“Let Us Go On” by Isobel Kuhn

LET US GO ON! Chapter 13 from the book By Searching

It was the spring of 1928 when the China Director of the China Inland Mission, the Rev. George Gibb, paid a visit to Vancouver. I was called in to meet him and well remember the searching look of concern he gave me. “My dear girl,” he said, “you look worn out. Are you well enough to go to China?”

“Oh, yes. Physically I am sound. But I am very tired,” I admitted. Our home on the north side was so far away from the evening church appointments. Late at night the ferry did not run so frequently, and if I missed one there was a long wait before the next. Often it was midnight before I got to bed, and six o’clock was my rising hour if I was to have a quiet time, get the house chores done, and catch the nine o’clock ferry.

But I think most of it was emotional fatigue. Mentally I knew the way of victory. I had read of Hudson Taylor’s experience, The Exchanged Life, when he rolled all his burdens on the Lord. I had heard Keswick teaching expounded at The Firs and had seen it lived in lives there. But how to transmute it into experience was beyond me. I secretly worried about things. My father’s Micawber-like attitude toward business appalled me. Where would he end up? Now I knew what my mother’s secret trial had been and how much we all owed to her sound judgment and carefulness.

I worried about my own failure at the Corner Club. I did not have the gift of evangelism. Young lives were constantly being cleansed, rededicated and built up in Him, but I did not see that. I looked just for souls to take the initial step of salvation. Pentecostal girls were urging me to seek the baptism of the Spirit. One of them was a gifted evangelist, a golden-haired, angel-faced girl, and I fell into the snare of comparing myself with others. Peggy had something I didn’t. Was it really the speaking in tongues? Inwardly I fretted. But the Lord was carefully holding me. I asked Peggy and Dorothy—another girl who kept at me—to describe what happened when they were “filled with the Spirit.” Their most vivid descriptions were no more than what I myself had often experienced when alone with the Lord and the awareness of His presence would flood in. I had never spoken in tongues, but I seemed to have had everything else they claimed to have experienced. This kept me from going off into doctrinal extremes.

I always felt there was a peril in seeking just an experience from the Lord. The temptation is to think the experience has sanctified. It hasn’t. These uplifting times in His presence, provings of His faithful care, enrich us, add to our joy, but they do not sanctify us. They do not make us stronger Christians. They do not make us holier than our fellows, as I was to learn to my shame. But they do make us richer in our knowledge of Him, and they give us joy that addeth no sorrow to it.

The only way to be holy is daily to hand over to the Holy Spirit what Dr. Tozer calls “the hyphenated sins of the human spirit … self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them … which can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. As well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the Cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self sins to the Cross for judgment.5 The Holy Spirit will crucify these things for us, as we hand them over to Him, and then we must accept the suffering involved, rejoicing in the knowledge that His resurrection life will be the final outcome.

And so, with all my rich experience of answered prayers, I was still full of worry, self-pity, and many other ugly things, but I was not acutely conscious they were there.

Mr. Gibb was really perturbed. By now I wore an engagement ring, and John Kuhn was already in China and being used of the Lord there. If my health broke, would that bring John home? Mr. Gibb consulted Mr. Thomson, and they both ordered me to resign from the Corner Club and take six months of complete rest before sailing in October, 1928. Mr. Gibb intended to give instructions that I be put on Mission support in order to do this, but, most unusual for him, he must have forgotten. I waited and waited, but the Mission sent me nothing. And I felt I should not petition them for it. Hudson Taylor would have just prayed.

I forget how it happened, but Mr. and Mrs. Whipple heard of the order for me to rest and invited me to spend the five or six months at The Firs. I could help in cleaning cabins and getting the Conference grounds ready, but first I was to have a full month of nothing but rest—even breakfast in bed!

I had been able to save no money, for I had felt I should pay my father’s debts. It was clear to me that the next invention would never bring him an income, and I was right. So I landed at The Firs with about thirty-six dollars—all the money I had left.

No one can know what it meant to me to be taken in by dear cheery Mrs. Whipple, and be given the upstairs porch which they were fixing up as bedroom for their own daughter, Lois, when she should return from the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, where she was studying. Two sides of the room were without full walls and the scented, tall fir trees were its screen. Mrs. Whipple had procured some old cement sacks. These she had bleached, stenciling a pretty fleur-de-lis pattern on them, and hung them up in lieu of walls. When the opening of the conference would bring many people around, and the fir trees might not afford privacy enough, these curtains could be drawn. But when I arrived, the scented green needles were the wall, and I loved it. To wake up in the morning having slept to the full, no pressure of schedule upon me, to hear the birds caroling and the sun trying to peep at me through the green foliage was like living with God in Eden. I can never forget it.

I knew that the Whipples were “living by faith,” but had no idea that when they took me in that first night they were down to rock bottom financially. I felt I would like to give them my thirty-six dollars. Before going to bed, I handed the money to her, saying, “I want you to take this. It won’t pay for all I’ll eat these months, but I’d feel happier if I felt I’d given something.”

I remember Mrs. Whipple flushed a bit and tried to refuse, but I insisted, and then the matter left my mind. She told me years afterward that that was one of the hardest things she ever did—to take my money. But the milk bill was due in the morning and she had nothing else with which to meet it. And I myself would need milk. My money fed us until a gift of sixty dollars came in, and from then on there was no shortage. This is just a glimpse of how the Whipples lived: although the gifts had been few, they did not hesitate to invite me to live with them for six months. And I do not need to say how God blessed them.

They had returned from China to find that The Firs was the only home they had. With funds low and the need to make and furnish a bedroom for Lois—and me!—they were put on their mettle. From the attic of a relative they obtained some old furniture free, and this they sandpapered and repainted a pretty green for Lois’s bedroom. When the stenciled curtains were hung, it was as dainty a room as a girl could wish—and I had learned lots about how to convert old things into new!

The Conference that summer (1928) was the most blessed I had ever known. The special speaker was Dr. Arthur Harris of Wales, and the Spirit of the Lord was powerfully among us. For one thing, Mrs. Whipple had prayed that every young person attending the Conference should yield to the Lord before going home. One evening during the service she was impelled to go to the girls’ dormitory, and there she knelt by each bed, claiming for Christ the occupant of that bed. Needless to say, every evening there were decisions made. Toward the last evening there were a few who still hung back from full surrender, so the staff called us leaders of the young people to pray all during the evening service. I can never forget that prayer service. The Spirit of the Lord came down upon us as in apostolic times, and we all started to pray simultaneously out loud. As for myself, I was not even conscious of the others. So lifted up was I into the Lord’s presence and so burdened for the souls that were hanging back, that it was not until a break came that I suddenly came down to earth and realized that we had all been praying aloud together. From the upper room where we prayed, down through the treetops, we could see the open-air auditorium. As we prayed, one after another of the recalcitrant ones got up and went forward in surrender. The very last, a girl for whom I had held but little hope, has now been for decades a most faithful missionary on a foreign field. Very truly it was the work of the Spirit of God.

Conference over, I needed to go back to Vancouver and get my outfit ready for China. There were still no funds sent to me by the Mission, but a love-gift from my brother paid my fare home. (When Murray saw Dad’s invention was not likely to make him rich, he had set about getting a job.) But where would the next money come from? To add to the perplexity came a letter from Marjorie Harrison saying that she was traveling in our parts and would like to stop off and see us. When I answered with a cordial invitation, I did not have enough money to pay her carfare from the station to our home, let alone feed her.

Then I got a call from Mr. Thomson to come to his office, as there was some money waiting for me. At last! I said jubilantly to myself. Mr. Gibb has remembered his promise! But it was no such thing. It was much more wonderful than that. It was fifty dollars from my own dear John in China! I think it was the remainder of a bank account he had left over from his earnings in preparation for Bible school days. “I want to have a share in your outfit,” he wrote, “but it has no strings on it: you may use it for any need.” And the first bit of it fed Marjorie!

From then on I had no difficulty. The Corner Club girls gave me showers and a beautiful outfit, which included the money to buy a portable organ. That little organ went with us to the Salween mountains and brought much joy to Lisu as well as to us missionaries for many years.

I prayed much about my final message at the Corner Club. I did not know, though I shrewdly suspected it, that some of those dear girls were going to prove prayer-warriors for whom I would thank the Lord all my missionary days. It has been so now for twenty-eight years. God laid on my heart a message for myself as well as for them from Hebrews 6:1, Let us go on.

The search is not ended. We have only begun to explore our eternal, unfathomable God. “Let us leave behind the elementary teaching about Christ and go forward to adult understanding. Let us not lay over and over again the foundation truths … No, if God allows, let us go on,” paraphrases Phillips. And that was the burden of my message.

On October 11, 1928, I sailed for China. There was quite a large party of us, one being the little American girl who roomed next to me in Ransom Hall at Moody Bible Institute: Ella Dieken was engaged to Jack Graham, and we were to be roommates at the Language School in China. My father had permission to sail with me on our steamer as far as Victoria, so that the emotion of parting from him did not take place at the wharf in Vancouver. The ship was due to pull out about noon, and the Corner Club girls forsook their lunch and flocked down to the wharf. They made such a crowd that a stranger asked my brother, “Who is the girl who is getting this send-off?” Just an unknown missionary going out for the first time, was certainly not the answer expected. But God can give special things to His unknown children when He wants to.

At last a bugler climbed up to the highest bridge of the Empress of Russia and began to play Queen Liliuokalani’s beautiful farewell song, Aloha Oe. It is of course the sad parting of two lovers. It breathes passion, but no certitude of hope. It is earth doing its best to reach out for cheer, but failing mournfully. I am so glad that Christian words have been set to that music for such moments. For it is only Christians who dare to say, “We never part for the last time.” As the bugle notes poured forth on the noisy air of the wharf, there gradually grew a stillness over the crowd.

In these the closing days of time

What peace this glorious thought affords

That soon, O wondrous truth sublime,

He shall come, King of kings and Lord of lords.

He’s coming soon, He’s coming soon

With joy we’ll welcome His returning;

It may be morn, it may be night or noon

But oh, He’s coming soon.

But “the gospel must first be published among all nations” (Mark 13:10).

And we, who living yet remain

Caught up shall meet our faithful Lord.

This hope we cherish not in vain

But we comfort one another with this word.

The last notes quavered sadly on the high air. The unbelieving in the crowd, grasping the only best they knew, whispered, “Aloha Oe.” The big anchors rattled as they were pulled up, the paper streamers began to tear as the mighty ship slowly drew away from the wharf. Beloved girl faces were working with emotion, and one or two were crying. “Lord,” I whispered, “give me a last word they won’t forget.” A thrown voice could still reach the wharf. I leaned over the side and called out slowly, “Let us go on!

The light of heaven broke through the tears of earth on some faces, so I knew they had heard. They waved their hands in a signal of assent and then the Empress of Russiaturned her stately head slowly toward the Narrows, Puget Sound, the Pacific Ocean, and—China.

But there was one more step. At the city of Victoria, on Vancouver Island, my father said good-by and disembarked. After he had left, the purser brought me a telegram. It read simply, WE WILL GO ON—YOUR CORNER CLUB GIRLS.

Tears of gratitude rained in my heart. Twenty-eight years have passed—a good, long testing period. The Corner Club is still operating. Most of those girls have gone on with the Lord. There are people in more than one country of the world who rise up and call some of them blessed. One of them on the wharf that day had unconsciously been leaning on me rather than on the Lord Himself, so she sprawled spiritually when her human prop was removed. But on the whole they kept their promise.

And now, as reader and author part, I can find no better words to use than these same, “Let us go on.” Go on searching and exploring the greatness and the dearness of our God.

He has no favorites. He has said, “Ye shall find me when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).

Notice that last phrase, for it is the only condition. There must be inner honesty and undivided loyalty—that is the only stipulation. “The man who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from God, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn” (Jas. 1:6-8—Phillips thus paraphrases it).

But—”He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

Said Susanna Wesley, “He is so infinitely blessed, that every perception of His blissful presence imparts a gladness to the heart. Every degree of approach to Him is, in the same proportion, a degree of happiness.”

So—Let us go on—SEARCHING.

 

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