inland Mission on June 25, 1865. It is now known as OMF International.